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Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Reagan’s Birthday and Disney

 by Ray Keating

Feature Story


February 6, 2024


Today, February 6, marks the birthday of President Ronald Reagan. Walt Disney and Reagan actually were good friends. I thought it would be worth re-posting a piece I penned three years ago regarding Reagan and Disney…


Ronald Reagan was born on February 6, 1911... At DisneyBizJournal, we’re noting this occasion by highlighting two visits that Reagan made to Walt Disney World as president of the United States.


Reagan, of course, was a friend of Walt Disney. Reagan not only was one of the television hosts when Disneyland opened in 1955, but as governor of California, Reagan, after Walt’s death, petitioned the U.S. Postal Service for a commemorative postage stamp honoring Walt Disney. For good measure, after his presidency, Reagan was on hand in 1990 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Disneyland.


As president, Reagan journeyed to Walt Disney World on March 8, 1983. He visited the American Adventure while officially dedicating EPCOT, which actually had opened in October 1982.

Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, here are a few excerpts from that speech:


Well, I'm delighted to be here. I'm especially pleased to acknowledge the presence today of a group of students from eight countries. They're participants in the World Showcase Fellowship Program which Disney World has generously established as part of EPCOT. This excellent program brings young people from Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom to EPCOT. It gives them the opportunity to experience American culture firsthand, to learn and, even more important, to teach.


This is just the kind of approach that we're encouraging through the President's International Youth Exchange Initiative which I announced last May at the White House. For those of you who haven't seen it -- well, first of all, let me say I'm convinced that people-to-people programs like World Showcase and the International Youth Initiative are one of the best ways to build real understanding in the world.


I'm very happy to see so many young people here today, the math and science whizzes of central Florida, plus the students participating in the World Showcase Fellowship Program. And you adults are welcome, too. [Laughter]


I just watched a program -- I don't know just what to call it -- a show, a pageant with several hundred of my junior high and high school friends here, and I'm pleased to announce I didn't get hit with one spitball. [Laughter] But this program does capture the vitality of what we represent as a nation. And as I'd started to say earlier, I was going to remark that earlier -- for those of you who haven't seen it -- at one point in the movie Mark Twain, speaking of America, says, "We soared into the 20th century on the wings of invention and the winds of change.''


Well, in a few years' time, we Americans will soar into the 21st century and again it will be on the wings of invention and the winds of change. This afternoon, I'd like to explain how you, our young people, can ride those wings and winds of the future to a better life.


Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said that the best thing about the future is that it comes only 1 day at a time. In this modern age, it often seems to come more quickly than that, I know. Our nation is speeding toward the future at this very moment. We can see it coming. We can see its shape. I know in your history books you've read about the Industrial Revolution. Well, today we're in the midst of another revolution, one marked by the explosion of technological advances. It's a revolution of microchips and biotechnology. And, yes, it is ironic that products seen only through a microscope can cause such large changes in our society.


We can see the benefits of this revolution already. Many of the advantages you can view right here at EPCOT Center, which itself is a celebration of tomorrow.


Other aspects of the transition are more difficult and painful to bear. A large number of people are unemployed, not because of the recession but because their former jobs were in declining industries. Their skills are not in demand in the post-industrial America. And, as you know, this has caused grievous hardship.


I don't want any of you young people to suffer what some of your parents are experiencing. I want you to have the training and the skills to meet the future. Even without knowing it, you're being prepared for a new age. Many of you already understand better than my generation ever will the possibilities of computers. In some of your homes, the computer is as available as the television set. And I recently learned something quite interesting about video games. Many young people have developed incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination in playing these games. The Air Force believes these kids will be outstanding pilots should they fly our jets. The computerized radar screen in the cockpit is not unlike the computerized video screen. Watch a 12-year-old take evasive action and score multiple hits while playing "Space Invaders,'' and you will appreciate the skills of tomorrow's pilot.


Now, don't get me wrong. I don't want the youth of this country to run home and tell their parents that the President of the United States says it's all right for them to go ahead and play video games all the time. [Laughter] Homework, sports, and friends still come first. What I am saying is that right now you're being prepared for tomorrow in many ways, and in ways that many of us who are older cannot fully comprehend.


But those of my generation, and now I have to say and of your parents' generation, cannot just assume that you will adapt to the future. We must conscientiously prepare you for the years ahead. We must provide you with a good education, with solid math and science instruction. Not only will math and science serve you well in meeting the future, it'll serve the Nation.


We Americans are still the technological leaders in most fields. And we must keep that edge. But to keep it, we need scientists and engineers and mathematicians. Many of you here today are above average in math and science skills. You have won awards for your knowledge; and you will be among the brightest of tomorrow's work force…


Hang on to the American spirit of adventure as you head into this future. Remember the quote by Thomas Wolfe that we heard in that program we've just seen, "To everyone a chance, to all people, regardless of their birth, the right to live, to work, to become whatever their visions can combine to make them.'' This is the promise of America.


You, too, are the promise of America. And I came here to tell you today that I believe very much in you. I believe in your intelligence and your courage and your determination. And when the time arrives, the people of my generation will be very proud to turn America over to your care.


May I just, in the spirit of that program that we saw, also say something about the presence here of our gifts, of this exchange program where you, of the same age, will meet with those from other countries and get to know each other as human beings and as individuals. I have always believed that a lot of the problems in the world come about because people talk about each other instead of to each other. And maybe one day, with programs of this kind, you are setting the stage for the dream that has lived with mankind from the first and earliest days of history, and that is the dream of peace; that one day, knowing each other, it will be impossible for someone to say to you that there must be a war or that you must take arms and do away with these people that you have come to know so well.


And we shall do everything we can to see that this program prospers and goes forward and increases the ability of young generations like your own to meet and become acquainted with others around the world.


I've used up all of my time here, and I know they have other things for me to do, but I don't know that they will be as much of a high spot as this has been. And I just want to say to all of you, thank you, and God bless you all.


Two years later, given extremely cold January temperatures in Washington, D.C., there was no outdoor inaugural parade at the start of Reagan’s second term. However, the outdoor parade eventually was moved to Walt Disney World on May 27, 1985. 


Again, courtesy of the Reagan Presidential Library, here are excerpts from Reagan’s speech at that event:


We have come here -- our first stop this morning on this Decoration Day was at Arlington Cemetery -- and I just wonder if because of the special character of this day, Memorial Day, if we couldn't perhaps bow our heads for a few seconds in silent prayer for those who have given their lives that we might live in liberty. [A silent prayer was observed.] Amen.


Well, indeed it is an honor for me to be here today to receive a magnificent gift that I received on a second and very much warmer Inauguration Day. I understand that in preparing for this event more than 2,500 young people worked with sponsors in the private sector who donated food, transportation, and lodging. And each of you who helped to make this private sector initiative possible has my heartfelt thanks.


Tomorrow evening I will address the Nation about a dramatic proposal to reform our tax system. It's a proposal intended to launch a new American revolution and to give to you young people, as you come of age, a nation of ever-greater freedom and vitality and strength.


You know, today we're enjoying a standard of living that, when I was your age, could not even have been imagined. Buoyed by medical breakthroughs and rising standards of living, the life expectancy of Americans has been increasing steadily for 50 years. I've already surpassed my own life expectancy at my birth by 20 years. Now, there are a lot of people that find that a source of annoyance, but I appreciate it very much.


Today we take for granted so many inventions that inspired wonder not long ago -- the polio vaccines of Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin; television, first in black and white and now in vivid color; drought-resistant seeds and cold-resistant grains; computers in the workplace and the home; spacecraft that can orbit the Earth for days and then land gently on a desert runway. Despite the predictions so many made during the Great Depression when I was a young man, life in America today is not worse -- it's far better. And let us ask, then, what made it so? Was it government directing our daily lives?


During these past five decades the Government has indeed provided vital services and helped improve life for many people. No one doubts the necessity of a strong national defense or the role our military has played in keeping us free. Likewise no one doubts the importance of the government safety net for those in genuine need.


Yet our national experience shows that when government grows beyond these two limited duties, when government lays claim to more and more of our resources and begins, through massive regulation and high taxation, to impinge on our individual freedoms, then our economy grows not more prosperous but less so.


Throughout the 1970's, for example, government's growth was unbridled, yet our economy stagnated. By 1980 the gross national product registered zero growth. If it was not the Government that spurred our economic growth was it perhaps our natural resources? Our vast land has always been blessed by a mighty multitude of resources -- broad plains, powerful rivers, and rich deposits of minerals. Yet in a sense, the primary reality of a resource exists not in the earth but in the minds of the men and women who give it usefulness and value.


Consider oil. A century ago oil was nothing but a thick, foul, and useless liquid. It was the invention of the internal combustion engine that gave oil its function. Or think of sand, sand that used to be nothing but the stuff that deserts are made of. The development of the silicon microchip has given sand a vital function. And today we use it to make chips that give home computers their intelligence, monitor functions on aircraft, and guide our satellites through the dark reaches of space. No, it's not been so much our resources or our government that have given us our enduring vibrancy and growth but the initiative and enterprise of individual Americans.


Air travel, for example, has become commonplace because test pilots like Lindbergh had daring, and engineers like Boeing and Douglas had the wits and determination. The Government might have wished it could simply decree a polio vaccine, but it took years of unremitting effort and dedication by Doctors Salk and Sabin to make the vaccines a reality.


In this setting, one story of a private initiative is particularly appropriate. Back in Missouri in the early 1900's there lived a farmboy who discovered that he had a knack for drawing barnyard animals. As an adult, he began to put his animals into cartoons, and he became convinced that he could entertain people by telling stories about a little creature with a high voice, red trousers, and yellow shoes and white gloves.


Professionals in the field made fun of the idea, and to produce his first cartoons the young man had to sell or pawn virtually everything he owned. But today, 57 years later, this man and his creation have become permanently fixed in the history of our popular culture. His name was Walt Disney; his little creature was Mickey Mouse.


The determination that each of these heroes of progress demonstrated came from within. Yet in each case it was crucial to the success of their efforts that they were operating in a climate of economic liberty -- in a free market where they could make use of pooled resources, experiment with new techniques and products, and submit their plans and hypotheses to the test of practical experience.


This aspect of freedom, economic freedom, is one of the distinctive characteristics of life in our nation, as interwoven into the American legacy as freedom of speech and press. It has enabled our people to make our nation into a marvel of economic progress, and, as with all the freedoms that we enjoy, it's our duty to cherish and protect it.


Just as the American people rebelled against oppressive taxation some two centuries ago, the reform that I will announce tomorrow will represent a dramatic effort to make our tax code more simple, efficient, and fair and place more resources into the hands of your families and, ultimately, you yourselves. It'll expand our economic freedom and clear the way for even greater economic vitality than that which we enjoy today.


Nor will the benefits be economic alone. With more resources at their disposal, the American people will be able to provide greater support to the institutions that they themselves value -- our schools, universities, the arts, our churches and synagogues. As our economy grows they, too, will flourish.


John Marshall said, "The power to tax involves the power to destroy.'' If so, then the power to cut taxes must surely be the power to create -- the power to force government to stand back and let the people themselves give expression to the spirit of enterprise -- building and imagining; giving to you, our sons and daughters, a nation of ever-greater prosperity and freedom.


My friends, thank you again for the gift of this magnificent inaugural parade. May you enjoy all the blessings of a free and bountiful nation, and on this, the eve of the second American revolution, may you always remember the enduring truth that our tax plan seeks to embody and that Americans have cherished through the ages -- God made man for liberty.


Thank you all, God bless you, and now, let the parade begin.


How fitting that in a speech recognizing freedom and the initiative of Americans, Reagan recognized the life’s work of his friend, Walt Disney.

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Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com; and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, the Alliance of Saint Michael novels, and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at raykeating@keatingreports.com.


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