National Day of Prayer – Ronald Reagan

National Day of Prayer – Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan prayer

Proclamation 4826 – National Day of Prayer, 1981
March 19, 1981

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Our Nation’s motto “In God We Trust”—was not chosen lightly. It reflects a basic recognition that there is a divine authority in the universe to which this Nation owes homage.

Throughout our history Americans have put their faith in God and no one can doubt that we have been blessed for it. The earliest settlers of this land came came in search of religious freedom. Landing on a desolate shoreline, they established a spiritual foundation that has served us ever since.

It was the hard work of our people, the freedom they enjoyed and their faith in God that built this country and made it the envy of the world. In all of our great cities and towns evidence of the faith of our people is found: houses of worship of every denomination are among the oldest structures.

While never willing to bow to a tyrant, our forefathers were always willing to get to their knees before God. When catastrophe threatened, they turned to God for deliverance. When the harvest was bountiful the first thought was thanksgiving to God.

Prayer is today as powerful a force in our Nation as it has ever been. We as a Nation should never forget this source of strength. And while recognizing that the freedom to choose a Godly path is the essence of liberty, as a Nation we cannot but hope that more of our citizens would, through prayer, come into a closer relationship with their Maker.

Recognizing our great heritage, the Congress, by Joint Resolution approved April 17, 1952 ( 36 U.S.C. 169h; 66 Stat. 64), has called upon the President to set aside a suitable day each year as a National Day of. Prayer.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, May 7, 1981, National Day of Prayer. On that day I ask all who believe to join with me in giving thanks to Almighty God for the blessings He has bestowed on this land and the protection He affords us as a people. Let us as a Nation join together before God, fully aware of the trials that lie ahead and the need, yes, the necessity, for divine guidance. With unshakeable faith in God and the liberty which is heritage, we as a free Nation will surely survive and prosper.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of March, in year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fifth.

 

Proclamation 4842 – Memorial Day, May 25, 1981
April 24, 1981

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Over one hundred years ago, Memorial Day was established to commemorate those who died in the defense of our national ideals. Our ideals of freedom, justice, and equal rights for all have been challenged many times since then, and thousands of Americans have given their lives in many parts of the world to secure those same ideals and insure for their children a lasting peace. Their sacrifice demands that we, the living, continue to promote the cause of peace and the ideals for which they so valiantly gave of themselves.

Today, the United States stands as a beacon of liberty and democratic strength before the community of nations. We are resolved to stand firm against those who would destroy the freedoms we cherish. We are determined to achieve an enduring peace—a peace with liberty and with honor. This determination, this resolve, is the highest tribute we can pay to the many who have fallen in the service of our Nation.

In recognition of those Americans whom we honor today, the Congress, by joint resolution of May 11, 1950 (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and a period during such day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 1981, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11 o’clock in the morning of that day as a time to unite in prayer.

I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I also request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the appropriate officials of all local units of Government to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff during this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control, and I request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fifth.

RONALD REAGAN

Proclamation 4897 – National Day of Prayer
February 12, 1982
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

National prayer is deeply rooted in our American heritage. From the earliest days of our Republic, Americans have asked God to hear their prayers in times of sorrow and crisis and in times of bounty.

The first National Day of Prayer was proclaimed in 1775 by the Second Continental Congress. As thousands gathered in prayer in places of worship and encampments throughout the new land, the dispersed colonists found a new spirit of unity and resolve in this remarkable expression of public faith. For the first time, Americans of every religious persuasion prayed as one, asking for divine guidance in their quest for liberty and justice. Ever since, Americans have shared a special sense of destiny as a nation dedicated under God to the cause of liberty for all men.

Through the storms of Revolution, Civil War, and the great World Wars, as well as during times of disillusionment and disarray, the nation has turned to God in prayer for deliverance. We thank Him for answering our call, for, surely, He has. As a nation, we have been richly blessed with His love and generosity.

Just 30 years ago, a Joint Resolution of the Congress requested the President to proclaim a day each year, other than a Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation in places of worship, in groups, and as individuals. Eight Presidents since then have annually proclaimed a Day of Prayer to the nation, resuming the tradition started by the Continental Congress.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, May 6, 1982, National Day of Prayer. On that day, I ask Americans to join with me in giving thanks to Almighty God for the blessings He has bestowed on this land and the protection He affords us as a people. Let us as a nation join together before God, aware of the trials that lie ahead and of the need for divine guidance. With unshakable faith in God and the liberty which is our heritage, we as a free nation will continue to grow and prosper.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twelfth day of February, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and sixth.

 

Proclamation 4932 – Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 1982
April 16, 1982

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Since the end of the Civil War, Memorial Day has been the time when we honor the American men and women who gave up their lives on the field of battle. We do this in recognition of the enormous sacrifice they have made to preserve our liberty and, also, of the responsibility we bear to transmit liberty to future generations.

Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember that those who died in the defense of our country were serving an even higher cause. For all through our history, America has been a beacon to other peoples, serving as a source of political inspiration, a haven for the poor and oppressed, and a friend to nations in distress. Today, as so often in the past, we stand as a guarantor of peace. In full accord with our national ideals and responsibilities, we are prepared to assist countries threatened by economic upheaval or international violence. And we stand ready to work together with other nations to remove the sources of conflict and insecurity and build a firm foundation for peace in the future.

In recognition of those Americans to whom we pay tribute today, the Congress, by joint resolution of May 11, 1950 (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, 1982, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11 o’clock in the morning of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I also request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the appropriate officials of all local units of government to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff during this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control, and I request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 16th day of April in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and sixth.

RONALD REAGAN

 

Remarks at a White House Ceremony in Observance of National Day of Prayer
May 6, 1982


We thank the Chaplain of the Senate for that blessing. It’s an inspiration for me to see all of you—Protestants, Catholics, members of the Jewish faith, and others who are gathered here at our national home to pay homage to the God in whom we trust.

 

Many of you are leaders in your faith; others are active in your communities, your professions, or are among our elected representatives. But all of us are here with a common purpose: to observe on National Day of Prayer, a tradition that was begun by the Continental Congress—that the first Thursday of May would be such a day.

Prayer has sustained our people in crisis, strengthened us in times of challenge, and guided us through our daily lives since the first settlers came to this continent. Our forbearers came not for gold, but mainly in search of God and the freedom to worship in their own way.

We’ve been a free people living under the law, with faith in our Maker and in our future. I’ve said before that the most sublime picture in American history is of George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge. That image personifies a people who know that it’s not enough to depend on our own courage and goodness; we must also seek help from God, our Father and Preserver.

Abraham Lincoln said once that he would be the most foolish man on this footstool we call Earth, if he thought for one minute he could fulfill the duties that faced him if he did not have the help of One who was wiser than all others.

The French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting America a hundred and fifty years ago, marveled at Americans because they understood that a free people must also be a religious people. “Despotism,” he wrote, “may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot.”

Today, prayer is still a powerful force in America, and our faith in God is a mighty source of strength. Our Pledge of Allegiance states that we are “one nation under God,” and our currency bears the motto, “In God We Trust.”

The morality and values such faith implies are deeply embedded in our national character. Our country embraces those principles by design, and we abandon them at our peril. Yet in recent years, well-meaning Americans in the name of freedom have taken freedom away. For the sake of religious tolerance, they’ve forbidden religious practice in our public classrooms. The law of this land has effectively removed prayer from our classrooms.

How can we hope to retain our freedom through the generations if we fail to teach our young that our liberty springs from an abiding faith in our Creator?
Thomas Jefferson once said, “Almighty God created the mind free.” But current interpretation of our Constitution holds that the minds of our children cannot be free to pray to God in public schools. No one will ever convince me that a moment of voluntary prayer will harm a child or threaten a school or State. But I think it can strengthen our faith in a Creator who alone has the power to bless America.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is the promise God gives us in second Chronicles: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

That promise is the hope of America and of all our people.

Because of my faith in that promise, I’m particularly pleased to be able to tell you today that this administration will soon submit to the United States Congress a proposal to amend our Constitution to allow our children to pray in school. No one must ever be forced or coerced or pressured to take part in any religious exercise, but neither should the government forbid religious practice. The amendment we’ll propose will restore the right to pray.

I thank you all for coming here today and for the good work that you do for our people, our country, and our God every day of the year. But I also hope that I can count on your help in the days and months ahead as we work for passage of this amendment.

Changing the Constitution is a mammoth task. It should never be easy. But in this case, I believe we can restore a freedom that our Constitution was always meant to protect. I have never believed that the oft quoted amendment was supposed to protect us from religion. It was to protect religion from government tyranny.

Together, let us take up the challenge to reawaken America’s religious and moral heart, recognizing that a deep and abiding faith in God is the rock upon which this great Nation was founded.

Thank you all again, as I say, for being here. And God bless you all.

 

Message to the Congress Transmitting a Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Prayer in School
May 17, 1982

To the Congress of the United States:

I have attached for your consideration a proposed constitutional amendment to restore the simple freedom of our citizens to offer prayer in our public schools and institutions. The public expression through prayer of our faith in God is a fundamental part of our American heritage and a privilege which should not be excluded by law from any American school, public or private.

One hundred fifty years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville found that all Americans believed that religious faith was indispensable to the maintenance of their republican institutions. 1 de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 316 (Vintage ed. 1945). Today, I join with the people of this nation in acknowledging this basic truth, that our liberty springs from and depends upon an abiding faith in God. This has been clear from the time of George Washington, who stated in his farewell address:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports ….
And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion …. (R)eason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
35 The Writings of George Washington 229 (J. Fitzpatrick ed. 1940).

Nearly every President since Washington has proclaimed a day of public prayer and thanksgiving to acknowledge the many favors of Almighty God. We have acknowledged God’s guidance on our coinage, in our national anthem, and in the Pledge of Allegiance. As the Supreme Court has stated: “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.” Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306, 313 (1952).

The founders of our nation and the framers of the First Amendment did not intend to forbid public prayer. On the contrary, prayer has been part of our public assemblies since Benjamin Franklin’s eloquent request that prayer be observed by the Constitutional Convention:

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men …. I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages ….
I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business ….
I The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, 451-52 (M. Farrand ed. 1966).

Just as Benjamin Franklin believed it was beneficial for the Constitutional Convention to begin each day’s work with a prayer, I believe that it would be beneficial for our children to have an opportunity to begin each school day in the same manner. Since the law has been construed to prohibit this, I believe that the law should be changed. It is time for the people, through their Congress and the state legislatures, to act, using the means afforded them by the Constitution.

The amendment I propose will remove the bar to school prayer established by the Supreme Court and allow prayer back in our schools. However, the amendment also expressly affirms the right of anyone to refrain from prayer. The amendment will allow communities to determine for themselves whether prayer should be permitted in their public schools and to allow individuals to decide for themselves whether they wish to participate in prayer.

I am confident that such an amendment will be quickly adopted, for the vast majority of our people believe there is a need for prayer in our public schools and institutions. I look forward to working with Congress to achieve the passage of this amendment.

RONALD REAGAN
The White House,
May 17, 1982.

JOINT RESOLUTION

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is hereby proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution if ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress: “Article-

“Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer.”

 

Radio Address to the Nation on Prayer
September 18, 1982

My fellow Americans:

Today is a special day for our citizens of Jewish faith. It’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, marking the beginning of the year 5743 on the Hebrew calendar. So, to all of our friends and neighbors observing this holiday—and speaking for all Americans—I want to wish a happy, peaceful, and prosperous New Year.

Rosh Hashanah also reminds us of the rich and varied religious heritage we Americans are blessed with. More than any other nation, ours draws inspiration from the creeds of many peoples from many parts of the world. They came to our shores from different ports of origin at different times in our history. But all of them—from the men and women who celebrated the first Thanksgiving more than three and a half centuries ago, to the boat people of Southeast Asia—came here with prayers on their lips and faith in their hearts.

It’s because of this shared faith that we’ve become, in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

At every crucial turning point in our history Americans have faced and overcome great odds, strengthened by spiritual faith. The Plymouth settlers triumphed over hunger, disease, and a cruel northern wilderness because, in the words of William Bradford, “They knew they were pilgrims. So they committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed.”

George Washington knelt in prayer at Valley Forge and in the darkest days of our struggle for independence said that “the fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.”

Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the wisest of our Founding Fathers, had no doubt about the source from which our cause was derived. “The God who gave us life,” he declared, “gave us liberty…”

And nearly a century later, in the midst of a tragic and at times seemingly hopeless Civil War, Abraham Lincoln vowed “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

It’s said that prayer can move mountains. Well, it’s certainly moved the hearts and minds of Americans in their times of trial and helped them to achieve a society that, for all its imperfections, is still the envy of the world and the last, best hope of mankind.

And just as prayer has helped us as a nation, it helps us as individuals. In nearly all our lives, there are moments when our prayers and the prayers of our friends and loved ones help to see us through and keep on the right path. In fact, prayer is one of the few things in this world that hurts no one and sustains the spirit of millions.

The Founding Fathers felt this so strongly that they enshrined the principle of freedom of religion in the first amendment of the Constitution. The purpose of that amendment was to protect religion from the interference of government and to guarantee, in its own words, “the free exercise of religion.”

Yet today we’re told that to protect that first amendment, we must suppress prayer and expel God from our children’s classrooms. In one case, a court has ruled against the right of children to say grace in their own school cafeteria before they had lunch. A group of children who sought, on their own initiative and with their parents’ approval, to begin the school day with a 1-minute prayer meditation have been forbidden to do so. And some students who wanted to join in prayer or religious study on school property, even outside of regular class hours, have been banned from doing so.

A few people have even objected to prayers being said in the Congress. That’s just plain wrong. The Constitution was never meant to prevent people from praying; its declared purpose was to protect their freedom to pray.

The time has come for this Congress to give a majority of American families what they want for their children—the firm assurance that children can hold voluntary prayers in their schools just as the Congress, itself, begins each of its daily sessions with an opening prayer.

With this in mind, last May I proposed to the Congress a measure that declares once and for all that nothing in the Constitution prohibits prayer in public schools or institutions. It also states that no person shall be required by government to participate in prayer who does not want to. So, everyone’s rights—believers and nonbelievers alike-are protected by our voluntary prayer measure.

I’m sorry to say that so far the Congress has failed to vote on the issue of school prayer. Jr:st this week, however, I asked Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker to bring this measure to a floor vote. I’m happy to say he told me he’ll do everything he can to accomplish this. However, passage requires a vote by the House of Representatives, as well. So, I call on the House leadership to make an equal effort.

Today, on one of the holiest days of one of our great religious faiths, I urge the Members of the Congress to set aside their differences and act on this simple, fair, and long-overdue measure to help make us “one Nation under God” again.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.

Remarks at a Candle-Lighting Ceremony for Prayer in Schools
September 25, 1982

 

We want to welcome each of you to the White House. We gather together to draw attention to an issue that is as vital to the future of this country as any that we face. No one should doubt that economic and technological progress will have very little impact unless the spirit of our people remains strong.

Calvin Coolidge, a President whom I greatly admire, once said, “The government of a country never gets ahead of the religion of a country.” Fostering the faith and character of our people is one of the great trusts of responsible leadership. I deeply believe that if those in government offer a good example, and if the people preserve the freedom which is their birthright as Americans, no one need fear the future.

Unfortunately, in the last two decades we’ve experienced an onslaught of such twisted logic that if Alice were visiting America, she might think she’d never left Wonderland. [Laughter] We’re told that it somehow violates the rights of others to permit students in school who desire to pray to do so. Clearly this infringes on the freedom of those who choose to pray—a freedom taken for granted since the time of our Founding Fathers.

This would be bad enough, but the purge of God from our schools went much farther. In one case, a Federal court ruled against the right of children to voluntarily say grace before lunch in the school cafeteria. In another situation a group of children, again on their own initiative and with their parents’ approval, wanted to begin the school day with a minute of prayer and meditation, and they, too, were prohibited from doing so. Students have even been prevented from having voluntary prayer groups on school property after class hours just on their own.
Now, no one is suggesting that others should be forced into any religious activity, but to prevent those who believe in God from expressing their faith is an outrage. And the relentless drive to eliminate God from our schools can and should be stopped.

This issue has brought people of good will and every faith together to make the situation right. We believe that permitting voluntary prayer in public schools is within the finest traditions of this country and consistent with the principles of American liberty. Neither the constitutional amendment that I’ve endorsed nor the legislative remedies offered by others permits anyone to be coerced into religious activity. Instead, these measures are designed to protect the rights of those who choose to pray as well as those who choose not to.

I want to thank all of you and all of those who’ll gather on the Capitol Mall this evening for what you’re doing on this vital issue. And a special thanks to Senator Helms and Senator Thurmond and Congressman Kindness for all that they have done.

And today I’d like to take this opportunity to urge the Senate to move directly on the constitutional amendment now awaiting action. But Senate action is not enough. The leadership in the House has the proposed constitutional amendment bottled up and has, thus far, failed to hold the appropriate hearings. Some suggest we should keep religion out of politics. Well, the opposite is also true. Those in politics should keep their hands off of the religious freedom of our people, and especially our children.

Earlier I quoted Calvin Coolidge. He had some other words I’d like to share with you. “It would be difficult for me to conceive,” President Coolidge said, “of anyone being able to administer the duties of a great office like the Presidency without a belief in the guidance of Divine Providence. Unless the President is sustained by an abiding faith in the divine power, I cannot understand how he would have the courage to attempt to meet the various problems that constantly pour in upon him from all parts of the earth.”

Well, after 20 months I can attest to the truth of those words. Faith in God is a vital guidepost, a source of inspiration, and a pillar of strength in times of trial. In recognition of this, the Congress and the Supreme Court begin each day with a prayer, and that’s why we provide chaplains for the Armed Forces. We can and must respect the rights of those who are nonbelievers, but we must not cut ourselves off from this indispensable source of strength and guidance.

I think it’d be a tragedy for us to deny our children what the rest of us, in and out of government, find so valuable. If the President of the United States can pray with others in the Oval Office—and I have on a number of occasions—then let’s make certain that our children have the same right as they go about preparing for their futures and for the future of this country.

And now I understand that we’re to light some candles. I think you children are to go down there and someone is to present me with a—there it is. These—[inaudible]-candles, as I understand it, will start the ceremony tonight on the Mall.

Happy that we’ve had this opportunity this morning. God bless you all.

 

Remarks on Signing the Human Rights and Day of Prayer for Poland Proclamations
December 10, 1982

I have before me, as I’m sure you know, two documents that speak to freedom, and especially to Polish freedom. And their contents, particularly at this time—because Monday marks the first anniversary of the repression of Polish freedom by the military government there. And this repression, carried out under intense Soviet pressure and using tactics of brute force and intimidation, has sparked anger and sadness throughout the world.

No people were more saddened and more angered than those who share with the Polish people close and enduring ties of blood, tradition, and affection—the people of the United States of America. Before the tragic crackdown by the military authorities, the American people watched with approval and growing excitement the democratic gains that were won by Solidarity. We observed with awe and admiration the courage of political [Polish] workers as they sought to reclaim the right to self-government and their nation’s ancient heritage of liberty. All this they did peacefully, without shedding one drop of blood.

These days of light and hope are over, and the cold night of repression has descended on Poland. But despite the threats, the provocations, and the imprisonments, the spirit of independence and resistance to tyranny, a spirit that’s characterized the Polish people for more than a thousand years, still burns brightly in Poland today. It is the fervent hope of the American people that that spirit will again, someday soon, enjoy full expression. It is the fervent hope of the American people that the Warsaw authorities will realize—and sooner, rather than later—that continued repression can only prolong the political alienation and economic stagnation that characterizes Poland today.

In recent months we’ve seen partial steps taken toward this recognition by the Warsaw authorities—Lech Walesa and a number of other internees released. We welcomed the release of these people, and of course, we hope that the Polish Government will take other actions necessary to genuinely transform the existing climate of repression in their country.

In introducing sanctions against Poland last December 1 noted that those sanctions were reversible, and this remains the case. But I cannot and will not remove the sanctions until the Polish Government shows with its actions that it intends to live up to the obligations it assumed when it signed the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Final Act.
Reports reach us that further steps in this direction may be taken by the Polish Government in the coming weeks and months. I will stress today the United States is prepared to respond to genuine liberalizing actions by the Polish Government. Any such actions will be the subject of careful discussions with our allies. And I repeat, if the Polish Government introduces meaningful liberalizing measures, we will take equally significant and concrete actions of our own. However, it will require the end of martial law, the release of political prisoners, and the beginning of dialog with truly representative forces of the Polish nation, such as the church and the freely formed trade unions, to make it possible for us to lift all the sanctions.

The United States can only respond to deeds, however, and not to words. We’re not interested in token or meaningless acts that do nothing to fundamentally change the situation in Poland today—or to replace one form of repression with another.

As I’ve often said, the United States Government and its people are deeply concerned about the plight of the Polish people. We will continue to supply humanitarian aid to them through such voluntary and private relief agencies as the Catholic Relief Services and CARE. Furthermore, as I stated last December 23d, if the Polish Government will honor the commitments it has made to human rights, we in America will gladly do our share to help the shattered Polish economy, just as we helped the countries of Europe after both World Wars.

As a further sign of affection and solidarity felt by the American people toward the Polish people, I am signing today these two proclamations. The first is a Bill of Rights, Human Rights Day proclamation that takes particular note of the current tragedy of Polish freedom and reminds Americans and millions of people all over the world the fate of freedom in Poland affects the fate of freedom everywhere. Through the proclamation, we remember today the Polish people, the millions of others who struggle against the brute force of despotism, and all those who seek freedom and self-rule.

Our nation was conceived in liberty, and we have always understood that the fate of our own freedom is tied to the fate of freedom in the world. The flourishing of liberty, democracy, and constitutional government is the goal of this administration as it is the greatest wish of Americans and that Americans have for all peoples of the world. We pray that we’ll all come to enjoy what we consider our greatest treasure—freedom.

Second, I’m signing a proclamation asking Americans to join together Sunday in solidarity with the Polish people and to pray for ultimate success in their quest for freedom.

Lech Walesa long ago spoke of the wheat that grows on the stones, of how freedom sometimes grows from repression, how repression only serves to strengthen the determination of those who live in the darkness of tyranny to someday be free, and the ideals and heroism exemplified by the Polish people and the members of Solidarity. The world has seen splendid affirmation of the desire for human freedom that springs from deep religious faith.

On Sunday, let us pray with confidence-confidence that wheat will someday grow on the stones in Poland and the other suffering lands under the brutal repression of today will be remembered only as a prelude to times of freedom and peace and independence. This Sunday let us remember the cause of freedom, and let us, with the Polish people and all oppressed peoples everywhere, remind ourselves of the words of Isaiah, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary.”
And I shall now sign these proclamations.

[The President signed the proclamations. ]

And I understand that someone is placing a cross of flowers on Kosciusko’s monument in commemoration of the first anniversary of martial law. And I know that—[inaudible].

[At this point, the President presented 11-year-old Basia Piasecki with flowers to place at the monument. Members of the audience then sang the Polish song “May You Live 100 Years. “]

I have said this before—you know, I didn’t realize until just a few years ago, but when I did realize it, I was filled with mixed emotions and a feeling of challenge that we have to meet—that our own national anthem is the only one I know that ends with a question, “Does that banner still wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” We must always be able to answer that question affirmatively.

Proclamation 5004 – A Day of Prayer for Poland and Solidarity With the Polish People
December 10, 1982

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

December 13 will mark one year since the Polish military authorities, under intense Soviet pressure, put an end to Poland’s experiment in peaceful change. During this year, the military authorities, employing force, have intimidated and ultimately dissolved the free trade unions with which the Polish Government had signed solemn accords but a short time before. Thus, a genuine labor movement was suppressed by a government of generals who claim to represent the working class. Their victory, such as it is, can only be a seeming one. The brave people of Poland have learned during a century and a half of foreign occupation to maintain their national spirit and to resist succumbing to coercion. We are not deceived for an instant that the silence which has now descended on expressions of free opinion in Poland reflects in any way the actual state of mind of the Polish people. The censored press and media do not speak on their behalf. Solidarity may be technically outlawed but its ideals of free trade unionism and nonviolent change will never be destroyed.

This weekend offers Americans a special opportunity to honor the Polish people and to demonstrate our support for their struggle for the right to determine their destiny without interference by dictatorships, supported and incited from the outside.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate December 12, 1982, as A Day of Prayer for Poland and Solidarity With the Polish People.

I invite the people of the United States to observe this day by offering prayers for the people of Poland and by participating in appropriate ceremonies and activities to demonstrate our continuing support for their aspirations for greater freedom.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 10th day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventh.

RONALD REAGAN

Proclamation 5017 – National Day of Prayer, 1983
January 27, 1983
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Prayer is the mainspring of the American spirit, a fundamental tenet of our people since before the Republic was founded. A year before the Declaration of Independence, in 1775, the Continental Congress proclaimed the first National Day of Prayer as the initial positive action they asked of every colonist.

Two hundred years ago in 1783, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the long, weary Revolutionary War during which a National Day of Prayer had been proclaimed every spring for eight years. When peace came the National Day of Prayer was forgotten. For almost half a century, as the Nation grew in power and wealth, we put aside this deepest expression of American belief—our national dependence on the Providence of God.

It took the tragedy of the Civil War to restore a National Day of Prayer. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.”

Revived as an annual observance by Congress in 1952, the National Day of Prayer has become a great unifying force for our citizens who come from all the great religions of the world. Prayer unites people. This common expression of reverence heals and brings us together as a Nation and we pray it may one day bring renewed respect for God to all the peoples of the world.

From General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history. This occasion provides our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His help for the challenges we face today and in the future.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, May 5, 1983, National Day of Prayer. I call upon every citizen of this great Nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of the hearts of all mankind.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 27th day of Jan., in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventh.

 

Message to the Congress Transmitting the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Prayer in Schools
March 8, 1983

 

To the Congress of the United States;

On May 17, 1982, I transmitted for your consideration a proposed constitutional amendment to restore the simple freedom of our citizens to offer prayer in our public schools and institutions. I know that already this Session there is growing bipartisan support for the amendment and as I forward this package, I am calling on the Congress to act speedily to pass it.

The public expression through prayer of our faith in God is a fundamental part of our American heritage and a privilege which should not be excluded by law from any American school, public or private.
One hundred fifty years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville found that all Americans believed that religious faith was indispensable to the maintenance of their republican institutions. Today, I join with the people of this Nation in acknowledging this basic truth, that our liberty springs from and depends upon an abiding faith in God. This has been clear from the time of George Washington, who stated in his Farewell Address:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. . . And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion …. [R]eason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Nearly every President since Washington has proclaimed a day of public prayer and thanksgiving to acknowledge the many favors of Almighty God. We have acknowledged God’s guidance on our coinage, in our National anthem, and in the Pledge of Allegiance. As the Supreme Court stated in 1952, “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.”

The founders of our Nation and the framers of the First Amendment did not intend to forbid public prayer. On the contrary, prayer has been part of our public assemblies since Benjamin Franklin’s eloquent request that prayer be observed by the Constitutional Convention:
I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men …. I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages ….
I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business ….

Just as Benjamin Franklin believed it was beneficial for the Constitutional Convention to begin each day’s work with a prayer, I believe that it would be beneficial for our children to have an opportunity to begin each school day in the same manner. Since the law has been construed to prohibit this, I believe that the law should be changed. It is time for the people, through their Congress and the State legislatures, to act, using the means afforded them by the Constitution.

The amendment I proposed will remove the bar to school prayer established by the Supreme Court and allow prayer back in our schools. However, the amendment also expressly affirms the right of anyone to refrain from prayer. The amendment will allow communities to determine for themselves whether prayer should be permitted in their public schools and to allow individuals to decide for themselves whether they wish to participate in prayer.

I urge that this amendment be quickly adopted, for the vast majority of our people believe there is a need for prayer in our public schools and institutions. I look forward to working with the Congress to achieve the passage of this amendment.

RONALD REAGAN
The White House,
March 8, 1983.

Joint Resolution
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is hereby proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution if ratified by the legislatures of threefourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress:

“Article —

“Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any State to participate in prayer.”

Proclamation 5041 – Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 1983
April 4, 1983

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Each year, for more than 100 years, we have gathered on Memorial Day to pay tribute to those men and women who have fallen in battle, sacrificing their lives to preserve our freedom and world peace. In doing this, we are reminded that neither peace nor liberty is guaranteed, and that our national ideals remain threatened by global conflict, economic crises, violence, and aggression.

Throughout our history, America has been a symbol of hope for all people. We must always accept the many responsibilities that this requires. Thus, we are prepared to assist other nations in their struggle for economic progress; to help those in other lands who suffer from political repression and injustice; to deter aggression by strengthening democracy around the globe; and to work tirelessly toward a world without war.

Those who have sacrificed their lives for our country serve as a reminder that our work is unfinished. With vision and purpose and a prayer in our hearts, let us dedicate ourselves to their memory.

In recognition of those Americans to whom we pay tribute today, the Congress, by joint resolution of May 11, 1950 (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 1983, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11 o’clock in the morning of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I also request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the appropriate officials of all local units of government to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff during this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control, and I request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 4th day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventh.

RONALD REAGAN

Proclamation 5138 – National Day of Prayer, 1984
December 14, 1983
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

In 1787, a then-elderly Benjamin Franklin said to George Washington as he presided over the Constitutional Convention, “I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”

With these words, Mr. Franklin called upon the Convention to open each day with prayer, and from the birth of our Republic, prayer has been vital to the whole fabric of American life.

As we crossed and settled a continent, built a Nation in freedom, and endured war and critical struggles to become the leader of the Free World and a sentinel of liberty, we repeatedly turned to our Maker for strength and guidance in achieving the awesome tasks before us.

From the poignancy of General Washington’s legendary prayer in the snow at Valley Forge to the dangerous times in which we live today, our leaders and the people of this Nation have called upon Divine Providence and trusted in God’s wisdom to guide us through the challenges we have faced as a people and a Nation.

Whether at the landing of our forebears in New England and Virginia, the ordeal of the Revolutionary War, the stormy days of binding the thirteen colonies into one country, the Civil War, or other moments of trial over the years, we have turned to God for His help. As we are told in II Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

By Joint Resolution of the Congress approved April 17, 1952, the recognition of a particular day set aside each year as a National Day of Prayer has become part of our unification as a great Nation. This is a day on which the people of the United States are invited to turn to God in prayer and meditation in places of worship, in groups, and as individuals. Since 1952, each President has proclaimed annually a National Day of Prayer, resuming the tradition started by the Continental Congress.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, May 3, 1984, as National Day of Prayer. I call upon the citizens of this great Nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of the hearts of all mankind.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 14th day of Dec., in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eightythree, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eighth.

Radio Address to the Nation on Prayer in Schools
February 25, 1984

 

My fellow Americans:

From the early days of the colonies, prayer in school was practiced and revered as an important tradition. Indeed, for nearly 200 years of our nation’s history, it was considered a natural expression of our religious freedom. But in 1962 the Supreme Court handed down a controversial decision prohibiting prayer in public schools.

Sometimes I can’t help but feel the first amendment is being turned on its head. Because ask yourselves: Can it really be true that the first amendment can permit Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen to march on public property, advocate the extermination of people of the Jewish faith and the subjugation of blacks, while the same amendment forbids our children from saying a prayer in school?

When a group of students at the Guilderland High School in Albany, New York, sought to use an empty classroom for voluntary prayer meetings, the 2d Circuit of Appeals said, “No.” The court thought it might be dangerous because students might be coerced into praying if they saw the football captain or student body president participating in prayer meetings.

Then there was the case of the kindergarten class reciting a verse before their milk and cookies. They said, “We thank you for the flowers so sweet. We thank you for the food we eat. We thank you for the birds that sing. We thank you, God, for everything.” But a Federal court of appeals ordered them to stop. They were supposedly violating the Constitution of the United States.

Teddy Roosevelt told us, “The American people are slow to wrath, but when their wrath is once kindled it burns like a consuming flame.” Up to 80 percent of the American people support voluntary prayer. They understand what the Founding Fathers intended. The first amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people from religion; that amendment was written to protect religion from government tyranny.

The amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What could be more clear?

The act that established our public school system called for public education to see that our children learned about religion and morality. References to God can be found in the Mayflower Compact of 1620, the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem. Our legal tender states, “In God We Trust.”

When the Constitution was being debated at the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin rose to say: “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see that God governs in the affairs of men. Without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.” He asked: “Have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?” Franklin then asked the Convention to begin its daily deliberations by asking for the assistance of Almighty God.

George Washington believed that religion was an essential pillar of a strong society. In his farewell address, he said, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” And when John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was asked in his dying hour if he had any farewell counsels to leave his children, Jay answered, “They have the Book.”

But now we’re told our children have no right to pray in school. Nonsense. The pendulum has swung too far toward intolerance against genuine religious freedom. It’s time to redress the balance.

Former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart noted if religious exercises are held to be an impermissible activity in schools, religion is placed at an artificial and state-created disadvantage. Permission for such exercises for those who want them is necessary if the schools are truly to be neutral in the matter of religion. And a refusal to permit them is seen not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.

The Senate will soon vote on a constitutional amendment to permit voluntary vocal prayer in public schools. If two-thirds of the Senate approve, then we must convince the House leadership to permit a vote on the issue. I am confident that if the Congress passes our amendment this year, then the State legislatures will do likewise, and we’ll be able to celebrate a great victory for our children.

Our amendment would ensure that no child be forced to recite a prayer. Indeed, it explicitly states this. Nor would the state be allowed to compose the words of any prayer. But the courts could not forbid our children from voluntary vocal prayer in their schools. And by reasserting their liberty of free religious expression, we will be helping our children understand the diversity of America’s religious beliefs and practices.

If ever there was a time for you, the good people of this country, to make your voices heard, to make the mighty power of your will the decisive force in the halls of Congress, that time is now.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Statement on Senate Action on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Prayer in Schools
March 20, 1984

I am deeply disappointed that, although a majority of the Senate voted for it, the school prayer amendment fell short of the special two-thirds majority needed to win in the Senate today.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the unprecedented outpouring of support from citizens who made their views known to their Senators on this issue. And I want to thank Senators Baker, Thurmond, Helms, and Hatch for their valiant efforts to restore this revered American tradition.

This has been an important debate revealing the extent to which the freedom of religious speech has been abridged in our nation’s public schools. The issue of free religious speech is not dead as a result of this vote. We have suffered a setback, but we have not been defeated. Our struggle will go on.

The courts themselves can restore a more balanced view of the first amendment, as we have seen in some recent cases. My administration will continue our efforts to allow government to accommodate prayer and religious speech by citizens in ways that do not risk an establishment of religion. I urge the Congress to consider the equal access legislation before both Houses so that voluntary student religious groups can meet on public school property on the same terms as other student groups.

Proclamation 5180 – Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, May 28, 1984
April 13, 1984

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

In the course of America’s existence, our citizens too often have been called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace, freedom, and justice. From Bunker Hill to Beirut, these brave men and women have passed into the hands of our Creator so that we may enjoy the fruits of liberty. As Americans gather this Memorial Day to pay homage to their sacred memory and selfless commitment, we can offer no higher praise than that these patriots defended the high ideals bestowed upon this Nation by our Founding Fathers.

Today, as we commend their deeds, we also bear a heavy burden of responsibility to ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain by never wavering in our dedication and determination to maintain the peace, to safeguard human rights, and to protect the economic well-being of our Nation for future generations.

In honor and recognition of those Americans to whom we pay tribute today, the Congress, by joint resolution of May 11, 1950 (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, May 28, 1984, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11 o’clock in the morning of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I also request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the appropriate officials of all units of government to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff during this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control, and I request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 13th day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eightyfour, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eighth.

RONALD REAGAN

Proclamation 5296 – National Day of Prayer, 1985
January 29, 1985
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

The history of the American Nation is one of conviction in the face of tyranny, courage in the midst of turmoil and faith despite the roils of doubt and defeatism. Throughout our 208 years of freedom, the people of the United States have drawn upon the lessons learned at the dawn of our liberty by acting “with a firm reliance on Divine Providence” and expressing gratitude for the many blessings a loving God has showered upon us.

These lessons have not been learned and honored without difficulty. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress proclaimed a National Day of Prayer each year for eight years, a practice that ended with the winning of the peace in 1783. Decades later, while the Civil War raged, this observance was renewed by Abraham Lincoln. Responding to a Senate Resolution requesting the President to designate and set apart a day for prayer and humiliation, Lincoln said that “intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” He then called the Nation to prayer.

Our very existence as a free Nation, then, has provided potent witness to the efficacy of prayer. Grover Cleveland, in his First Inaugural Address, said, “Above all, I know that there is a Supreme Being who rules the affairs of men and whose goodness and mercy have always followed the American people, and I know He will not turn from us now if we humbly and reverently seek His powerful aid.” Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his Fourth Inaugural Address, expressed the same thought, “The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways . . . So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly—to see the way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow men—to the achievement of His will, to peace on earth.”

Today our Nation is at peace and is enjoying prosperity, but our need for prayer is even greater. We can give thanks to God for the ever-increasing abundance He has bestowed on us, and we can remember all those in our society who are in need of help, whether it be material assistance in the form of charity or simply a friendly word of encouragement. We are all God’s handiwork, and it is appropriate for us as individuals and as a Nation to call to Him in prayer.

By joint resolution of the Congress approved April 17, 1952, the recognition of a particular day set aside each year as a National Day of Prayer has become a cherished national tradition. Since that time, every President has proclaimed an annual National Day of Prayer, resuming the tradition begun by the Continental Congress.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 2, 1985, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon the citizens of this great Nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of the hearts of all mankind.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and ninth.

 

Proclamation 5330 – Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, May 27, 1985
April 26, 1985

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Memorial Day is the one day we set aside each year for a special observance of the sacrifices Americans have made throughout our history for the ideals of peace, freedom, and justice for all. It is fitting upon this occasion that we look forward with hope to the future and also back with remembrance to the commitment and bravery of previous generations of Americans.

This year, we observe the fortieth anniversary of the end of the most destructive war the world has ever known—a war the United States did not want but nevertheless fought with total commitment to protect the most cherished human ideals. Throughout that war, and in our foreign relations afterward, we have sought to achieve true and lasting peace for all the people of the world.

Today, our desire for peace is equally great. In our observances this Memorial Day, we honor the brave Americans who paid the highest price for their commitment to the ideals of peace, freedom, and justice. Our debt to them can be paid only by our own recommitment to preserving those same ideals. But our recommitment cannot be for ourselves alone. It must also be for our children, and for the generations yet to come. Peace, freedom, and justice are not things that were won for us two hundred years ago or forty years ago; they must be won again and again by each successive generation.

And so today, let us pray for peace; and let us remember those who gave so much for peace that the ideals of the West may survive.

In recognition of those Americans to whom we pay tribute today, the Congress, by joint resolution of May 11, 1950 (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 1985, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11 o’clock in the morning of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I also request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the appropriate officials of all local units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff during this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control, and I request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-sixth day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and ninth.

RONALD REAGAN

Proclamation 5429 – National Day of Prayer
January 13, 1986
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Prayer is deeply woven into the fabric of our history from its very beginnings. The same Continental Congress that declared our independence also proclaimed a National Day of Prayer. And from that time forward, it would be hard to exaggerate the role that prayer has played in the lives of individual Americans and in the life of the Nation as a whole.

Our greatest leaders have always turned to prayer at times of crisis. We recall the moving story of George Washington kneeling in the snow at Valley Forge to ask for divine assistance when the fate of our fledgling Nation hung in the balance. And Abraham Lincoln tells us that on the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg, “I went into my room and got down on my knees in prayer.” Never before, he added, had he prayed “with as much earnestness.”
More than once, Lincoln also summoned the entire Nation to its knees before the God in Whose hand lies the destiny of nations. It was, he said, “fit and becoming in all peoples, at all times, to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God . . . and to pray with all fervency and contrition …. “

After the shock of Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt told us he took courage from the thought that “the vast majority of the members of the human race” joined us in a common prayer for victory as we fought for “freedom under God.”

Prayer, of course, is deeply personal: the way in which it finds expression depends on our individual dispositions as well as on our religious convictions. Just as our religious institutions are guaranteed freedom in this land, so also do we cherish the diversity of our faiths and the freedom afforded to each of us to pray according to the promptings of our individual conscience.

Yet the light of prayer has a common core: it is our hopes and aspirations; our sorrows and fears; our deep remorse and renewed resolve; our thanks and joyful praise; and most especially our love—all turned toward God. The Talmud aptly calls prayer the “service of the heart,” and Christ enjoins us to “pray without ceasing.”

Accordingly, like the Presidents who have come before me, I invite my fellow citizens to join me in earnest prayer that the God Who has led and protected us through so many trials and favored us with such abundant blessings may continue to watch over our land. Let us never forget the wise counsel of Theodore Roosevelt that “all our extraordinary material development • • . will go for nothing unless with that growth goes hand in hand the moral, the spiritual growth that will enable us to use aright the other as an instrument.”

In prayer, let us ask that God’s light may illuminate the minds and hearts of our people and our leaders, so that we may meet the challenges that lie before us with courage and wisdom and justice. In prayer let us recall with confidence the promise of old that if we humble ourselves before God and pray and seek His face, He will surely hear and forgive and heal and bless our land.

By joint resolution of the Congress approved April 17, 1952, the recognition of a particular day set aside each year as a National Day of Prayer has become a cherished national tradition. Since that time, every President has proclaimed an annual National Day of Prayer, resuming the tradition begun by the Continental Congress.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Thursday, May 1, 1986, as National Day of Prayer. I call upon all Americans to join me in prayer that day. I ask them to gather in their homes and places of worship with their ministers and teachers of religion and heads of families, to give thanks for every good thing God has done for us and to seek His guidance and strength in the conduct of our lives.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and tenth.

RONALD REAGAN

Proclamation 5490 – Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 1986
May 22, 1986

 

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Memorial Day is an occasion of special importance to all Americans, because it is a day sacred to the memory of all those Americans who made the supreme sacrifice for the liberties we enjoy. We will never forget or fail to honor these heroes to whom we owe so much. We honor them best when we resolve to cherish and defend the liberties for which they gave their lives. Let us resolve to do all in our power to assure the survival and the success of liberty so that our children and their children for generations to come can live in an America in which freedom’s light continues to shine. The Congress, in establishing Memorial Day, called for it to be a day of tribute to America’s fallen, and also a day of national prayer for lasting peace. This Nation has always sought true peace. We seek it still. Our goal is peace in which the highest aspirations of our people, and people everywhere, are secure: peace with freedom, with justice, and with opportunity for human development. This is the permanent peace for which we pray, not only for ourselves but for all generations.

The defense of peace, like the defense of liberty, requires more than lip service. It requires vigilance, military strength, and the willingness to take risks and to make sacrifices. The surest guarantor of both peace and liberty is our unflinching resolve to defend that which has been purchased for us by our fallen heroes.

On Memorial Day, let us pray for peace-not only for ourselves, but for all those who seek freedom and justice.

In recognition of those brave Americans to whom we pay tribute today, the Congress, by joint resolution approved May 11, 1950 (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, 1986, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 o’clock in the morning of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I also direct all appropriate Federal officials, and request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff during this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control, and I request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-second day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and tenth.

RONALD REAGAN

 

Message on the Observance of the World Day of Prayer for Peace
October 27, 1986

To His Holiness the Pope, John Paul II, and to the International Religious Leaders gathered at Assisi, Italy, for the “World Day of Prayer for Peace,” October 27, 1986:

On behalf of the Government and people of the United States of America, I send warm wishes to the participants in the World Day of Prayer for Peace. Our prayers are with you for the success of this historic gathering. We must never lose sight of the divinity which has created mankind itself. I extend to you my heartfelt support and reiterate my personal commitment to the cause of peace.

In addition to our prayers, we must join together to take steps to ensure lasting peace. Man has created awesome weapons in this nuclear age of ours. It is my fervent goal and hope—and that I know of all of you—that we will some day no longer have to rely on nuclear weapons to deter aggression and assure world peace. To that end, the United States is now engaged in a serious and sustained effort to negotiate major reductions in levels of offensive nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal of eliminating these weapons from the face of the Earth. In addition, we are exploring the possibilities presented by new technologies to protect human lives from the threat of nuclear destruction through the use of strategic defenses—which threaten no one. Such technologies offer the hope of placing deterrence of war on a safer and more stable basis. Is it not better to save lives than to avenge them?

In my meetings with General Secretary Gorbachev in Iceland, we made tremendous strides toward the goal of a safer and more stable world. The United States will do its full part in the negotiations in Geneva to build upon the progress which was achieved at Reykjavik.

As we seek the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, we must also address the serious threats and imbalances in conventional and chemical weapons. Wars fought with non-nuclear weapons, including chemical, are causing suffering and death in many parts of the world. We have proposed a global ban on these chemical weapons, and call on all civilized nations to join us in ridding the world of this menace.

Finally, we recall that true peace is more than the absence of war: it is the presence of justice and mutual respect and tolerance among the peoples of the world. Human rights and human freedom are its indispensable elements. For we know that governments at peace with their own people are not likely to threaten the peace of their neighbors.

Universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms should be a cornerstone of universal peace. Among the most cherished rights is that of all persons to practice their religion or belief, free of interference or persecution. Each of us should be able to seek, unhindered, a relationship with the divinity. I commend this historic meeting for its efforts to lead humanity toward a more tolerant, just, and peaceful world.

Remarks on Signing the 1987 National Day of Prayer Proclamation
December 22, 1986
I’m delighted to be able to welcome you as we gather for a few moments here to sign this proclamation declaring May 7th our National Day of Prayer for the coming year. No one can hold this office without noticing that prayer is something deeply woven into the fabric of our history, that indeed spiritual values are essential to the successful life of a democracy. It was George Washington himself who said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Throughout our history, our leaders have always turned to prayer in times of crisis. All of us know how George Washington knelt in the snow at Valley Forge to ask for divine assistance when the fate of our nation hung in the balance. Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation shortly after the battle of Gettysburg entreating the Nation to pray for “perfect enjoyment of union and fraternal peace.” And after the shock of Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt told us he took courage from the thought that “the vast majority of the members of the human race” joined us in a common prayer for victory as we fought for “liberty under God.”

Prayer, of course, is deeply personal. Many of us have been taught to pray by people we love. In my case, it was my mother. I learned quite literally at her knee. My mother gave me a great deal, but nothing she gave me was more important than that special gift, the knowledge of the happiness and solace to be gained by talking to the Lord. The way we pray depends both on our religious convictions and our own individual dispositions, but the light of prayer has a common core. It is our hopes and our aspirations, our sorrows and fears, our deep remorse and renewed resolve, our thanks and joyful praise, and most especially our love, all turned toward a loving God. The Talmud calls prayer the “service of the heart,” and St. Paul urged us to “pray without ceasing.”

Of course, it’s important to remember that prayer doesn’t always mean asking God to give us something. Prayer can also be a vehicle for worship—for recognition of the supreme reality, the reality of God and His love. Worshipful prayer seems especially appropriate in this holiday season, when in Hanukkah we celebrate God’s faithfulness to the Jewish nation and in Christmas we mark the birth of One whom some honor as a great and holy prophet and others adore as the Son of God. Listen, if you will, for a moment to the words of the Scriptures:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”

Perhaps, in our own prayers we would do well to remember the words of the heavenly host on that one still night so long ago, each of us in our own way giving glory to God and asking in all earnestness for peace on Earth, and good will toward men.

So, thank you, and God bless you all. And now I shall sign the proclamation. And, of course, you don’t have to wait until May 7th. [Laughter]

Proclamation 5594 – National Day of Prayer, 1987
December 22, 1986
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

In 1952 the Congress of the United States, resuming a tradition observed by the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1783 and followed intermittently thereafter, adopted a resolution calling on the President to set aside and proclaim a suitable day each year as a National Day of Prayer. At the time the resolution was adopted, Americans were dying on the battlefield in Korea. More than 125,000 of our young men had been killed or wounded in that conflict, the third major war in which our troops were involved in a century barely half over.

Members of Congress who spoke for the resolution made clear that they felt the Nation continued to face the very same challenges that preoccupied our Founders: the survival of freedom in a world frequently hostile to human ideals and the struggle for faith in an age that openly doubted or vehemently denied the existence of the Almighty. One Senator remarked that “it would be timely and appropriate for the people of our Nation to join in this service of prayer in the spirit of the founding fathers who believed that God governs in the affairs of men and who based their Declaration of Independence upon a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

Human nature is such that times of distress, grief, and war—or their recent memory—impel us to acknowledgements we are often too proud to make, or too prone to forget, in periods of peace and prosperity. During the Civil War Lincoln said that he was driven to his knees in prayer because he was convinced that he had nowhere else to go. During World War II, an unknown soldier in a trench in Tunisia left behind a scrap of paper with the verses:

Stay with me, God. The night is dark, The night is cold: my little spark
Of courage dies. The night is long;
Be with me, God, and make me strong.

America has lived through many a cold, dark night, when the cupped hands of prayer were our only shield against the extinction of courage. Though that flame has flickered from time to time, it burns brightest when we are willing, as we ought to be now, to turn our faces and our hearts to God not only at moments of personal danger and civil strife, but in the full flower of the liberty, peace, and abundance that He has showered upon us.

Indeed, the true meaning of our entire history as a Nation can scarcely be glimpsed without some notion of the importance of prayer, our Declaration of Dependence on God’s favor on this unfinished enterprise we call America. Our land today is more diverse than ever, our citizens come from nearly every nation on Earth, and the variety of religious traditions that have found welcome here has never been greater. On our National Day of Prayer, then, we join together as people of many faiths to petition God to show us His mercy and His love, to heal our weariness and uphold our hope, that we might live ever mindful of Ills justice and thankful for His blessing.

By joint resolution of the Congress approved April 17, 1952, the recognition of a particular day set aside each year as a National Day of Prayer has become a cherished national tradition.

Now, Therefore, I. Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 7, 1987, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon the citizens of this great Nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity of the hearts of all mankind.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-second day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eleventh.

RONALD REAGAN

Proclamation 5661 – Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 1987
May 21, 1987

 

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Any American who has ever listened to a bugler sound Taps, the last salute, whether on a green and grassy hillside, a muddy field halfway around the world, or a lonely tarmac stateside or anywhere freedom is cherished and defended, knows exactly why we set aside a special day each year to honor those who have died for our country and to pray for permanent peace.

We do so for the sons and daughters of our land who have perished in the cause of liberty, country, and peace, the cause that has called Americans from generation to generation. We do so for the Nation that was home to these heroes and heroines, the Nation that gave them their birthright of freedom. We do so for the sacred trust they have left us, to revere, defend, and preserve all that they have revered, defended, and preserved for us.

And we pray for our dead; we ask God to bless them and take them to Himself and reward their patriot’s love. We pray for those who gave their lives in the hope of a future of freedom and peace for their countrymen. We pray for peace and for the devotion and strength of soul to build it and to protect it always. We pray and we resolve to keep holy the memory of those who have died for our country and to make their cause inseparably our own. We pray and we promise, so that one day Taps will sound never again for the young and the brave and the good.

In recognition of those brave Americans to whom we pay tribute today, the Congress, by joint resolution approved May 11, 1950 (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 1987, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at eleven o’clock in the morning of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I also direct all appropriate Federal officials and request the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff during this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control, and I request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on this day.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eleventh.

RONALD REAGAN

Proclamation 5767 – National Day of Prayer, 1988
February 3, 1988
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Americans in every generation have turned to their Maker in prayer. In adoration and in thanksgiving, in contrition and in supplication, we have acknowledged both our dependence on Almighty God and the help He offers us as individuals and as a Nation. In every circumstance, whether peril or plenty, whether war or peace, whether gladness or mourning, we have searched for and sought God’s presence and His power, His blessings and His protection, His freedom and His peace, for ourselves, for our children, and for our beloved land.

That was surely so at the very beginning of our Nation, in the earliest days of our quest for independence and liberty. It could only be thus, for a people who recognized God as the Author of freedom; who cherished the ancient but ever new words of Leviticus, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” and who cast those words where they would ring out forever, on the Liberty Bell; who affirmed along with Thomas Jefferson that the God Who gave us life gave us liberty as well.

So did they believe, those who gathered in Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia in 1774, the members of the First Continental Congress. They had come together, in times that tried men’s souls, to deliberate in the united interests of America and for our “civil and religious liberties.” John Adams later wrote his wife Abigail about what followed: “When Congress first met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer.” Some delegates opposed the motion, citing differences in belief among the members; but Sam Adams, that bold lover of liberty and our country, arose to utter words of healing and unity.

“I can hear the prayer,” he said, of anyone “of piety and virtue who is . . . a friend to his country.” He went on to suggest that a clergyman of a persuasion other than his own open the First Continental Congress with prayer.

And so it happened. Because Sam Adams gave voice to all the goodness, the genius, and the generosity that make up the American spirit, the First Continental Congress made its first act a prayer—the beginning of a great tradition.

We have, then, a lesson from the Founders of our land, those giants of soul and intellect whose courageous pledge of life and fortune and sacred honor, and whose “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,” have ever guided and inspired Americans and all who would fan freedom’s mighty flames and live in “freedom’s holy light.” That lesson is clear—that in the winning of freedom and in the living of life, the first step is prayer.

Let us join together, Americans all, throughout our land. Let us join together, in factories and farms, in homes and offices, in places of governance and places of worship, and in outposts everywhere that service men and women defend us. Let us, young and old, join together, as did the First Continental Congress, in the first step—humble, heartfelt prayer. Let us do so for the love of God and His great goodness, in search of His guidance and the grace of repentance, in seeking His blessings, His peace, and the resting of His kind and holy hands on ourselves, our Nation, our friends in the defense of freedom, and all mankind, now and always.

By joint resolution of the Congress approved April 17, 1952, the recognition of a particular day set aside each year as a National Day of Prayer has become a beloved national tradition.

Now, Therefore, L Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 5, 1988, as a National Day of Prayer. I call upon the citizens of our great Nation to gather together on that day in homes and places of worship to pray, each after his or her own manner, for unity in the hearts of all mankind.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of February, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twelfth.

 

Proclamation 5826 – Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 1988
May 20, 1988

 

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Once each May, amid the quiet hills and rolling lanes and breeze-brushed trees of Arlington National Cemetery, far above the majestic Potomac and the monuments and memorials of our Nation’s Capital just beyond, the graves of America’s military dead are decorated with the beautiful flag that in life these brave souls followed and loved. This scene is repeated across our land and around the world, wherever our defenders rest. Let us hold it our sacred duty and our inestimable privilege on this day to decorate these graves ourselves-with a fervent prayer and a pledge of true allegiance to the cause of liberty, peace, and country for which America’s own have ever served and sacrificed.

During our observance of Memorial Day this year we have fresh reason to call to mind the service and sacrifices of the members of our merchant marine during World War II—these gallant seafarers have now deservedly received veteran status. More than 6,000 of them gave their lives in the dangerous and vital duty of transporting materiel to our forces around the globe. We will never forget them as we honor our war dead.

Our pledge and our prayer this day are those of free men and free women who know that all we hold dear must constantly be built up, fostered, revered, and guarded vigilantly from those in every age who seek its destruction. We know, as have our Nation’s defenders down through the years, that there can never be peace without its essential elements of liberty, justice, and independence.

Those true and only building blocks of peace were the lone and lasting cause and hope and prayer that lighted the way of those whom we honor and remember this Memorial Day. To keep faith with our hallowed dead, let us be sure, and very sure, today and every day of our lives, that we keep their cause, their hope, their prayer, forever our country’s own.

In recognition of those brave Americans to whom we pay tribute today, the Congress, by joint resolution approved May 11, 1950 (64 Stat. 158), has requested the President to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period when the people of the United States might unite in prayer.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, 1988, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at eleven o’clock in the morning of that day as a time to unite in prayer. I urge the press, radio, television, and all other information media to cooperate in this observance.

I also direct all appropriate Federal officials and request the Governors of the several States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff until noon during this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control, and I request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on this day for the customary forenoon period.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of May, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twelfth.

RONALD REAGAN

 

 

National Day of Prayer

 

 

Prayer Breakfasts – Ronald Reagan

blessing 4

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