Quotes/Ronald Reagan

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The Environment

  • "Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources."
  • "The American Petroleum Institute filed suit against the EPA [and] charged that the agency was suppressing a scientific study for fear it might be misinterpreted ... The suppressed study reveals that 80 percent of air pollution comes not from chimneys and auto exhaust pipes, but from plants and trees."
    • Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, in 1979
  • "If you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all."
  • "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do."
    • 1981
  • "A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?"
    • 1966, opposing expansion of Redwood National Park as governor of California
  • "All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk."
  • "I have flown twice over Mt St. Helens out on our west coast. I'm not a scientist and I don't know the figures, but I have a suspicion that that one little mountain has probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere of the world than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind that people are so concerned about."
    • 1980. (Actually, Mount St. Helens, at its peak activity, emitted about 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per day, compared with 81,000 tons per day by cars.)

Government and the Economy

  • "Status quo, you know, that is Latin for "the mess we're in."
  • "I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself."
  • "Fascism was really the basis for the New Deal."
    • 1976, on his failed campaign for the Republican nomination
  • "If the bloodbath must come, then let's get on with it!"
    • Remarks before the University of California Board of Regents, on Vietnam War Protests
  • "We're the party that wants to see an America in which people can still get rich."
    • May 4, 1982
  • "You know, if I listened to him [Michael Dukakis] long enough, I would be convinced we're in an economic downturn and people are homeless and going without food and medical attention and that we've got to do something about the unemployed."
    • June 8, 1988, accusing Michael Dukakis of misleading campaign rhetoric
  • "I regard voting as the most sacred right of free men and women."
    • June 29, 1981, although Reagan refuses to commit to supporting an extension of the Voting Rights Act
  • "The statisticians in Washington have funny ways of counting."
    • April 15, 1982, Pres. Reagan's explanation to Illinois high school students as to why he thinks unemployment has declined in the face of Bureau of Labor statistics
  • "It would be a user fee."
    • October 11, 1982, Pres. Reagan explaining why his proposed five-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax would not be a tax at all
  • "The only difference between a board of directors ... and our Cabinet meetings is when it comes time for decision we don't take a vote. The decision is mine."
    • February 22, 1984, Pres. Reagan defending himself against media claims that he is told what to do
  • "I don't think he's read the report in detail. It's five and a half pages, double-spaced."
    • October 5, 1984, Larry Speakes responding to the question of whether President Reagan has read the House report on the latest Beirut truck bombing (on Sept. 20, 1984)

Foreign Policy

  • "We can not play innocents abroad in a world that is not innocent."
  • "The Afghan Mujaheddin are the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers of America."
    • honoring Afghan "freedom fighters" at the White House
  • "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing will begin in five minutes."
    • During a radio microphone test just before a scheduled radio address at his California ranch, August 11, 1984
  • "The United Sates has much to offer the third world war."
    • speaking on what the US has to offer the Third World. He repeated this error nine times in the same speech.
  • "It's silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas."
  • "A (nuclear weapons) freeze now would be a very dangerous fraud, for that is merely the illusion of peace. The reality is that we must find peace through strength."
  • "A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that is true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not."
    • Pres. Reagan, March 4, 1987, in a speech acknowledging that dealings with Iran had deteriorated into an arms for hostages deal
  • "I did not see it as trading arms for hostages because we were dealing with Iranian intermediaries, not the kidnappers themselves. I know it may be a fine line to most people, but it's what I believed then and what I still believe."
    • about the Iran-Contra affair, from his 1989 book, Speaking My Mind
  • "You know, your nose looks just like Danny Thomas's."
    • October 19, 1982. spoken to the Lebanese foreign minister during a White House meeting with Arab leaders. The Arabs exchange nervous glances.


  • "In England, if a criminal carried a gun, even though he didn't use it, he was not tried for burglary or theft or whatever he was doing. He was tried for first degree murder and hung if he was found guilty"
    • April 15, 1982. Pres. Reagan citing a favorite example of British law. ("Well, it's a good story, though. It made the point, didn't it?" White House spokesman Larry Speakes on being informed that President Reagan's story about British gun law is "just not true.")


  • "America has begun a spiritual reawakening. Faith and hope are being restored. Americans are turning back to God. Church attendance is up. Audiences for religious books and broadcasts are growing. And I do believe that He has begun to heal our blessed land."
    • Remarks before the National Association of Evangelicals, Columbus, Ohio
  • "Our Nation's motto -- 'In God We Trust' -- was not chosen lightly. It reflects a basic recognition that there is a divine authority in the universe to which this nation owes homage."
    • March 19, 1981, National Day of Prayer Proclamation
  • "To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny."
    • March 15, 1982, address to the Alabama State Legislature
  • "In 1962, the Supreme Court in the New York prayer case banned the ... saying of prayers. In 1963, the Court banned the reading of the Bible in our public schools. From that point on, the courts pushed the meaning of the ruling ever outward, so that now our children are not allowed voluntary prayer ... Cases were started to argue against tax-exempt status for churches. Suits were brought to abolish the words 'Under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance, and to remove 'In God We Trust' from public documents and from our currency. Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience. ... without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure."
    • August 23, 1984, address at an ecumenical prayer breakfast, Reunion Arena, Dallas, Texas, following the enactment of the "Equal Access Bill of 1984"
  • "Your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this administration, so help me God. ... I am told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I am deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inauguration Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer."
    • January 20, 1981, First Inaugural Address
  • "I also believe this blessed land was set apart in a very special way, a country created by men and women who came here not in search of gold, but in search of God. They would be free people, living under the law with faith in their Maker and their future. Sometimes it seems we've strayed from that noble beginning, from our conviction that standards of right and wrong do exist and must be lived up to."
    • February 4, 1982, at the annual National Prayer Breakfast
  • "It's said that prayer can move mountains. Well, it's certainly moved the hearts and minds of Americans in their times of trial and helped them to achieve a society that, for all its imperfections, is still the envy of the world and the last, best hope of mankind."
    • September 18, 1982, in a radio address to the nation
  • "Now, Therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national 'Year of the Bible' in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our Nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures."
    • October 4, 1982, signed joint resolution of the 97th Congress, Public Law 97-280
  • "The explicit promise in the Declaration that we're endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights was meant for all of us. It wasn't meant to be limited or perverted by special privilege or by double standards. ... Trusting in God and helping one another, we can and will preserve the dream of America, the last best hope of man on earth."
    • August 1, 1983, at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, Atlanta, Georgia

Welfare, Poverty and the Poor

  • "You can't help those who simply will not be helped. One problem that we've had, even in the best of times, is people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."
    • January 31, 1984, on Good Morning America, defending his administration against charges of callousness
  • "Is it news that some fellow out in South Succotash someplace has just been laid off, that he should be interviewed nationwide?"
    • March 16, 1982, complaining about coverage of the nation's economic suffering

Truth and Personal Responsibility

  • "We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions."
  • "Now, I submit to you that I told the truth ... I don't know whether he really ran over toward second base and made a one-hand stab or whether he just squatted down and took the ball when it came to him. But the truth got there and, in other words, it can be attractively packaged."
    • February 24, 1982, addressing the Voice of America's 40th Birthday celebration, reminiscing about making up exciting details while announcing baseball games from wire copy, specifically about his enhanced version of a routine shortstop-to-first ground out.


  • "Facts are stupid things."
    • 1988, a misquote of John Adams' "Facts are stubborn things."
  • "No matter what time it is, wake me, even if it's in the middle of a Cabinet meeting."
  • "You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jellybeans."
  • "I never knew anything above C's."
    • November 27, 1981, in an interview with Barbara Walters, describing his academic record
  • "Washington could not tell a lie; Nixon could not tell the truth; Reagan cannot tell the difference."
    • Mort Sahl, on Ronald Reagan
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