Quintessential Reagan Speech: He's Sick About RFK's Assassination, About Lawlessness, About Blame

c. June, 1968

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Quintessential Reagan Speech: He's Sick About RFK's Assassination, About Lawlessness, About Blame
Typed Manuscript
19 pages | SMC 163

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      Background

      He was sick of it, and he said so here, unmistakably: the assassinations, the cop killings, the demonstrations, the riots, the radicalism – and now, Robert F. Kennedy, murdered by a Palestinian, just a week ago. Kennedy’s death, Reagan said, had nothing to do with RFK’s causes, but was owing to “the violence of war in the Middle East imported by an alien” – sensing, perhaps, in the unraveling of the sixties, a terror yet to come. But what was clear to Reagan, then and there, was who - and who not - to blame:

      I for one find it unacceptable and worse than no answer at all to be told that all of us collectively are to blame and that ours is a sick society. Perhaps we are sick, but not in the way they mean it. We are sick with grief, sick with anger and sick of what's been allowed to go on in this nation for too long a time.


      Not even among those of us who were politically opposed can any be found who condone or even feel indifferent to the act of senseless savagery – and it was just that – utterly senseless and bearing no relationship to the causes articulated by the Sen[ator]. It was the violence of war in the Middle East imported by an alien. The Sen[ator] had been speaking of unity among our people, of healing our wounds with respect for law and order, instead of the kind of violence that has beset us… In that week, 6 policemen in Chi[cago] have been killed in line of duty. Two young marine officers were murdered in cold blood in our Nat[ion]'s capital because of the uniform they wore. It is time for an accounting of the stewardship that has left us a nation where this can happen. A nation whose president cannot reveal his travel plans among his own people because of fear for his personal safety. We talk bravely of sending a man across space to the moon, but we can’t guarantee a citizen’s safety on a walk across the park…

      The blame for all this fell, Reagan said, on a “tiny minority of radical malcontents with a hodgepodge variety of causes… rebelling” against individual freedom, common sense, and “old and valued standards.” Then, too - ever the anti-communist - he perceived the nefarious influence of the Soviets at work as well. “Five years ago,” he reminded his listeners, “a President was murdered by one who renounced his American citizenship to embrace the Godless philosophy of communism, and it was communist violence he brought to our land.”

      It made him sick, Reagan declared – and millions upon millions of Americans agreed: they’d had it, too, with a generation gap, a gender gap, a racial gap, and a bitter war at home about the war abroad in Asia. That year Nixon was elected on a “Law and Order” platform and, a dozen years later, saying many of the same things he said here, Reagan himself was elected President – in a landslide.


      Typed Manuscript, heavily annotated in autograph, headed “Indianapolis RSCC draft”, 19 pages, quarto, circa June 5 -13, 1968; being a working draft of the beginning of a speech delivered by Reagan in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 13, 1968.
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      Indianapolis RSCC Draft 1-1-1-1 

      Normally, on an evening such as this, it would be appropriate to air some political jokes designed to bring discomfort to our opponents while at the same time we sought to inspire ourselves to greater efforts in the campaign ahead. Indeed, I had just such a speech prepared. But I cannot find it within myself to deliver those remarks and it's doubtful if you are in the mood to hear them.

      Our minds are still on the senseless tragedy of a week ago, asking the why of such things. We've been given some answers already, but I for one find it unacceptable and worse than no answer at all to be told that all of us collectively are to blame and that ours is a sick society. Perhaps we are sick, but not in the way they mean it. We are sick with grief, sick with anger and sick of what's been allowed to go on in this nation for too long a time.

      Not even among those of us who were politically opposed can any be found who condone or even feel indifferent to the act of senseless savagery – and it was just that – utterly senseless and bearing no relationship to the causes articulated by the Sen[ator]. It was the violence of war in the Middle East imported by an alien.

      The Sen[ator]. had been speaking of unity among our people, of healing our wounds with respect for law and order, instead of the kind of violence that has beset us. Let us continue that talk. In that week, 6 policemen in Chi[cago] have been killed in line of duty. Two young marine officers were murdered in cold blood in our Nat[ion]'s capital because of the uniform they wore. It is time for an accounting of the stewardship that has left us a nation where this can happen. A nation whose president cannot reveal his travel plans among his own people because of fear for his personal safety. We talk bravely of sending a man across space to the moon, but we can’t guarantee a citizen’s safety on a walk across the park.

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      2-2-2-2 

      In the name of academic freedoms and even free speech some, claiming privilege because of supposed intellectual attainment, encourage students in their charge to deny Cabinet members and even the Vice President the right to speak on the campus. And in their arrogance they do so in the name of academic freedom and free speech. At the same time they arrogantly demand that it be offered as a forum for communist speakers and domestic radicals. If permission is denied, they threaten to burn down the school. They advocate increased welfare not by pleading that we become more charitable but because the fruit of our toil is not ours to control. We should be forced to meet our less fortunate fellow citizen[s] across a bargaining table where they will tell us what they consider their fair share of our earnings

      The taking over and vandalizing of pub[lic] b[ui]ld[in]gs,interfering with normal services is all defined as the proper use of force. Resistance to such illegal acts by the police is described as violence and police brutality. It's a new and novel way of saying "the end justifies the means."

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      3-3-3-3 

      There have been revolutions against tyranny all through man's history, beneficent revolutions such as the one that gave birth to this nation. The revolution we are seeing today is the very reverse, a revolution in favor of tyranny. A tiny minority of radical malcontents with a hodgepodge variety of causes is actually rebelling against the people's freedom. They demand that we be made subject to a government which will have the power to redistribute earnings and possessions, while it denies us the right of even self-protection. In pursuit of this goal, legislators are subjected to coercion by endless marches, demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience.

      The great complexity of modern problems is their justification for moving all decision-making to the level of government, preferably the federal government. They scorn common sense answers as an over-simplification. 

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      4-4-4-4 

      Better to muddy up the water and avoid, not the simple but the hard decision requiring courage. 

      Right now, for example, we want answers to the why of the tragedy  our minds are on the break down in law and order, the erosion of old and valued standards and the violence ththat stalks our land and we turn to those who are supposed to be our leaders. The only answers we get are classics of over-simplification. Make it more difficult for the legitimate citizen to obtain a gun and assassinations will no longer take place, legislate prejudice out of all men's hearts, confess that we are filled with hatred for our fellow man. If we will all castigate ourselves, admit to being selfish, bigoted, filled with hatred or at least indifference to the plight of the less fortunate, our assumption of guilt will purify the world

      But there already was a law against the assassin having a gun and most of us don't feel prejudice or hatred. If this nation is to survive, we the people msut be heard from and we must make itunmistakably clear that we will accept nothing less than respect for law, for public order, and for personal resposnsibility

      It is time to review our heritage, time to seek the truth and face the facts. It's time to get angry.

      The violence that took the Senator's life was not American. Apparently in the was violence of war in the Middle East imported by al alien.

      Five years ago, a President was murdered by one who renounced his American citizenship to embrace the Godless philosophy of communism, and it was communist violence he brought to our land.

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      5-5-5-5 

      The shattering sounds of his shots were still ringing in our ears when a policy decision was made to play down his communist attachment lest we provoke the Soviet Union. It is ththat same kind of fuzzy thinking that counsels disregard for laws we find personally offensive. The assassins found the law against murder personally offensive.

      Some of those so willing to find society sick have a quick and easy – you might almost say simple – cure. Provide more education, end poverty, pour more money into social programs. But there has never been so much free schooling and trade training.

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      6-6-6-6 

      Illiteracy is at an all-time low and affluence at an all-time high. Aid to the poor has increased 290% over the period of the last eight years. Still, your chances of being murdered, maimed or robbed this year are one out of 70. By comparison, your chance of dying from any and all causes is only one out of 100. One out of five families will be the victim of a criminal this year. One boy in 6 will get in trouble before he is 18. Crime is increasing 6 times as fast as the increase in population.

      The District of Columbia Grand Jury met five days a week for eight weeks and as a result of what they learned released a letter expressing their shock and dismay. They protested the limitations placed on the police in their fight against crime. They said, "If you happen to murder someone in the near future feel free to confess to one or a hundred people. Unless you are informed of your rights in the most precise terminology, the odds are that the judiciary branch will see to your freedom."

      The letter represented the unanimous thinking of the 23-member panel. The U.S. Attorney's Office officially protested their action in writing and releasing such a letter to their fellow citizens.

      And of course it is the custom in this political season to portray any discussion of crime as having an underlying racial motive – an appeal to white backlash. Well, that Grand Jury was predominantly Negro and they expressed

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      7-7-7-7 

      themselves as amazed and shocked at the considerate treatment given those who prowl the streets of our nation's capitol [capital], "indulging themselves in outrageous acts."

      To any member of the white community who with or without prejudice tends to look for statistics indicating the minorities commit a disproportionate amount of crime, let us make one thing very plain; the minority communities are victims of crime out of all proportion to their members. Criminals are not bigoted and they are color blind, they rob, maim or murder without reference to race or religion. In our humanitarian society we have safeguarded the rights of the accused. Nothing horrifies us so much as the possibility of punishing the non-guilty. But now we have carried this to an excessive concern for the guilty. We don't call the criminal a criminal, he is a patient made ill by the failure of Society. And since Society can't be tried for it's [its] crime why should he take the blame.

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      8-8-8-8 

      Permissiveness from cradle to crime is our philosophy and what were once considered privileges are now recognized as rights, and first and foremost is the right to adjust any grievance by the nearest means at hand be it rock, club or fire bomb.

      Our Court has been eroded by court decisions pretending to extend freedom to all when in reality they gave license to a few. Guilt or innocence is of less importance than the legal niceties. The confessed killer of wife & 4 children walks free because of his confession not in spite of it. His lawyer wasn't present to hear it. Another confessed murderer walks our streets a free man because the police held him too long – a

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      p. 9 & p. 10 

      matter of hours – before formally charging him with the crime he had voluntarily confessed.

      My friend Governor Jack Williams of Arizona, in a recent address asked a poignant question – who weeps for the innocent? He said "In 1948 in Texas a 12-year-old girl lost her life. She had a right to live. Just at the entrance to her 'teens, where (as the poet wrote) the brook and river meet, she was killed.

      "Her assailant was an itinerant piano player. Twelve years after that he was out of prison and upon his release, as sure as the sun rose that morning, other lives were threatened somewhere in the years ahead.

      "One of them, a Tempe rancher, had lived not quite his three score and 10, but he did not deserve to die when death came upon him at the hand of that same itinerant piano player. He had a right to live.

      "Marguerita Bejarano, age 8, is another whose life and death were inextricably entwined in this macabre web. She had not reached the age of adolescence. Her innocence was that of childhood, yet within her was the promise of all girlhood, and behind she left her dolls and her mud pies and her bedside prayers and her grieving family.

      "Three lives sacrificed to some strange fixation our nation has developed that the criminal needs protection against the innocent.

      "'Who speaks for the dead?' Who speaks for the almost-teen-ager of Texas, the Tempe rancher, little Marguerita Bejarano?

      "How many lives down the years ahead have already been unwittingly and remorselessly [been] doomed through this system?

      "What kind of world is this that cares not for the Marguerita Bejaranos, but dissolves in maudlin tears for those who take life?

      "How many more must die before we again come to the realization that the good man obeys the law because he fears God, and the bad man because he fears the consequences if he gets caught?"

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      p. 11 

      Yes. And how many more will die because now the guilty have so little reason to fear getting caught?

      It is possible that someone will die on a highway in California because of our obsessive concern for legal technicalities. The judge ruled that a drunken driver must have his driver's license returned to him, because at the time of arrest he was too drunk to know his Constitutional rights.

      A sports writer in Los Angeles, Jim Murray, turned from the arena long enough last week to comment on "A country that shrinks from punishing its criminals, disciplining its children and locking up its mad." He likened it to a lamb defending the lion's right to eat it and said, "The Constitution was never conceived as a shield for degeneracy. You start out burning the flag and you end up burning Detroit. A young, vigorous country is immobilized by bumper stickers, slogans, neurotic students with their feet on desks they couldn't make, pulling down universities they wouldn't know how to rebuild."

      Out of 17,800 students at Columbia University, there are 200 who belong to S.D.S. (Students for a Democratic Society). These initials should stand for Students to Destroy Society. Only 200, but they held 

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      p. 12 

      a Dean hostage, occupied buildings for six days, hoisted the red flag and forced the undergraduate division to cancel a full month of classes. One of the leaders of this rag tag mob has since admitted that if the University had acted decisively and called in the police in the first hour, the rebels would have folded like a house of cards.

      But in our permissive society, aggression is met with appeasement. I don't mean to pick on Columbia; the story could be told about a hundred different schools. And the story will go on until parents, alumnae, trustees and that large silent majority of students and faculty & tax payers say loud & clear, "Obey the rules or get out"

      Are we a callous people indifferent to human suffering or our failure to eradicate poverty and human misery the result of the same soft permissiveness? The record speaks for itself. We have shared our wealth more widely among our people than any society heretofore known to man.

      But the Zeitgeist – the wind of the times – is against us. The new social philosophy places no premium on the old virtues of thrift & self-reliance. The hand up has been replaced by the hand out.

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      p. 13 

      Employment reached an all time high this year and so did welfare both in the number of people receiving it & the number of programs doling it out. Last year's 739,000 additions to the rolls made the total almost 8 million, most of whom would rather be out on their own with jobs instead of caught up in the more than 450 programs.

      Eight Cabinet departments and 12 so-called independent agencies administer to their health. There are 35 separate housing programs, Community Assistance facilities are provided by 62 agencies, 33 federal agencies meddle in nearly 300 consumer protection agencies and in just one medium-sized city 140 separate urban projects have been found administered by 7 federal departments. Thirty-six million Americans share in assorted government food programs and six million more get surplus food packages or help through the food stamp plan. Still, we are told there are 10 million undernourished who must be helped immediately and that means still more burocracy [bureaucracy]

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      Indianapolis RSCC Draft

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