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Lessons from Ronald Reagan

While scrutiny of any two-term president will reveal mistakes and flaws, the simple fact is that there are great lessons to be learned from Ronald Reagan. Few would argue that Presdient Reagan was a true statesman, and most would also concur he was one of the greatest U.S. Presidents of the modern era. He overcame critics who thought him to be little more than an actor who was in over his head to bring down the Berlin Wall and end the Cold War, to create one of the most robust economies in recent history, and he even survived a point-blank assassination attempt. Virtually every politician, republicans and democrats alike, have fondly referred to him on many occasions. Our 40th President served during a challenging time in history, but he overcame even the harshest of critics and adversaries in proving himself as a determined and capable leader.

President Reagan is often referred to as the great communicator. His timing, clarity, eloquence, and self-deprecating humor were known to all who observed him speak. However it was the fact that he meant what he said that made him a force to be reckoned with. He understood the difference between rhetoric and diplomacy, and he most certainly understood the difference between pontificating and advancing a cause or protecting our interests. He knew that a steadfast commitment to principles of freedom and democracy, along with a focus on a strong economy and a strong defense made for a strong country. He was a faithful steward of the people’s trust and served our nation well.

I’m not going to provide a commentary on the differences between Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan other than to wonder why our current president doesn’t spend as much time learning from Ronald Reagan as he does comparing himself to him. In the text that follows I’ll do no editorializing whatsoever, as I believe President Reagan’s words speak volumes on their own accord…The following quotes from President Reagan are just a few of my favorites, and given today’s environment, they provide more than sufficient food for thought:

“Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.”

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”

“The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.”

“The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: It it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

“Governments tend not to solve problems, only to rearrange them.”

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

“One way to make sure that crime doesn’t pay would be to let the government run it.”

“Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.”

“The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would steal them away.”

“If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

“Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.”

“Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States.”

“Government always finds a need for whatever money it gets.”

“Man is not free unless government is limited.”

As always, I welcome your comments below…


Image credit: Wikipedia

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    William Powell

    February 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Great post Mike. I wonder how many leaders are running their organizations this way. Are they concerned about serving their people or are they simply controlling them? Plenty of lessons on how we can bring about positive change in businesses as well as in our country.


      Mike Myatt

      February 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks for the comment William. While President Reagan was clearly unique in his giftedness, everything he used is available to all leaders who truly desire to serve. I always appreciate your insights William.


    Mark Oakes

    February 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm


    Thank you for a great post. The quotes from Reagan reminded me of something that John Adams wrote in a letter to Abigail… “But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever”.

    The challege we face every day is maintaining the delicate balance between more ‘Freedom’ and less ‘Security’. Freedom is the objective. It is what we fought for. However, when people are willing to sacrifice that in favor of security, Freedom fails. One Reagan mantra was that government’s job was to protect our freedom, not to become bloated in response to a cry for “The government’s job is to take care of me”.

    Thomas Paine summed up this dichotomy well when he said “Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing”



      Mike Myatt

      February 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Thanks for sharing the great thoughts Mark. I’ve been re-reading the Federalist Papers and have thoroughly enjoyed the powerful thinking that founded this nation. Yet what saddens me the most is that thoughts so powerful have been diluted by personal agendas of weak minded politicians enabled by a complacent citizenry. This is so much the case that you’d be hard pressed to recognize our current government as having much similarity (at least in the character of its elected representatives) to that which this country was founded upon.


        Mark Oakes

        February 7, 2011 at 6:57 pm

        On these particular points, my friend, we are in complete agreement!!



    February 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm


    I always enjoy reading your posts and concur heartily with most of Mr. Reagan’s quotes, believing they apply to both business and all of life.

    I can only wish he might have pointed out that our country was chartered not as a democracy, but rather a constitutional republic.

    The unaccountable, leviathan central government has become, as Bastiat said, “the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

    It makes the words of Ben Franklin all the more poignant. On exiting the constitutional convention he was asked what kind of government we’d been given. He replied: “A republic … if you can keep it.”



      Mike Myatt

      February 7, 2011 at 6:44 pm

      Hi Ron:

      I agree with all your sentiments as expressed. Thanks for providing such great historical context. Your insights are always greatly appreciated.


    James Strock

    February 7, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Terrific post, Mike! Reagan has so many lessons, many of which become more evident with the passage of time. If I can add a self-promotion alert, an updated edition of my book ‘Reagan on Leadership’ will be available by the end of the month. I hope people interested in Reagan will find value in it.


      Mike Myatt

      February 7, 2011 at 10:40 pm

      Hi James:

      Honored to have an expert on the subject stop by…Please leave an additional comment with a link or any other information you wish to share on the book. Thanks James.



    February 9, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Great post, Mike.

    If you haven’t read it yet, you’d really enjoy “Reagan In His Own Hand.”

    Dov Gordon

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