All great change in America begins at the dinner table. – Ronald Reagan

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When I found the Lincoln quote that I shared with you yesterday, I also saw one attributed to Ronald Reagan. Again I searched to make sure that it was real. Wow! Was it ever! It was in his farewell speech to the nation when he left office in 1989. Let me save the quote for last. First, let me tell you about the speech.

President Reagan said that there is a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewell speeches. In that, President Reagan did follow a long-standing tradition, one that President Washington began. One of the things President Washington warned us about was dividing into political parties. I believe he was right. This is how strongly Washington felt about that:

Let me . . .  warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

Reagan said that one of the things he was most proud of was the resurgence of national pride that he called “the new patriotism.” He warned that feeling patriotic was good but that it wouldn’t count for much unless it was grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge. He said that we want an informed patriotism. He asked if America was doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the history of the world.

Reagan said that those who were over 35 years or so (in 1989) had grown up in a different America. He said that we were taught very directly what it means to be an American. He said that we absorbed a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. He said that, as America was about to enter the 1990s, some things had changed. He said:

Younger parents aren’t sure that an un-ambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children.

He also said that for those who create popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer in style. Reagan said that we must do a better job at getting across that America is freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. He said that freedom is special, rare, and fragile. He said:

. . . we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important . . .

He said:

And let me offer lesson number one about America:
All great change in America begins at the dinner table.

That last line was the one I looked up in the first place: “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” Reagan wanted parents to use the dinner table to teach children about America. He was right.

This is the dining room where young Ronald Reagan ate dinner with his mom, dad, and brother.

This is the kitchen where his mom cooked the dinner.

I am proud of you because you have taken it so much farther than civics at the dinner table. You teach your children many important things at the dinner table and the craft table and in the living room and in the kitchen and in the yard and so many places.

Thank you.

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you,
which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois
and your mother Eunice,
and I am sure that it is in you as well.
2 Timothy 1:5


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