Think Tank Presents Reagan’s Legacy on Web

Published August 1, 2004

Although America has had 43 presidents so far, only a handful can be rightfully claimed to have an “age” or “era” named after them: Jefferson, Jackson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and now, Ronald Reagan.

The death of the 40th president means a world leader, president, governor, and great American is gone from our midst. But his words and ideas live on at, the Web site of his “favorite think tank,” The Heritage Foundation. Links on the site offer a wealth of useful information for journalists, scholars, and others interested in the former president and how he shaped our world.

The site offers transcripts of every major speech Reagan gave, from 1964’s classic “A Time for Choosing” to 1982’s “Evil Empire” speech to his “Tear down this wall” speech in 1987 Berlin. The site also offers Reagan’s 1981 and 1985 inaugural addresses and all of his State of the Union speeches.

In addition are many recollections of Reagan, in which friends, historians, and political aides recall what he meant to them. Among the more than a dozen contributors to the “Remembering Reagan” section are his vice president, George H.W. Bush; his secretary of state, George P. Schultz; and biographer Lou Cannon. The site also includes video reminiscences from Heritage Foundation experts such as former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III, one of Reagan’s closest advisors, and Reagan biographer Lee Edwards, a historian of the conservative movement.

A “Briefing Room” places Reagan’s presidency and achievements in historical context, detailing Reagan’s Washington (the major players and developments in all branches of the federal government during the Reagan era), electoral data covering his entire political career, his economic record, and more.

The site also features collections of Reagan quotations and photographs, as well as a list of 24 books examining his life and policies.

It seems fitting that The Heritage Foundation would create such a massive collection of information about Reagan and his policies. The Heritage-Reagan connection began in 1980, when the think tank provided the president-elect’s transition team with detailed policy prescriptions on everything from taxes and regulation to trade and national defense. United Press International described Heritage’s 1,100-page Mandate for Leadership, the published version of these recommendations, as “a blueprint for grabbing the government by its frayed New Deal lapels and shaking out 48 years of liberal policy.”

The new president used the Mandate to help realize his vision of a world free of communism, an economy that didn’t crush people’s dreams with high taxes and regulations, and an America the world could admire once again. He gave copies to every member of his Cabinet. The result: His administration adopted or attempted nearly two-thirds of Mandate’s 2,000 recommendations.

In his second term, 22 specific proposals from Mandate for Leadership II found their way into Reagan’s second inaugural address, prompting The New York Times to observe, “While the wording of the president’s speech and the foundation’s document were different, many of the proposals were strikingly similar.”

Heritage created the position of Ronald Reagan Fellow in Public Policy, naming Meese as its first fellow. In 1998, Heritage awarded the former president the Clare Boothe Luce Award, its highest honor, for his achievements in advancing conservatism.

Khris Bershers is deputy director of media services at The Heritage Foundation. Her email address is [email protected].