The overarching theme of Reagan’s Farewell Speech was just that, to say farewell. But to say a proper farewell, Reagan incited much nostalgia to his audience. Like one friend saying goodbye to another, instead of a distant President to his subjects. More than any other President, the country that followed Reagan felt a connection to him that transcended political ties. Reagan helped establish honor once again to America. He shows this when he says, “America is respected again in the world and looked to for leadership.” In a sense, Reagan ushered in America’s “glory days” of economic stability and upward success, and of moral victory, especially concerning the Soviet Union and Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan also never directly mentions it within the speech, but he was instrumental in the fall of the Berlin wall. This proved that Reagan’s desire for freedom really was for all mankind, and that he believed it started with the country he believed in the most, America.
Reagan spent the majority of his farewell address reflecting on the successes of his time in office. Reagan claimed that during his time in office, with the help of the American people, “We have made a difference.” He goes on to say:
…there were two great triumphs, two things that I'm proudest of. One is the economic recovery, in which the people of America created -- and filled -- 19 million new jobs. The other is the recovery of our morale.
Reagan went further to explain these claims, and to remind the American people with the proof of what they had experienced. He says:
Common sense told us that when you put a big tax on something, the people will produce less of it. So, we cut the people's tax rates, and the people produced more than ever before…Our economic program brought about the longest peacetime expansion in our history: real family income up, the poverty rate down, entrepreneurship booming, and an explosion in research and new technology.
Reagan did not make up empty claims, but gave examples of real instances that the American public could remember firsthand, and had seen the benefits of. The evidence was sound and believable because there was no disputing the economic upturn that the entire country had experienced together. One cannot fake a successful economy, it either exists, or it doesn’t.
Reagan also cites counterarguments within his address. He reminds his audience of the naysayers that publicly denounced his plans for action. He mentions “Pundits”who forecasted “catastrophe”, “war”, “economic inflation” and ultimate“economic collapse” when considering Reagan’s plans for the country’s economy. Reagan refuted these counterarguments as stated in the previous paragraph…with statistics and the historical facts of the previous 8 years.
V. Organization, Style & Delivery
In the introduction of his final address to the nation, President Reagan begins humbly, by inviting his fellow American’s on a journey, “down the hall and up the stairs”, to his “favorite windows”. Here President Reagan reflects on what it means to be an American, not just to him, but what it has always meant, to every American. This illustration frames the purpose of the speech, and sets the underlying tone for Reagan’s message, Patriotism. The structure of Reagan’s arguments contributes to persuasion by reminding the American people of the prosperity they have experienced under his leadership. He does so by interlocking his two key points, Patriotism, and morality. It’s as if he is saying, by practicing both of these values, values that he deemed right, the only way a society can go is up. He cements this theory by saying, “The fact is what they called "radical" was really "right." What they called "dangerous" was just "desperately needed."
The counterarguments shape the organization of Reagan’s speech, by giving it,