RONALD REAGAN, ADDRESS TO THE
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICALS ("EVIL EMPIRE SPEECH") (
A. How would you define moral values? Compare and contrast your definition with the values Reagan articulates in his speech.
B. Listen to Reagan's speech at: http://webstorage4.mcpa.virginia.edu/rwr/audiovisual/speeches/spe_1983_0308_reagan.mp3. How did Reagan's delivery of the speech and the reactions of his audience impact the speech? Did you notice the laughter from the audience? Did you laugh at anything in the speech? How did your class react differently to the speech than Reagan's actual audience? Did the speech hold your classes' attention? How might you explain any differences between the audience's reactions and the reactions of your class?
C. What were your thoughts and opinions about Reagan before reading this speech? Did his rhetoric influence your views on Reagan? If so, how did your views change?
D. What were Reagan's goals in this speech? Do you think he attained these goals? Why or why not?
E. Reagan used many religious appeals. How did his statements coincide with biblical teachings? What are the potential benefits and dangers of using such religious arguments in the public square?
F. What do you think are Reagan's main arguments? What evidence does he provide to support those arguments? Did you find his arguments convincing?
G. Why did Reagan oppose
the so-called nuclear freeze? Was he
right to be skeptical of détente and unilateral reductions in nuclear
weapons? Do you think he had good
philosophical and moral justifications for his attitudes toward the
A. Examine Reagan's speech and also look at newspaper articles and editorials that covered the speech. If you were a reporter at this time, how would you respond to Reagan's speech? In a news story, what would be your headline? If you were to write an editorial or opinion piece on the speech, what would you say?
B. Examine one or two speeches on U.S.-Soviet relations by other presidents during the Cold War. How was Reagan's rhetoric different from the rhetoric of past presidents, like Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, or Nixon? What views or attitudes did he share with those other presidents?
C. Go to www.oyez.org, select "cases" from the drop-down menu at the top of the page, and search for "moral" in the keyword search bar next to that menu. Examine some of the court cases. What sorts of "moral" issues has the court addressed? How has the court determined "morality" in such cases?
D. Reagan was against a nuclear freeze. Research the proposal for a nuclear freeze and discuss the pros and cons of the proposal, as described by its proponents and opponents.
E. Research public attitudes toward communism in
F. What role has the National Association of Evangelicals played in American politics? Research the NAE. Why do you think Reagan choose this group as the audience for this particular speech?
G. Go to http://webstorage4.mcpa.virginia.edu/rwr/audiovisual/speeches/spe_1983_0308_reagan.mp3 and download the mp3 file of Reagan's speech. Listen to it first without looking at the written text. Which do you think is the better version of the speech: the written text or the delivery? Why?
H. Pundits, editorial page writers, and even historians harshly criticized Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech immediately after it was delivered. Why do you think the speech was so negatively received at the time? What were the major criticisms of the speech in the responses you studied?
I. Reagan invoked the notion of
J. In his first State of the Union address following
J. Compare newspaper coverage of Reagan's "Evil Empire" and Bush's "Axis of Evil" speeches. How did news and editorial reactions to the two speeches compare? Do you agree with the interpretive essay that immediate reactions to Reagan's speech were largely negative? Can the same be said about reactions to Bush's speech?
A. Attend a political rally for a state or national political candidate. Listen to their rhetoric carefully. Do they couch their arguments in such moral terms? If possible, ask the candidate about their opinion on the use of moral arguments and the notion of evil in public discourse.
B. Reagan was heavily criticized for his speech against the "evil
empire' of the
C. Interview a parent or grandparents about how communism affected their lives. Also ask about how, if at all, their moral values have changed since they were young. Be prepared to share their responses with the class.
D. Reagan expressed concern about a number of "moral"
issues in the
E. Is it legitimate for
F. America's Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union, was often
described as "atheistic," while