Often referred to as the greatest president of our lifetimes, Ronald Reagan had a way with words. His 1983 Christmas Address in particular stirs up feelings of joy, love, and hope, and shows his love for America and its people.
Ronald Reagan was an important political figure who focused on small government, freedom, faith, and true American values. He showed real love for the people, even having 1,500 ornaments made for the 1985 White House Christmas tree from holiday cards that were sent to him by ordinary Americans.
Each Christmas tree during Reagan’s presidency had a theme, chosen by Nancy Reagan. Their first Christmas in the White House, the tree was decorated with ornaments lent by the Museum of American Folk Art. For the following seven years, Mrs. Reagan arranged for the people of Second Genesis, a drug treatment program in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, to assist in decorating her Christmas trees.
Their 1982 tree featured foil paper cones and metallic snowflakes, which were reused the following year on a tree trimmed with old-fashioned toys lent by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum. Mrs. Reagan’s 1984 tree was decorated with ornaments fashioned by Second Genesis out of plant material, complimenting natural pieces crafted by the Brandywine Museum in Pennsylvania.
In 1986, 100 geese were sculpted for a “Mother Goose” themed tree, alongside 15 soft-sculpture nursery rhyme scenes. The 1987 tree’s theme was music, with miniature instruments, notes, and sheet music. Mrs. Reagan’s 1988 “old-fashioned” tree included 300 wood candles made by White House carpenters, and reused hand-blown glass ornaments from the Eisenhower Administration, as well as the Nixon state flower balls from 1969.
On Christmas of 1983, President Reagan addressed the American people on the radio, to discuss faith, family, freedom, and the reasons behind our celebration. He asked for prayers for people who are suffering from persecution around the world, and for our neighbors and the soldiers who fight for our freedom. Reagan spoke about Jesus and his teachings, and about George Washington’s Christmas crossing the Delaware.
In everything he said, Reagan’s words embodied the Christmas spirit.
This Christmas, let us remember the words of Ronald Reagan, and focus on the important things: faith, love, and family.
“My fellow Americans, like so many of your homes, the White House is brimming with greens, colorful decorations, and a tree trimmed and ready for Christmas Day, and when Nancy and I look out from our upstairs windows, we can see the National Christmas Tree standing in majestic beauty. Its lights fill the air with the spirit of love, hope, and joy from the heart of America. I shared that spirit recently when a young girl named Amy Benham helped me light our national tree. Amy had said that the tree that lights up our country must be seen all the way to Heaven, and that her wish was to help me turn on its lights. Well, Amy’s wish came true, but the greatest gift was mine, because I saw her eyes light up with hope and joy just as brightly as the lights on our National Tree. And I’m sure they were both seen all the way to Heaven, and they made the angels sing.
Christmas is a time for children and rightly so. We celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace who came as a babe in a manger. Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great teacher and philosopher, but to other millions of us, Jesus is much more. He is divine living assurance that God so loved the world, He gave us His only begotten Son so that by believing in Him, and learning to love each other, we could one day be together in paradise.
It’s been said that all the kings who ever reigned, that all the parliaments that ever sat, have not done as much to advance the cause of peace on earth and good will to men as the man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.
Christmas is also a time to remember the treasures of our own history. We remember one Christmas in particular, 1776, our first year as a nation. The Revolutionary War had been going badly, but George Washington’s faith, courage, and leadership would turn the tide of history our way. On Christmas night, he led a band of ragged soldiers across the Delaware River through driving snow to a victory that saved the cause of independence. It’s said that their route of march was stained by bloody footprints, but their spirit never faltered, and their will could not be crushed. The image of George Washington kneeling in prayer in the snow is one of the most famous in American history. He personified a people who knew it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness; they must also seek help from God their father and preserver.
In a few hours, families and friends across America will join together in caroling parties and Christmas Eve services. Together, we’ll renew that spirit of faith, peace, and giving, which has always marked the character of our people. In our moments of quiet reflection, I know we will remember our fellow citizens who may be lonely and in need tonight. Is the Christmas spirit still alive, some ask. Well, you bet it is. Being Americans we open our hearts to neighbors less fortunate, we try to protect them from hunger and cold, and we reach out in so many ways. From Toys for Tots drives across the country, to good will with the Salvation Army, to American Red Cross drives, which provide food, shelter, and Christmas cheer from Atlanta to Seattle.
Churches are so generous, it’s impossible to keep track. One example, Reverend Bill Singles, Presbyterian Meeting House in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, is simultaneously sponsoring hot meals on wheels programs making and delivering hundreds of sandwiches and box loads of clothes, while visiting local hospitals and sending postcards to shut-ins and religious dissidents abroad.
Let us remember the families who maintain a watch for their Missing in Action, and yes let us remember all those who were persecuted inside the Soviet bloc, not because they commit a crime, but because they love God in their hearts and want the freedom to celebrate Hanukkah or worship the Christ child, and because faith for us is not an empty word, we invoke the power of prayer to spread the spirit of peace. We ask protection for our soldiers who are guarding peace tonight, from frigid outposts in Alaska and the Korean Demilitarized Zone, to the shores of Lebanon. One Lebanese mother told us that her little girl had only attended school two of the last eight years. Now, she said because of our presence there, her daughter can live a normal life. With patience and firmness, we can help bring peace to that strife-torn region, and make our own lives more secure.
The Christmas spirit of peace, hope, and love is a spirit Americans carry with them all year round, everywhere we go. As long as we do, we need never be afraid, because trusting in God is the one short answer to all the problems we face. Til next week, thanks for listening, God bless you, and Merry Christmas.”
Despite all the chaos in the world, there is always time to sit down and think about all that we are grateful for, and keep the spirit of Christmas within our hearts. Merry Christmas to all.