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Tribute to Former President Ronald Reagan

Location: Washington DC



Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I rise today in great sadness, to speak on the passing of President Ronald Wilson Reagan. It is a sad time for our Nation; a monumental figure in the history of the United States has gone to his rest. The response to his passing in our Nation's capital and across this country has been overwhelming and a fitting tribute to this giant of 20th century politics.

First, I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to Nancy and the Reagan family in this difficult time. Mrs. Reagan was not only an incredible role model for faithfulness to her spouse, but was always the rock that he leaned on when the entire world leaned on him.

In speeches on this floor, we have heard much about President Reagan's vision and leadership on foreign and economic policy, which indeed continue to bear fruit. Yet, I come to the floor to speak about an aspect of the Reagan Presidency that is less commented upon: President Reagan's legacy on social policy, which stands still as a moral compass for our Nation's future.

As has been remarked, President Reagan was a fabulous optimist. He worked to create a society where good and evil, life and death, are recognized for what they are, and are not obscured by the gray tones of moral relativism. After years of lingering malaise following Vietnam and Watergate, Ronald Reagan came forward and proclaimed that America was "in the midst of a spiritual awakening and a moral renewal." That was a message of hope that America sorely needed to hear.

He believed that America's strength came not just from military might, but also from its moral superiority. As much of a priority as he made foreign and military policy, he strived just as hard to ensure that our Nation's roots as a people of faith, who value life and each other, was not diminished. It was that social foundation that made us different from the godless Soviet state that oppressed the Russian people.

President Reagan spoke forcefully and brilliantly about the importance of family, the religious foundations of American democracy, and the tragedy of Roe v. Wade. He knew that strong families were a key to America's continued success as the land of opportunity. This conviction is clear in a proclamation he issued one Father's Day, where he asserted:

There is no institution more vital to our Nation's survival than the American family. Here the seeds of personal character are planted, the roots of public virtue first nourished. Through love and instruction, discipline, guidance and example, we learn from our mothers and fathers the values that will shape our private lives and our public citizenship.

His political beliefs were greatly shaped by the sensible religion he grew up with in small-town Illinois, which permeated all aspects of daily life. He found the attempts of some to excise religion from the public square wrong-headed. He knew that Founding Fathers barred not only the government establishment of religion, but also any law "prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

As President Reagan told those gathered at the Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast during the Republican National Convention in Dallas, TX:

Without God, there is no virtue, because there's no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we're mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.

I began this speech by stating I would focus of President Reagan's moral and social legacy rather than on the tremendous impact he had in bringing down the Iron Curtain and freeing Eastern Europe. But in truth, these different areas of policy all flowed from the same wellspring of faith and conscience.

In a particularly moving speech before the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in 1984, President Reagan tied together these seemingly separate strands. He told listeners:

Our mission stretches far beyond our borders: God's family knows no borders. In your life, you face daily trials, but millions of believers in other lands face far worse. They are mocked and persecuted for the crime of loving God. To every religious dissident trapped in that cold, cruel existence, we send our love and support. Our message? You are not alone; you are not forgotten; do not lose your faith and hope because someday you, too, will be free.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a larger excerpt of this speech be printed in the RECORD following my remarks.

Mr. SANTORUM. Ronald Reagan was a champion of the pro-life movement and believed that abortion was a grave threat to the liberties we cherish as Americans. When President Reagan came to office, the shock of Roe v. Wade was still fresh. It was commonly believed that the Supreme Court had had the final say on abortion, and that there was no hope in turning back the tide of the abortion-on-demand culture. The conventional wisdom was that enacting legislation to regulate abortion was politically impossible.

But President Reagan chose to use the one tool that the Senate could not stall and the House could not block: his voice. His voice was strong and reassuring, and it reached the American people in their living rooms, bypassing those in Washington who thought they knew much better. Even his own advisors urged him not to speak out on abortion, yet he would not be silenced. He always spoke his conscience on the matters that weighed heavily on his heart, and no one could convince him to do otherwise.

On the tenth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Reagan spoke from the heart against the abortion-on-demand culture, to poignant effect. That day, he said:

I too have always believed that God's greatest gift is human life, and that we have a duty to protect the life of an unborn child. Until someone can prove the unborn child is not a life, shouldn't we give it the benefit of the doubt, and assume it is?

Perhaps the only President to publish a book while in the Oval Office, President Reagan's 1984 volume, entitled Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, stood as a thoughtful and moving essay that inspired the growing pro-life movement. This message of this book was hopeful. "As a nation today, we have not rejected the sanctity of human life," he writes. "I am convinced that Americans do not want to play God with the value of human life."

Given his remarkable legacy on foreign and economic policy, I am not surprised that his moral agenda is less commented upon. Yet in his March 8, 1983 "evil empire" speech, President Reagan devoted as much time talking about the sanctity of all human life as he did addressing foreign policy. On abortion, he told the audience:

Human life legislation ending this tragedy will someday pass the Congress, and you and I must never rest until it does.

Sadly, President Reagan has gone to his rest without being able to see that glorious day when we again recognize the full and equal value of all human lives. But those of us who proudly follow in his footsteps will tirelessly continue the struggle until we correct this grievous wrong.

President Reagan, that day, I know you will be smiling down on us from above.

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