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Author Archives: Scott Vanatter


Dissecting Kennedy’s “Ask not…” from his first inaugural address

Milton Friedman on Kennedy’s antimetabole

by Scott L. Vanatter

One of the most well-known lines from presidential addresses was written for John F. Kennedy by Ted Sorenson. Kennedy was not the first president to use a speech writer. Presidents have been using speech writers since the beginning. Alexander Hamilton wrote the first draft of George Washington’s Farewell Address. Washington worked with Hamilton till it said just want he wanted. This is the standard and accepted procedure. Not all Presidents have written as elegantly or effectively as Lincoln. Continue reading


Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address: “We are a nation that has a government–not the other way around.”

“We are a nation that has a government–not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

The claim is made that the most important political event in history was neither the writing of the Declaration nor the crafting or ratification of the Constitution which secures our rights. It was neither of these two monumental accomplishments; it was the peaceful transition of the control of the executive office of the United States of America from George Washington to John Adams. Continue reading


Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address to the ’88 Republican National Convention

“Our party speaks for human freedom, for the sweep of liberties that are at the core of our existence. . . . Together we’ve fought for causes we love. But we can never let the fire go out or quit the fight, because the battle is never over. Our freedom must be defended over and over again — and then again.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

At the end of a Super Bowl the winning head coach can rightly point to the day’s game plan, key plays, and stats. All these and more contributed to what was accomplished by the team – led by the coach.

At the end of his time in office, a successful two-term president can rightly point to the administration’s fundamental principles and key policies. All these and more produced the real-world accomplishments – led by the president. After eight years of concrete success and indisputable accomplishment President Reagan reported to the 1988 Republican National Convention. Prior to being elected Reagan had carefully and overtly taught — yes, taught — the country the key principles on which the Founders based the U.S. Constitution and preserved American culture. Continue reading


Ronald Reagan, “Our Noble Vision: An Opportunity For All”

“You cannot create a desert, hand a person a cup of water, and call that compassion. . . . And you cannot build up years of dependence on government and dare call that hope.” 

by Scott L. Vanatter

Before his first term was complete President Reagan restored the American economy and revived the American spirit. The power and focus of his words and his policies returned America to its true identity and destiny.

Soaring rhetoric must be supported by real accomplishment. Otherwise the words are empty, the sentiment is trite. Too often national leaders only give lip service to the lofty principles which Reagan carefully and continually taught. Worse, when some leaders overtly deprecate the Founding principles, America fails to preserve and advance our precious freedoms. Tyranny is never more than a generation away from falling on us. Americans need to continually self-inoculate against a creeping tyranny. Continue reading


Why the Founders Matter: Securing the Blessing of Liberty to Ourselves and Our Posterity

A Vision of the Spirit and Promise of Our Founding Fathers

by Scott L. Vanatter

The things of politics and public policy are of deep import. It takes time, experience, and careful and ponderous and even solemn thoughts to inform whether and how we act. Politicians, by their words or policies, either expand or contract the frontiers of our freedoms. We, The People, need to encourage and benefit from its progress, or mourn and suffer its decline.

The more we as citizens stand informed and aware, then the better able we will be to advocate for those principles which will tend to the greater public good. Then we can act with confidence in this great undertaking. As Lincoln called it, the last best hope of mankind.

As George Washington laid out in his first inaugural address,

“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” (George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789) Continue reading


Ronald Reagan on Tax Cutting Legislation (The “whole controversy”)

“This whole controversy: Are you entitled to the fruits of your own labor or does government have some presumptive right to spend and spend and spend?” 

by Scott L. Vanatter

Ronald Reagan is well known for his multi-decade devotion America’s purpose and promise. By returning to these lofty ideas America would fulfill its destiny.

His July 27, 1981 speech was President Reagan’s main public effort to educate the nation on the benefits of a bipartisan bill to cut taxes and spending. He taught America, once again, how and why cutting taxes and spending (cutting the rate of growth of government spending) would make for a stronger economy — and help restore America’s latent greatness.

It was Reagan’s habit to speak on large themes. In this particular case he used a two-letter word to illustrate one of the largest of political themes. He stated that the people in electing him wanted to make a change from ‘by’ to ‘of.’ Succinctly put, “It doesn’t sound like much, but it sure can make a difference changing by government,’ ‘control by government’ to ‘control of government.’” Continue reading


Ronald Reagan on Churchill

“Out of one man’s speech was born a new Western resolve. Not warlike, not bellicose, not expansionist — but firm and principled in resisting those who would devour territory and put the soul itself into bondage.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

A rarified world exists where most can only peer inside.

In sports, world champions have earned a unique perspective of achievement. No matter how otherwise accomplished, regular participants can only imagine what champions experience. No matter the obstacles, champions impress their will onto their fellows in their chosen field of competition.

In world affairs, there exists a brotherhood — now including a few sisters – of rare leaders. These leaders have impressed their will on the times and circumstances they inherited. Through their bold decisions and their clarion words they lead where others equivocate or obfuscate.

Of particular interest is when one great leader comments on another. In November 1990 former president Ronald Reagan came to Fulton, Missouri, the place where Winston Churchill warned a modern world of an Iron Curtain falling across Europe. Churchill spoke on March 5, 1946. Not quite fifty years later the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall fell. It seemed like much longer. It would have been much longer; but for two leaders, and others.  Continue reading


Ronald Reagan, “What Ever Happened to Free Enterprise”

“Will we, before it is too late, use the vitality and the magic of the marketplace to save this way of life, or will we one day face our children, and our children’s children when they ask us where we were and what we were doing on the day that freedom was lost?”

by Scott L. Vanatter

Before he was elected president Ronald Reagan delivered a series of speeches on various aspects of the American experience. He focused on core principles: our founding, our freedoms, our economy, and especially and repeatedly on the great promise of our being the Shining City on the Hill.

Thirty-five years ago this month, on November 10, 1977 , the future president spoke at the Ludwig Von Mises Memorial Lecture at Hillsdale College, Michigan. His remarks were titled, “What Ever Happened to Free Enterprise.” Continue reading


Ronald Reagan on the Importance of Entrepreneurs

“New incentives to save, invest, and take risks, so more wealth will be created at every level of our society.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

President Ronald Reagan dedicated his May 14, 1983 radio address from Camp David “the importance of entrepreneurs and how we’re trying to help them.”

He began by citing George Gilder’s book, Wealth and Poverty, where he developed the important idea that  “… most successful entrepreneurs contribute far more to society than they ever recover. And most of them win no riches at all. They are the heroes of economic life. And those who begrudge them their rewards demonstrate a failure to understand their role and their promise.” Reagan went further, “Too often, entrepreneurs are forgotten heroes. We rarely hear about them. But look into the heart of America, and you’ll see them. They’re the owners of that store down the street, the faithfuls who support our churches, schools, and communities, the brave people everywhere who produce our goods, feed a hungry world, and keep our homes and families warm while they invest in the future to build a better America.” Continue reading


Ronald Reagan’s Economic Bill of Rights

“Taxation is forced labor; and if it goes beyond reasonable bounds, it is a yoke of oppression.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

Nearing the end of his presidency, Ronald Reagan laid out a final challenge to the nation, its leaders and citizens. He sought to a.) summarize the principles which made possible his record economic growth, and b.) lay out a clear path to secure economic growth into the future.

The president spoke at an Independence Day celebration at the Jefferson Memorial at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on July 3, 1987. Continue reading


Post-Mortem Analysis: Why Romney Lost, Why Obama Won

It turns out that Obama’s ground game, was in fact, as good as they said it was. Supported by as negative and polemic a campaign as an incumbent ever ran.

by Scott L. Vanatter

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” A thousand pictures will be painted in post-election analysis. A thousand time over. Here’s one.

It takes a pretty good team to make it to the Super Bowl. Good and great players and coaches; an astute general manager and smart owner, scouts and staff. How the team deals with injuries and setbacks. Strength training and conditioning. Attitude, execution, an effective game plan — and a bit of luck. (Note: “Luck is what happens when Preparation meets Opportunity.”) Continue reading


Ronald Reagan’s Election Night Speech

“I am not frightened by what lies ahead and I don’t believe the American people are frightened by what lies ahead. Together, we’re going to do what has to be done.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

On election night November 4, 1980 Ronald Reagan revealed that he had expected “a cliffhanger.” Perhaps the fact that he had previously worked as an actor colored the language he used that night.

CLIFFHANGER

He said he was humbled not just because of the large margin of victory, but also the mere fact of being elected. “Even if it had been the cliffhanger that all of us, I think, were expecting, it would have been the same way.”

Reagan said he would keep “the trust you have placed in me sacred and I give you my sacred oath that I will do my utmost to justify your faith.” Continue reading


Why Romney Can Win This Time: Turnaround Artist turned around his first campaign’s problems

Rather than wallow in the sadness of a failed campaign, the turnaround artist pulled together an even better team — one which learned its lessons.

by Scott L . Vanatter

Four years ago over dinner my wife and I dissected why Mitt Romney and his team failed to win the 2008 GOP nomination. Relatively quickly we came up with five M’s — five areas of failure. I wrote a piece titled, “The Five M’s of Why Romney Failed to Win (This Time).” We posited that if he was the turnaround artist he was supposed to be, Romney should be able to fix his campaign problems of four years ago.

Here are the five areas which we determined he needed to address.

1. His Message
2. His Manner
3. His Mormonism
4. His use of Metrics
5. His Management Continue reading


Ronald Reagan, “We’re on the Frontier of Freedom”

“We’re on the Frontier of Freedom.”

by Scott L. Vanatter

In the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House Reagan spoke on February 10, 1987 to the Annual Leadership Conference of the American Legion (February 10, 1987).

In various settings Reagan often told humorous stories. This time he did not disappoint. To kick off his remarks, he told the story of a poor messenger who arrived at full gallop, and had to stop on a dime to deliver his message. Continue reading


Ronald Reagan’s Address on the Explosion of the Challenger Shuttle

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”

by Scott Vanatter

The night the Challenger Shuttle exploded, January 28, 1986, President Reagan was due to deliver the annual State of the Union. The White House decided to postpone that speech and instead the president delivered one of the most memorable presidential messages. Reagan spoke from the Oval Office at the White House. The speech was written by Peggy Noonan.

Until that day, he said, “We’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes….. We mourn their loss as a nation together. For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much.” Continue reading


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