Reagan celebrated immigrants in his final speech

When I was about 10 years old and living with my parents in a tenement in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in the late 1950s, my fair-skinned, blue-eyed mother, whose father and four grandparents all were born in Italy, decided to investigate what types of rents were available in Ridgewood, Queens.

When I accompanied my mother to a see a possible apartment where we might have moved in Ridgewood, I heard the owner tell my mother, “You’d like it here.  This is a great neighborhood…. no Italians.”  The owner’s direct implication was unmistakable:  Italians didn’t belong here.

Being the lady she is, my mother simply replied to the owner’s ignorant ethnicism, “This apartment isn’t as nice as I’d hoped it would be and is unsuitable for my family.”   My mother refrained from giving the owner the tongue-lashing she deserved.

Now, in 2019, about 60 years after the aforementioned incident, our current president has suggested that certain “others” do not belong in America and should go back to their “own countries” because of their vocal dissent of various governmental policies.

Did not Donald Trump ever learn back in elementary school that America was founded by dissenting colonists?

The First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees that “Congress shall make no law…..abridging the freedom of speech….or the right of the people…to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” It seems crystal clear that our founders wanted all American citizens to be able to voice complaints regarding perceived injustices and to be able to seek remediation for them.

Recently, it seems, Donald Trump attributed a fake quote to Ronald Reagan predicting Trump’s presidency. Although I did not agree with all of Ronald Reagan’s policies when he ran for president, I voted for him twice because I truly believed he best understood American government, knew civics, had a moral compass, and embraced the tenets of our American Constitution….and, because he understood how legal immigration from around the globe strengthens America.

Donald Trump would do well to read Reagan’s final speech in 1989.  Although I did not believe in every political philosophy that Reagan espoused, I believed he was a man of honor who deeply understood and embraced the foundations of our American government.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum’s website has posted President Reagan’s final speech of Jan. 19, 1989, as follows (

           “Now, tomorrow is a special day for me….And since this is the last speech that I will give as President, I think it’s fitting to leave one final thought, an observation about a country which I love…A man wrote me and said:  “You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk, or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.”

Yes, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors. It is that lady who gives us our great and special place in the world. For it’s the great life force of each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America’s triumph shall continue unsurpassed into the next century and beyond. Other countries may seek to compete with us; but in one vital area, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close.

This, I believe, is one of the most important sources of America’s greatness. We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation. While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”

Although I am not a fan of either Donald Trump or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Squad,  I am a fan of the magnificent concepts upon which our great country was established by our Founding Fathers.   After observing Donald Trump’s performance in the role of president, I have come to believe that any candidate for the American presidency should be required to pass both a standardized test of common knowledge (e.g., airports did not exist during the Revolutionary War and Frederick Douglass died over 100 years ago) and be required to pass a basic cvics test involving our nation’s Constitution.    If there were a test to establish if one is a habitual prevaricator, I would suggest that test be given pre-candidacy as well.

Americans must recognize warning signs of encroaching authoritarianism displayed when a president espouses that “others” should leave our country if they have grievances, despite our own Constitution guaranteeing that “Congress shall make no law…..abridging …… the right of the people…to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., Protestant Pastor Martin Niemöller’s cautionary Nazi-era quotation is prominently displayed as follows  (

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Let our American free speech continue to ring!

Kathy Rittel

East Williston


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The Island Now

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