The speech sounds even better today.
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That’s easily the most forgotten line of the entire speech.
And just as American liberals went bonkers, so, of course, did the Soviet leadership, denouncing Reagan with every name in the Marxist book.
But perhaps the best reaction to Reagan’s speech was one not caught by any television camera or reporter. It emanated from the very pit of the Evil Empire, from inside its most enduring symbol: the gulag.
Natan Sharansky, a Jewish dissident, was an inmate of Permanent Labor Camp 35. His Soviet captors informed him of what this saber-rattling, dangerous president had dared to utter. Upon learning what Reagan said, Sharansky (after the guards left) jumped for joy inside his prison cell and tapped in Morse Code to his fellow gulag residents the good news that “someone had finally spoken the truth” about the USSR. “We dissidents were ecstatic,” said Sharansky. “Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth — a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.”
Imagine the scene inside that prison. As one inmate after another tapped out the words “Evil Empire,” truth was finally piercing the dungeon’s dark silence, as the gulag itself at long last rang out and proclaimed its rightful name: Evil Empire! Evil Empire! Evil Empire! Evil Empire!...
Ronald Reagan had, in essence, enabled the Soviet gulag to finally call itself what it was. It couldn’t tell the world of itself and its malevolent source, but Ronald Reagan could and thus did.
Once the communist collapse came, Russian government officials were eager to freely speak about their erstwhile empire. And once they were free, they sang a different tune from the pages of Pravda in March 1983. Andrei Kozyrev, Boris Yeltsin’s foreign minister, in August 1991 was quick to explain that the USSR really had been an Evil Empire. It was a mistake to call it “the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” said Kozyrev. “It was, rather, [an] evil empire, as it was put.” Arkady Murashev, Moscow police chief, a leader of Democratic Russia, and another person close to Yeltsin, added: “[Reagan] called us the ‘Evil Empire.’ So why did you in the West laugh at him? It’s true!”
And, yes, it was true. Truth be told. The Soviet Union was indeed an Evil Empire. And one day in March 1983, three decades ago, an American president finally was willing to stand up and say so. With that message, and more, he helped take down that empire, win the Cold War, and change the world.
It was a testimony to the power of words, the power of courage, and the power of truth. Such noble rarity is worth remembering.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?