As a distinguished Governor of the State of California, as a prolific speaker on national issues, and as the 40th President of the United States, The Honorable Ronald W. Reagan has rendered outstanding service to the United States and to its citizens. Through his extraordinary contributions, he has exemplified the ideals of West Point expressed in its motto, “Duty, Honor, Country”.
In January 1981, upon assuming the Office of the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan saw America facing a dangerous economic situation with high interest rates, high unemployment, high inflation, sluggish economic growth and a growing demand for protectionism. He also saw weakened national defenses and a perception by many Americans and by foreign observers that America lacked national confidence and resolve and that little could be done about these problems. Undaunted, President Reagan worked to set the American house in order. Eight years later, following his two terms in office, most Americans believe his Presidency represented a watershed of American political and governmental history: A time when Ronald Reagan caused America to take stock, to size up its obligations as a nation and its abilities as a people, and to show again the courage, skill, enterprise, and determination that have made us a great nation.
Possessing boundless faith in the American dream of unlimited economic opportunity based on free enterprise and individual effort, Ronald Reagan persuaded legislators, businessmen, and individual Americans to his beliefs. In doing so, he accomplished the most difficult of tasks: changing attitudes and perceptions about what is possible. His Presidency subsequently witnessed greatly reduced inflation and unemployment and an American economy that expanded 25% in six years of sustained growth, the highest such period of prosperity in American history.
Concurrently with the restoration of our national economy, he encouraged the rebuilding of our military strength. As our national confidence and economic and military strength grew, President Reagan had the moral courage to commit American military strength, in combination with diplomatic measures, where necessary to stop international terrorism and to contain armed conflicts which threatened world peace. As a result, the image of the United States as a peacekeeping power was enhanced abroad, our relations with our allies were greatly strengthened, and President Reagan negotiated a treaty with the USSR which eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons from the world.
In accomplishing these successes Ronald Reagan displayed strong leadership characterized by firm personal convictions of what is best for America and its people, steadfastness in difficult times, and great personal courage. He consistently demonstrated personal attributes of optimism, forthrightness, good humor, willingness to take risks, decisiveness, resilience, physical strength and stamina, and a clear sense of personal identity with the American people.
Because of these personal strengths and his effective use of them, Ronald Reagan has been called the “Great Communicator,” the most popular of our Presidents, a leader capable of infusing his optimism into the American people while reminding them of their importance as individual citizens.
President Reagan has made significant and lasting contributions to this nation and to its people. His outstanding leadership as our 40th President represents the highest order of service to our country and symbolizes the value expressed in the motto of West Point. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy hereby presents the 1989 Sylvanus Thayer Award to The Honorable Ronald W. Reagan.