(Washington, D.C.): On Sunday, 4 March, the Center for Security Policy sponsored a tribute to President Ronald Reagan’s national security legacy on the occasion of the christening of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The christening marked a major milestone in the construction of a ship that promises to epitomize the philosophy of “Peace Through Strength” that was the hallmark of its namesake and his administration. The occasion was therefore a fitting one to pay tribute to the President’s national security legacy and its many, positive and enduring implications.
Speaking at the Center event in Hampton, Virginia were a number of those who had worked most closely with President Reagan in crafting and implementing his national security vision of “Peace Through Strength” — the U.S.S. Reagan’s motto: Hon. William J. Clark, former National Security Advisor; Hon. Edwin Meese, former Counselor to the President and Attorney General; Hon. Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Hon. John Herrington, former Secretary of Energy; and Hon. John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy.
The Center’s symposium also addressed “The Living Legacy: The George W. Bush Administration,” in which Representative Christopher Cox, California, discussed how the Reagan security policy legacy lives on — as evidenced by the principles and policies being articulated by the new Bush-Cheney Administration.
This message was affirmed by a statement authored for the occasion by Hon. Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense — who is, together with President Reagan and Rep. Cox, a past recipient of the Center for Security Policy’s “Keeper of the Flame” award. Secretary Rumsfeld said, in part:
The USS Ronald Reagan will stand as both an enduring symbol of his legacy and of our nation’s abiding commitment to the cause of freedom. As a believer in peace through strength, President Reagan rebuilt America’s military and restored the pride of those who wear this nation’s military uniform pride we see today in the eyes of our young military men and women. As a crusader for liberty, he has always stood firmly against tyranny and for freedom. He predicted a safer, more secure world that many hoped for but few thought possible in our lifetime.
Inspired by Ronald Reagan, and now led by President Bush, we pledge to fulfill that vision. We are working to strengthen the bond of trust between the American people and their military. We are working to protect our nation by building the surest foundation of peace a strong, capable and modern military.
I commend each of you for your enduring contributions to this foundation of peace. Through the years, the Center for Security Policy has helped ensure a vigorous national security debate and, in so doing, has strengthened our national security, with energy, persistence and patriotism.
Your dedication will help ensure that our nation will be even safer and that our brave men and women in uniform will be even stronger. In this sense, each of you embody the same uplifting, optimistic spirit that has always defined the American original we honor today one of the true keepers of the flame of freedom.
President Bush himself affirmed this central connection between the Reagan approach to national security and his own in remarks to at the christening ceremony. Highlights of his forceful and inspiring statement included the following:
Some achievements fade with the years. Ronald Reagan’s achievements grow larger with the passing of time. He had a profound vision of America’s role in the world as one of peace through strength. And because of Ronald Reagan, the world saw America as a strong and peaceful nation.
Today’s world is different from the one he faced and changed. We are no longer divided into armed camps, locked in a careful balance of terror. Yet, freedom still has enemies. Our present dangers are less concentrated and more varied. They come from rogue nations, from terrorism, from missiles that threaten our forces, our friends, our allies and our homeland. Our times call for new thinking. But the values Ronald Reagan brought to America’s conduct in the world will not change.
So as we dedicate this ship, I want to rededicate American policy to Ronald Reagan’s vision of optimism, modesty, and resolve. Ronald Reagan’s optimism defined his character and it defined his presidency. More than a habit of mind, this optimism sprang from deep confidence in the power and future of American ideals. Great democracies, he believed, are built on the strong foundation of consent and human dignity. Any government built on oppression is built on sand. The future, he proclaimed, belongs to the free.
That belief has lost none of its power to inspire hope and change. Around the world today, the expectation of freedom is fed by free markets and expanded by free trade, and carried across borders by the Internet. And nations that try to restrict these freedoms are in a losing battle with liberty.
America, by nature, stands for freedom. And we must always remember, we benefit when it expands. So we will stand by those nations moving toward freedom. We’ll stand up to those nations who deny freedom and threaten our neighbors or our vital interests. And we will assert emphatically that the future will belong to the free….
Nearly half our ships are at sea right now. One-third are forward deployed overseas, taking their crew away from family and the comforts of home. In our sleep we don’t think about the enemies that the men and women who wear the uniform deter, the friends they reassure, the freedom in trade they guarantee. Yet, we rest at night protected by the security they provide.
Our men and women in uniform give America their best, and we owe them our support in return. These are the defining qualities of Ronald Reagan, optimism, modesty and strength. They’re also the qualities that will guide America in a new century.