Themes

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The New Revolution in Technology and Information

President Reagan notes that he is giving his speech in front of a mural of the Russian Revolution. A very different revolution “without bloodshed or conflict” is now spreading across the world. While it is peaceful, this new revolution will fundamentally change people’s lives, “replacing manual labor with robots, forecasting weather for farmers, or mapping the genetic code of DNA for medical researchers.” Microcomputers will design everything, including other computers. These advances in technology will aid international understanding by translating between English and Russian, for instance, and will bring cultures closer together through the exchange of information.

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The world is emerging from an economic system based on the Industrial Revolution—“an economy confined to and limited by the Earth’s physical resources”—and moving quickly towards an economy based on this new revolution in technology, which will be limited not by the material resources of the planet but by the scope of the human imagination. Reagan links this theme to his other principal themes by talking about how freedom, diversity, and cultural exchange will both be vital factors in the success of this new revolution.


Freedom and Diversity

Having talked about scientific progress, Reagan says that progress is not automatic, but depends on freedom: “freedom of thought, freedom of information, freedom of communication.” He quotes Mikhail Lomonosov, one of the founders of Moscow State University, who said that:

It is common knowledge… that the achievements of science are considerable and rapid, particularly once the yoke of slavery is cast off and replaced by the freedom of philosophy.

Reagan says that freedom is “a national pastime” in the United States. He talks about elections, noting that 1988, the year of this address, is an election year and that many other candidates are eagerly trying to take the presidency from him through the time-honored democratic process. He says that America has 1,000 local television stations, 8,500 radio stations, and 1,700 daily newspapers, all of them “fiercely independent of the Government.”

This freedom, Reagan says, breeds diversity. In churches, synagogues, mosques and other centers of religion throughout the United States, you can see “families of every conceivable nationality worshipping together.” The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which children study in school, provide guarantees for freedom, in the latter case specifically “for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.” These strong foundational principles, and others such as the administration of justice by judges who are independent of the government, allow for a diverse group of people to exist peacefully and cohesively. This diversity, of course, includes “Russians, Ukrainians, peoples from Eastern Europe and Central Asia.” Reagan notes that some people from the Soviet Union have recently been able to visit relations in the West and hopes this may continue and soon lead to a reciprocal arrangement:

We can only hope that it won't be long before all are allowed to do so and Ukrainian-Americans, Baltic-Americans, Armenian-Americans can freely visit their homelands, just as this Irish-American visits his.


International Exchange and Friendship

Reagan announces that in addition to the reciprocal visits mentioned above, he plans to increase the number of high school exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union, working with General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to arrange several thousand cultural exchanges each year. These programs will be augmented by using satellites to send 11,000 American magazines and periodicals, along with television and radio shows to the Soviet Union, in the interests of increasing understanding between the two countries. Reagan hopes that international exchange programs will eventually become unnecessary, as it will become completely normal for American students to backpack around Russia as they now travel around Europe with little heed for borders.

This new age of international understanding and friendship is becoming possible because of the reduction in the number of nuclear weapons on both sides. Reagan calls for cooperation between the two countries to continue and increase. For the purposes of international harmony and cooperation, all nations must work to end the possibility of nuclear war and forgo “the right to an expansionist foreign policy.” Peace between nations must not be regarded as a state of truce, to be broken for political or economic advantage, but as the permanent goal of all countries.

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