The President’s Speech on the Family

The President's Speech on the Family

Revisit Reagan’s Thanksgiving Address

By: Bill LePage

President Reagan gave a speech on Thanksgiving Day that is almost a classic on just one topic—The Family. He also talked about the changes he planned to bring to the military. As it turned out, his plans called for a major downsizing that would cause a lot of pain and loss. The speech was a big deal in the press. The Washington Post’s Robert Dallek wrote a glowing piece about it, calling Reagan’s speech “perhaps the most important of his presidency.”

But, after I read the speech, I was left with some questions. The first was why was he so intent on attacking women? Why spend four entire paragraphs attacking gay people in the military and giving a general condemnation of “bigotry”? Why not more closely balance all of the issues that were in the front of your mind on the day that you gave that speech?

More importantly, what was he going to do about the changes? He was going to put a big price tag on them. And if you read the speech as a whole, you see that he has indeed moved in exactly the direction that would have been necessary to cause the pain and loss that he claimed to feel.

The main part of Reagan’s speech centered on his attacks on the role of women in society, and on gays. He said, in his standard vein, “What we are trying to do in the military is to provide an atmosphere where those who are gay or lesbian or married or divorced can serve with the full knowledge and support of others — and not be called a ‘freak,’ or ‘pervert,’ or ‘homo,’ as some have called them.” He went on to say, “When we serve in this way, it should be in the full knowledge and support of those who are gay and lesbian or married and divorced, to ensure they can do their job to the best of their ability.” He went on to say, “Our families should live in a society that is tolerant of their differences, not in a society that casts them all aside — because their differences make them unique and wonderful.”

What the problem is, and what you and I should know about it, is that this was not a speech

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