REAGAN, Ronald. Autograph manuscript, draft of a speech delivered in June 1968 as Governor of California, with heavily emended typescript, n.p., [ca. 11 June 1968]. Together 18¼ pages, comprising 6¼ manuscript pages, folio (12½ x 8 in.), lined yellow legal paper, mostly on rectos, 2 leaves with typed sections pasted in, and 12 pages typescript, 4to (11 x 8½ in.), the first with autograph section pasted in, heavily revised in manuscript throughout, the typed pages numbered 1-13 [pp.9-10 on one sheet] and headed "Indianapolis RSCC Draft," the autograph pages numbered 13-14-15-14-15, in fine condition.
ONE WEEK AFTER THE ASSASINATION OF ROBERT KENNEDY, REAGAN DELIVERS A BOLD SPEECH ON CRIME AND THE AMERICAN SCENE
An important, very extensive speech manuscript, vividly testifying to Reagan's insistence on drafting and revising his own speeches and policy statements. On 4 June 1968, the night of the California Democratic primary, Robert Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. One week later, Reagan drafts a speech to be delivered to the Indiananpolis Republican State Central Committee. Reagan begins his long speech by making specific reference to the assassination: "Our minds are still on the senseless tragedy of a week ago, asking the why of such things. We've been given some answers already, but I for one find it unacceptable and worse than no answer at all to be told that all of us collectively are to blame and that ours is a sick society. Perhaps we are sick, but not in the way they mean it. We are sick with grief, sick with anger and sick of what's been allowed to go on in this nation for too long a time... Not even among those of us who were politically opposed can any be found who condone or even feel indifferent to the act of senseless savagery and it was just that--utterly senseless and bearing no relationship to the causes articulated by the Sen. It wasn't even in the mainstream of American life [sentence crossed out]. It was the violence of war in the Middle East imported by an alien."
Robert Kennedy's assassination proves a tragic, but fertile, springboard for Reagan to discuss crime, the political climate and Vietnam. The governor's care in crafting his thoughts is evident in the manuscript itself. Heavy revisions and corrections show Reagan moving themes and sections for rhetorical effect, tightening ideas and seeking more forceful language. A majority of the speech's first section is devoted to crime. Here Reagan weaves a delicate rhetorical thread between statements on campus activism, such as the radicalism displayed at Columbia, and the broader picture of crime in the United States. Crossing out a section, Reagan adds tersely: "Better to muddy up the waters & avoid not the simple but the hard decision requiring courage." Reagan continues with the Kennedy theme: "Five years ago, a President was murdered by one who renounced his American citizenship to embrace the Godless philosophy of communism and it was communist violence he brought to our land."
Reagan provides statistics about the murder rate in America, illiteracy, limitations placed on the police and matters of race in relation to crime: "Criminals are not bigoted and they are color blind, they rob, maim or murder without reference to race or religion." Reagan tries to reflect the country's mood: "But the Zeitgeist--the wind of the time--is against us. The new social philosophy places no premium on the old virtues of thrift & self-reliance. The hand up has been replaced by the hand out." With this, Reagan segues into economic concerns, discussing unemployment and governmental agencies. Reagan extends these economic matters further: "We can go on pinning our faith in a govt. that has shown no faith in the people or we can rediscover our own great ability to govern ourselves." Reagan criticizes the Johnson administration, discussing "pay roll padding, kickbacks, high administrative overhead..." and "corruption in Vietnam." "What should anger us deep down inside is to learn that while our young men are fighting & dying, American made guns and rockets intended for their use are finding their way through the black market & into enemy hands." Invoking a passage from John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, Reagan observes: "There was no uncertain sound to the trumpet in John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech. The pity is that those who inherited the power and responsibility from him, including many of his own lieutenants, no longer hear that trumpet or recognize its grand notes. They have failed miserably. It is time to turn them out." This last note reflects Reagan's growing political ambition, and show him planting the seeds for a Presidential campaign. He aborted his effort in 1968 when Nixon received the nomination.