39 Year Anniversary of Reagan’s Inaugural Address (Jan 20, 1981)

January 21, 2020


It has now been 39 years since the first Ronald Reagan delivered his inaugural address on January 20, 1981. The world has been transformed in many ways since that day; but in other ways, many of the challenges the U.S. faced as Reagan entered the White House are just as prevalent today as they were four decades ago.

Focus on the Economy

One that is on the mind of many Americans today as we enter a presidential election year is the economy, which took center stage in Reagan’s speech. He opened with a focus on the “economic affliction of great proportions” that the country was facing. “We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history,” he said. “It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.” While our current economy is vastly improved since the time of the Reagan inaugural address—much of that progress owed to the work Reagan did while in office—many economic pundits are predicting a downturn on the horizon. Americans who are facing the same worries that abounded in 1981—and, particularly, the elected officials who lead them—should take note of the rest of Reagan’s speech, which noted that government is not the solution to economic crises, but rather is part of the problem.

Giving Voice to the Voiceless

Along those lines, the Reagan inaugural address also shed light on one of the most neglected segments of Americans, whose voices get lost in the attention given to special interest groups. Working-class Americans, Reagan said — such as “men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our children, keep our homes and heal us when we are sick” — are truly the “we the people” enshrined in our founding documents.

It is this population Reagan spoke directly to, and whom he geared the bulk of his work in office and his ensuing legacy toward. Nearly 40 years later, the working class still remains an often-forgotten segment of society — and one that will surely be paying attention this campaign season and looking forward to an inaugural address next year that echoes the promises Reagan made.


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