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Abraham Lincoln Proclamations for Thanksgiving Day

Portrait photo of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln Proclamations for Thanksgiving Day

Abraham Lincoln issued proclamations for Thanksgiving Day in both 1863 and 1864. He called for this as a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Lord to occur on the last Thursday in November.”

Proclamation—Thanksgiving Day, 1863

Sarah Josepha Hale Image courtesy Library of Congress
Sarah Josepha Hale Image courtesy Library of Congress

On October 3, 1863, at the urging of Sarah Josepha Hale, President Abraham Lincoln issue the proclamation below calling for a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Please read the full 1863 proclamation below.











Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

1863 Proclamation of Thanksgiving--Courtesy Gilder Lehman
1863 Proclamation of Thanksgiving–Courtesy Gilder Lehman

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plow, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Thanksgiving 1861 drawing by Alfred R. Waud--Image courtesy Library of Congress President Abraham Lincoln issued a Proclamation calling for a day of Thanksgiving in both 1863 and 1864.
Thanksgiving 1861 drawing by Alfred R. Waud–Image courtesy Library of Congress




Interior of Ford's Theatre, Washington D.C. Click for information on a tour of Lincoln Assassination sites.
Take a guided tour of Abraham Lincoln Assassination related sites. CLICK HERE or the image above for more details and to purchase tickets.


Proclamation 118—Thanksgiving Day, 1864

On October 20, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that the last Thursday of November would be set aside “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe.”

This 1864 proclamation follows the similar, October 3, 1863, document above that is believed to have been penned by William H. Seward.

Please read the full 1864 proclamation below.

By the President of the United States.
A Proclamation.

It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps and our sailors on the rivers and seas with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while He has opened to us new sources of wealth and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 20th day of October, A.D. 1864, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

By the President:

William H. Seward
Secretary of State


Portrait photo of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln issued Proclamations calling for a day of Thanksgiving in 1863 and 1864.Sources

Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 6. Pages 496-497.

Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 8. Pages 55-56.

Are you interested in learning more about United States presidents and where they are buried? You can visit these amazing sites. CLICK HERE to read my blog posts on the final resting sites of United States Presidents.


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Burial Sites of United States Presidents A Listing

Presidential Seal

Below is a brief reference to the burial sites of United States Presidents. Only 46 men (well, really 45 since Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th president) have served in the role of President of the United States. While visiting all these sites will take some coordination, time, and cost, it is certainly an achievable goal. Some of the burials contain elaborate monuments while others are much more  commonplace and almost indistinguishable from their surroundings.

This listing includes links (click the name of your favorite president) so that you can determine when locations are open and if there are any associated costs. Most modern presidents have been buried onsite of their presidential library and museum. These websites are often tremendous sources of information on the Presidents and their accomplishments, especially those operated by the National Archives. For some of the earlier presidents, the sites related to their burials are lacking and you will need to seek outside sources.

This information on these sites may of course be slanted toward putting the president in a positive light. My recommendation is to read several books with different points of view in order to achieve a more balanced look at each of these successful, but still human and flawed, men. For more modern presidents, good luck. The literature is a minefield with most of it being partisan garbage.


1             George Washington        December 14, 1799         Mount Vernon   Fairfax County, Virginia

Mount Vernon, the final resting place for President George Washington and his wife Martha. Click the link to reserve your tickets.
Mount Vernon is the incredible estate of George and Martha Washington. Click the photo or THIS LINK to reserve your entry ticket and audio guide.

2             John Adams        July 4, 1826        United First Parish Church            Quincy, Massachusetts

3             Thomas Jefferson             July 4, 1826        Monticello          Charlottesville, Virginia

4             James Madison June 28, 1836    Montpelier         Orange, Virginia

5             James Monroe   July 4, 1831        James Monroe Tomb,                 Hollywood Cemetery                Richmond,  Virginia

Click the photo for information and to purchase tickets for an incredible tour of Hollywood Cemetery, final resting spot for President James Monroe.
Hollywood Cemetery is full of history including that of Presidents James Monroe, whose tomb is shown in the image, and John Tyler. Click the image or THIS LINK for information and to purchase tour tickets for Hollywood Cemetery, in Richmond, VA.


6             John Quincy Adams         February 23, 1848           United First Parish Church                Quincy, Massachusetts

7             Andrew Jackson               June 8, 1845       The Hermitage   Nashville, Tennessee

8             Martin Van Buren            July 24, 1862      Kinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery                Kinderhook, New York


9             William Henry Harrison April 4, 1841      William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial             North Bend, Ohio

10          John Tyler           January 18, 1862             Hollywood Cemetery      Richmond, Virginia

11          James K. Polk     June 15, 1849    Tennessee State Capitol      Nashville, Tennessee

12          Zachary Taylor   July 9, 1850        Zachary Taylor National Cemetery             Louisville, Kentucky

13          Millard Fillmore                March 8, 1874   Forest Lawn Cemetery    Buffalo, New York

14          Franklin Pierce   October 8, 1869               Old North Cemetery       Concord, New Hampshire

15          James Buchanan              June 1, 1868       Woodward Hill Cemetery             Lancaster, Pennsylvania

16          Abraham Lincoln              April 15, 1865    Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery                Springfield, Illinois

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17          Andrew Johnson               July 31, 1875      Andrew Johnson National Cemetery                Greeneville, Tennessee

18          Ulysses S. Grant                July 23, 1885      General Grant National Memorial                New York, New York

Heavily illustrated and with contributions from historians Richard Norton Smith and Douglas Brinkley, Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb? is about the presidents' lives as much as it is about their final resting places. The book's collection of the presidents' last words, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "I have a terrific headache" to John Adams's "Thomas Jefferson still survives" offers a poignant and sometimes humorous look at the last moments of the great men. This is a great way to encounter the presidents, from the great ones to the near-forgottens. Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb? belongs in the glove box of every traveler and the bedside table of every fan of the American presidency and American history. Click the image to order your copy and learn more about burial sites of United States Presidents.
Heavily illustrated and with contributions from historians Richard Norton Smith and Douglas Brinkley, Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? is about the presidents’ lives as much as it is about their final resting places. Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? belongs in the glove box of every traveler and the bedside table of every fan of the American presidency and American history. CLICK HERE or the image to order your copy.


19          Rutherford B. Hayes        January 17, 1893             Spiegel Grove     Fremont, Ohio

20          James A. Garfield             September 19, 1881        James A. Garfield Memorial,     Lake View Cemetery Cleveland, Ohio

21          Chester A. Arthur             November 18, 1886        Albany Rural Cemetery   Menands                New York

22/24    Grover Cleveland             June 24, 1908    Princeton Cemetery        Princeton, New Jersey

23          Benjamin Harrison           March 13, 1901                Crown Hill Cemetery       Indianapolis, Indiana

25          William McKinley             September 14, 1901       McKinley National Memorial                Canton, Ohio

26          Theodore Roosevelt         January 6, 1919                Youngs Memorial Cemetery                Oyster Bay, New York

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27          William Howard Taft        March 8, 1930   Arlington National Cemetery       Arlington, Virginia

28          Woodrow Wilson             February 3, 1924              Washington National Cathedral                Washington District of Columbia

29          Warren G. Harding          August 2, 1923        Harding Tomb     Marion, Ohio

30          Calvin Coolidge January 5, 1933                Plymouth Notch Cemetery           Plymouth Notch, Vermont

31          Herbert Hoover  October 20, 1964             Hoover Presidential Library          West Branch, Iowa

32          Franklin D. Roosevelt      April 12, 1945    Springwood        Hyde Park, New York

33          Harry S. Truman               December 26, 1972         Truman Presidential Library                Independence, Missouri

Visit the Harry S. Truman "Little White House" in Key West, FL. Click the link for information and to book your visit.
Visit the Harry S. Truman “Little White House” in Key West, FL. Click THIS LINK for information and to book your visit.

34          Dwight D. Eisenhower     March 28, 1969                Eisenhower Presidential Center                Abilene, Kansas

35          John F. Kennedy               November 22, 1963        Kennedy Gravesite  Arlington National Cemetery          Arlington, Virginia

36          Lyndon B. Johnson          January 22, 1973             Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park    Stonewall, Texas

37          Richard Nixon    April 22, 1994    Nixon Presidential Library             Yorba Linda, California

Click the photo for information and to book your Nixon Presidential Library tour.Burial sites of United States Presidents

Visit the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and find out why it has been voted Orange County’s Best Attraction and Orange County’s Best Museum by LA Times readers. Tour the most modern presidential museum in the United States to learn about Richard Nixon the man, his life, and his presidency. Click THIS LINK or the image for information and to book your admission.


38          Gerald Ford         December 26, 2006         Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum                Grand Rapids, Michigan

39          Jimmy Carter

40          Ronald Reagan   June 5, 2004       Reagan Presidential Library          Simi Valley, California

41          George H. W. Bush          November 30, 2018        George Bush Presidential Library                College Station, Texas

42           Bill Clinton

43           George W. Bush

44           Barrack Obama

45          Donald Trump

46          Joe Biden


Thank you for taking this tour of the burial sites of United States Presidents. While these are the most famous men in our countries history, why not take a tour of those who have been forgotten. In Charnel Cemetery in DeLand, FL, you can learn about a cemetery for those who were indigent at death yet were still provided with a proper burial.


This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.


In this history-driven memoir, Deion reconstructs his decade-long, cross-country quest and analyzes the evolution of his perspective on the commanders-in-chief and what it means to visit a cemetery. Click the photo to purchase your copy.Find the burial sites of United States Presidents in this interesting book.
In this history-driven memoir, Deion reconstructs his decade-long, cross-country quest and analyzes the evolution of his perspective on the commanders-in-chief and what it means to visit a cemetery. Click THIS LINK or the photo to purchase your copy.
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Lee Harvey Oswald Rooming House Museum in Dallas Texas

Oswald Rooming House Museum Dallas Texas

Oswald Rooming House Museum                                                                        1026 N. Beckley Avenue                                                                                    Dallas, TX 75203                                                                                            469-261-7806                                                                                    


Oswald Rooming House Museum Dallas Texas
Oswald Rooming House Museum in Dallas, Texas


Located in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas, is a home that most people would walk by without giving a second look. The only reason you might notice the home now, is the small sign announcing it as the Oswald Rooming House Museum.

The home was built in 1923 and has three bedrooms and was purchased by Gladys Johnson in 1943. Behind the main building is a two story garage containing eight rooms. Johnson maintained the property as a rooming house, providing up to eighteen rentable rooms. The property was operated as a rooming house until 2012. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

Lee Harvey Oswald after arrest in 1963
Lee Harvey Oswald after his arrest

One of those renting a room was Lee Harvey Oswald. On October 14, 1963, Oswald rented a small bedroom in the home at a rate of $8 per week. For some reason, Oswald used the name O.H. Lee in renting the room. The room, just off the dining area, consisted of a small bed, table, lamp, and wardrobe for his clothes. The bed was placed against a wall with a window looking out to the side of the home.

It is easy to imagine that Oswald would have had little privacy in the six weeks that he roomed here. His room was located right off the main living room area and it was no doubt a high traffic area with the communal telephone located near his door. While living at the rooming house, Oswald was employed at the Texas School Book Depository (now the Sixth Floor Museum). The rooming house was only about two miles from his employer.

Oswald spent the weekdays at the Beckley Avenue home and returned to Irving, TX on weekends, where his wife, Marina Nikolayevna Oswald, and two children lived in rented quarters. They lived in the home of Ruth Hyde Paine. It was at the Paine home where Oswald hid the rifle it is said he used to kill President John F. Kennedy.


On the evening of November 21, 1963, Oswald uncharacteristically spent the night at the Paine home and it was then that he removed the stashed rifle from the garage before returning to Dallas.

The events that followed are of course subject to debate, as they have been for sixty years and probably will be for another sixty or more. With that in mind, I recommend a trip to the Sixth Floor Museum in order to get a good grip on the assassination basics. From there, there are literally hundreds of books, websites, and blogs that can help you make your own interpretation of events that unfolded that day and in the days, weeks, and months, after.

What is known, is that Oswald returned to the Johnson home where he was witnessed by housekeeper Earlene Roberts. Roberts testified that Oswald entered the home quickly, went to his room, and left several minutes later with a jacket from his wardrobe. It is believed Oswald also left with a pistol.

Officer J.D. Tippit Dallas Police Department photo. Learn more about Trippet and the Kennedy Assassination by visiting the Oswald Rooming House Museum.
Photo of officer J.D. Tippit distributed by the Dallas Police Department


Shortly thereafter, less than a mile from the Johnson home, in a confrontation not fully understood, Oswald is believed to have shot and killed Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit. I use the term “believed to have” based upon the fact that no trial occurred and Oswald was never convicted of the murder. Most people believe that Tippit was killed after having stopped Oswald based upon the description of the man believed to have shot the President.

Jim Garrison is one of the leading detractors of the Oswald killed Tippit story. Others believe Tippit may have been involved in a conspiracy or involved in some manner in the assassination plot. Garrison passed away in 1992. Garrison’s work was essential to the Oliver Stone film JFK. An online memorial to Garrison may be found HERE.

Tippit, aged 39, was an eleven-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, after serving in the United States Army during World War II. Tippit’s funeral was held on November 25, 1963 and was attended by more than 2,000 people, including at least 800 fellow law enforcement officers. An online memorial to Officer Tippit may be found HERE.

Today, at the corner of 10th Street and Patton Avenue, there is a commemorative marker recognizing Tippit’s role in the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald.


Historic Marker in honor of Officer J. D. Tippit
Historic marker in honor of Officer J. D. Tippit.



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After the encounter with Tippit, Oswald entered the Texas Theatre, on Jefferson Boulevard some time around 1:15p.m.

The Texas Theatre was built in 1931 and was designed by architect W. Scott Dunne. At the time, it was the largest suburban theatre in the state. In 2003, the Texas Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places based upon its importance to the local community in the area of Recreation/Entertainment and its national importance for the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Accounts of when Oswald arrived at the theatre vary from around 1p to 1:30p depending upon who you believe. Stories generally state that Oswald did not pay the required admission fee and had been acting erratically outside the building.

At around 1:45, Dallas police converged on the theatre, where Oswald, with gun in hand, was apprehended after a minor struggle. He hadn’t been connected to the Kennedy Assassination at this point.

Texas Theatre
Exterior of the Texas Theatre


Texas Theatre historic marker
The Texas Theatre where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested. This is located near the Oswald Rooming House Museum in Dallas, TX.

But what of the Oswald Rooming House Museum?

Today, the home is owned and operated by Patricia Puckett-Hall, the granddaughter of Gladys Johnson, the owner when Oswald stayed in the home. Several years ago, she had put the house on the  market for around $500,00 but pulled the listing. The home is in need of some repair work and our tour guide told us that Ms. Puckett-Hall is actively seeking this funding.

The museum can be accessed in two manners. The first is to arrange a tour directly with Ms. Puckett-Hall by email or phone (her contact information, taken from her business card, is located at the beginning of this post.) I have seen a few different fees and rules posted online in reviews. Fees seem to range from $20-$40 per person. Rules on photography seem to vary as well. It is possible that they have just evolved over time.

House tours, which consist of the main room of the home and the small Oswald bedroom, can be arranged for two-hour visits with Ms. Puckett-Hall. She will be available to discuss the home and her memories of Oswald. She was a young girl at the time and spent time at her grandmother’s home when Oswald was a resident. The opportunity to talk about Oswald with someone who actually knew him, is an opportunity that will not be available for many more years. Pat will also discuss her views on the assassination and what she thinks Oswald’s role was. If you are a die-hard Kennedy Assassination buff, this is the way to go.

The second option is how we visited the home. We took a guided Kennedy Assassination Tour and the Oswald Museum and admission to the Sixth Floor Museum were included. Our guide was able to answer questions, provide background, and present strong historical context. There were no photography restrictions at the museum, though access was limited to the two rooms.

The home is set up as it was during the 1963 television interview with Earlene Roberts. The bedroom is set up as it was when Oswald lived there. The furniture is that used by Oswald, with the exception of the mattress that has been replaced. Several replica items of items owned by Oswald are on display.

Lee Harvey Oswald's bed located at the Oswald Rooming House Museum in Dallas, TX.
Lee Harvey Oswald bed, note how narrow the room is and the window right next to the bed.
Cabinet located in Oswald's bedroom where he stored a pistol, at the Oswald Rooming House Museum in Dallas, TX.
The cabinet in Lee Harvey Oswald’s bedroom where he took his coat and pistol from after having returned to the home after the assassination of President Kenney










In the main room, it looks like time has been frozen. Everything has a strong dated sense and there is no doubt you are in the early to mid-1960s. My understanding is that with limited exceptions, these are furnishings original to the home at the time of the assassination, including the telephone that Oswald used to talk with his wife while staying in the home.

Main living room area in the Oswald Room House
This view shows the main living room at the Gladys Johnson house close to how it looked when Lee Harvey Oswald lived there. Oswald’s room would be behind us and to the right.
A view of what the rooming house looked like with a piano on the right.
The Oswald Rooming House Museum has been kept as close to the original as possible. Oswald’s room would be to our left.










The telephone that Oswald would have used to call his wife in Irving, Texas at the Oswald Rooming House Museum.
Outside of Oswald’s room was this phone that he would have used to call and speak with his wife while living in the boarding house. It is said he spoke with her in Russian.


For anybody interested in the Kennedy assassination, and why would you have interest in this home for any other reason, this small house museum is a must visit. It may not be set up to “professional museum standards” but what you are witnessing is real history. Perhaps a couple of small interpretive panels would be helpful, but at times, these attempts to tell viewers what they are seeing become overwhelming. Sometimes it is best to just let the viewer see things and work through them on their own. That is how I felt here. If you go to the Sixth Floor Museum, you will be overwhelmed with panels to read.

Both visiting options have their positives. We chose the longer guided tour option in order to get as wide a view of the assassination as possible. Of course, we also had the ability to commit to a longer part of a day. For us, this was well worth the time and expense.

For those with only an hour or two, or with an intense interest in the assassination, getting in contact with the owner offers a unique perspective and comes with a smaller time and financial commitment.

For those interested in the most famous document regarding the Kennedy Assassination, the National Archives has the Warren Commission Report available online.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.


Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas Texas
Enjoy skip the line tickets to the Sixth Floor Museum, along with entry to the Oswald Rooming House Museum, along with many other sites in this incredible four-hour guided van and walking tour. Your knowledgeable guide will take you to all the major locations associated with the Kennedy Assassination. Did Oswald act alone? You decide! CLICK HERE or the photo above for more information and to purchase tickets for this incredible tour. It’s a tour you won’t regret or forget.
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Ronald Reagan Remarks Before Assassination Attempt

Ronald Reagan Speaking 3/30/1981


Ronald Reagan Speaking 3/30/1981
3/30/1981 President Reagan speaking at podium (side view) at the National Conference of Building and Construction Trades Department AFL-CIO at the Hilton Hotel in Washington DC

On March 30, 1981 President Ronald Reagan gave a speech before members of the National Conference of the Building and  Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. Read further to find Ronald Reagan remarks before the assassination attempt by John Hinkley.  As we know, Reagan would survive and go on to be elected for a second term.

You can see video of the speech here. The text of President Reagan’s speech is below.

It was after this speech, as Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel that John David Hinkley attempted to kill the president. In addition to Reagan’s injuries, White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded. Brady was to later die as a result of the injuries suffered that afternoon.

C1426-18, Chaos outside the Washington Hilton Hotel after the assassination attempt on President Reagan. James Brady and police officer Thomas Delahanty lie wounded on the ground. 03/30/1981. Both photos courtesy Ronald Reagan Library


A video discussing the assassination attempt may be seen here. 


The text of President Reagan’s speech is below. 

March 30, 1981

Mr. President, reverend clergy, gentlemen here on the dais, and you ladies and gentlemen:

There’s been a lot of talk in the last several weeks here in Washington about communication and the need to communicate, and the story that I haven’t told for a long time — but somehow it’s been brought back to me since I’ve been here — about communication and some of the basic rules of communication.

It was told to me the first time by Danny Villanueva who used to placekick for the Los Angeles Rams, and then later became a sports announcer, and Danny told me that one night as a sports announcer, he was having a young ballplayer with the Los Angeles Dodgers over to the house for dinner. And the young wife was bustling about getting the dinner ready while he and the ballplayer were talking sports, and the baby started to cry. And over her shoulder, the wife said to her husband, “Change the baby.” And this young ballplayer was embarrassed in front of Danny, and he said to his wife, “What do you mean change the baby? I’m a ballplayer. That’s not my line of work.” And she turned around, out her hands on her hips and she communicated. [Laughter] She said, “Look, buster, you lay the diaper out like a diamond, you put second base on home plate, put the baby’s bottom on the pitcher’s mound, hook up first and third, slide home underneath, and if it starts to rain, the game ain’t called, you start all over again.” [Laughter] So, I’m going to try to communicate a little bit today.

I’m pleased to take part in this national conference of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. And I hope you’ll forgive me if I point with some pride to the fact that I’m the first President of the United States to hold a lifetime membership in an AFL-CIO union. And, Mr. President, I’m very grateful for your words about cooperation. Now, if I can only persuade certain individuals up on the Hill to do the same thing, we won’t have any trouble at all.

But members of your organization have played and do play a great part in the building of America. They also are an important part of the industry in which my union plays a part. Now, it’s true that grease paint and make-believe are not tools of your members’ trade, but we all know the meaning of work and of family and of country.

For two decades or more, I participated in renegotiating our basic contract when it came renewal time. And here, too, we have much in common. Sitting at the negotiating table, we were guided by three principles in our demands: Is it good for our people? Is it fair to the other fellow and to the customer? And is it good for the industry?

Samuel Gompers, who founded the American Federation of Labor and who literally gave his life to that cause, said, “Doing for people what they can and ought to do for themselves is a dangerous experiment. In the last analysis the welfare of the workers depends upon their own initiative. Whatever is done under the guise of philanthropy or social morality which in any way lessens initiative is the greatest crime that can be committed against the toilers. Let social busybodies and professional public morals experts in their fads reflect upon the perils they rashly invite under the pretense of social welfare.”

Samuel Gompers was repudiating the socialist philosophy when he made that statement. No one worked harder to get or believed more in a fair shake for the people who sweat as the fuel of our country, but he didn’t believe that this should or could come from government compulsion.

America depends on the work of labor, and the economy we build should reward and encourage that labor as our hope for the future. We’ve strayed far from the path that was charted by this man who believed so much in the freedom and dignity of the worker. We are in today’s economic mess precisely because our leaders have forgotten that we built this great Nation on rewarding the work ethic instead of punishing it.

We’ve gone astray from first principles. We’ve lost sight of the rule that individual freedom and ingenuity are at the very core of everything that we’ve accomplished. Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives. What have been some of the results of this straying from basic principles? Well, for one, violent crime has surged 10 percent, making neighborhood streets unsafe and families fearful in their homes. We’ve been left with a legacy of almost 8 million people out of work — 666,000 of them construction workers. All of these people have been robbed of a basic human dignity and forced into the humiliation of unemployment. The annual inflation rate has soared to nearly 12 percent, making a mockery of hard work and savings. And our national debt has grown to more than $950 billion despite taxes that eat up an ever-increasing share of the family dollar.

This deficit has particular meaning for you, because when government has to borrow to pay its bills, it competes for private capital, driving interest rates up and construction starts down. So, when people ask me why we have to cut down the budget deficit, I think the answer is pretty clear. If we don’t get control of the budget and stop wild and irresponsible spending, we will repeat past intolerable prime interest rates of more than 20 percent, rates which have played havoc with the lives of your fellow workers. And when we do not have economic security at home, our national security is threatened. We’ve let our defense spending fall behind and our capability to defend ourselves against foreign aggressors is not what it should be. These trends not only must stop, believe me, they will be stopped.

Every American and especially all the working people of our country have an enormous stake in what we do. You pay the most taxes. You believe in a work ethic but subsidize a government that does not. You, who have traditionally saved to provide for your futures, today cannot save. You, who most want to work, are most likely to be laid off. You, through taxes on your hard-earned wages, pay for what could be as much as $25 billion each year in Federal waste, abuse, and outright fraud in government programs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke of “the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” Well, today it’s safe to say that the people at both ends of the pyramid are getting attention. The man who’s forgotten is the fellow who built it.

Such a man wrote his Congressman a few weeks back, and that letter landed on my desk. I’ve gotten tens of thousands of letters about our plan for economic recovery. I appreciate all of them, but a few of them really stand out, and this man’s letter is one of them.

He’s an unemployed factory worker from Illinois, the Peoria area, but he worked in construction for 10 years before that. His income right now is totally dependent on unemployment and supplemental benefits from the company he worked for. He and his wife have only been married three months, but she’s been laid off too. He wrote to say that if spending cuts in government affect his benefits, it’ll be hard for his family, but they’ll make it. And shades of Sam Gompers, he ended his letter saying that when the opponents of our economic plan start lobbying against it — and let me quote — he said, “Let me know that there is someone out here who’s seen what they can do and is willing to stake his future on trying a different approach.”

That man has faith in America and faith in what the American people can do if the government will only let them do it. And that man, like most of America, wants a change.

Right now we have the highest peacetime deficit in living memory. Federal personal taxes for the average American family have gone [up] 58 percent in the last 5 years, and regulations by the government cost consumers an estimated hundred billion dollars a year. The man in Peoria is right. Across the country, there are millions of people like him yearning for a different approach. They’re yearning for us to reach for our hopes and make room for our dreams, and to put it bluntly, they want something different for a change. Instead of halfway solutions, jerry-built programs tied together with redtape, they’re ready for an overhaul to make the engine work again.

I’ve heard the complaints coming often from those who had a hand in creating our present situation. They demand proof in advance that what we’ve proposed will work. Well, the answer to that is we’re living with the proof that what they want to continue doing hasn’t worked and won’t work. I believe what we proposed will work simply because it always has. We must get control of the budget monster, get control of our economy, and I assure you, get control of our own lives and our own destinies.

What has been submitted to the Congress is a four-point comprehensive program or package for economic recovery. If only part of the package is passed by Congress, we’ll only ease some of our problems, and that isn’t a solution at all.

We must first get government spending under control. And let me make something plain. We’re not asking that government spend less than it has been spending, although that might not be the worst idea in the world. We’re simply proposing that government increase its spending in 1982 over 1981 by 6.1 percent, not 14 percent, as has been advocated. If we keep spending at the present rate of increase, our budget will double again in 6 years.

Now, I propose cutting $48.6 billion from the Federal budget in fiscal year ’82. Now it’s true these are the largest spending cuts ever proposed. But even with these cuts, that budget will still increase by $40 billion next year, and there will probably be a $45 billion deficit. Without our cuts, the deficit will be more than $90 billion.

The second point is a 10-percent across-the-board tax rate cut every year for the next three years. This is the most sweeping tax incentive program in the last 20 years, the largest tax rates cuts ever proposed. And again, we’re not asking government to get along on less money than it’s been accustomed to. Our largest-in-history tax cut will only reduce te largest-in-history tax increase that was imposed on all of us at the beginning of this year.

Now, I have a feeling that in all the arguing and rhetoric, many Americans have lost sight of the fact that they’re not facing taxes as usual, but a gigantic tax increase that will take $770 billion extra out of our pockets over the next 6 years. We think that’s too much. This Government, without taking a single vote in Congress, has raised billions of dollars from taxpayers in the last few years, just through inflation. The system keeps kicking people up into higher brackets, that they try to keep up with the cost-of-living increase, bleeding their earnings, sapping their incentive, and quite frankly, making a mockery out of the tax system. Not too long ago, only 3 percent of the people who work and earn in this country were in a 30-percent tax bracket. Today, 33 percent are in that bracket, and they have no more purchasing power now than they had before when they were in a much lower bracket.

There are just too many people in this town who think this money belongs to the Government. Well, it doesn’t. It’s your money. It’s your sons’ and daughters’ money that they’re hoping to use for a new home. It’s your parents’ money that they need for a decent retirement. And if we do nothing else in this administration, we’re going to convince this city that the power, the money, and the responsibility in this country begins and ends with the people and not with some cinderblock building in Washington, D.C.

The third measure we’ve called for is elimination of excessive regulation. Now, I know you have no experience with regulation. [Laughter] Overregulation affects every industry. Many of you know people who are out of work because of the way it affects yours. It’s estimated that total regulations have added as much as 20 percent to the cost of a home. Indeed, I’ve seen the figure more recently put at 22 percent, as the cost.

I’ve told before, I have a neighbor out in my neighborhood in California who was building his own home. And he got so fed up with all the paperwork and the regulations required that he pasted them all together into one strip of paper, put up two poles in front of the half-finished house, and strung them up across there. The strip of paper was 250 feet long.

And, finally, we’re determined to work with the Federal Reserve Board to develop a monetary policy consistent with the economic program designed to stabilize the money supply, reduce inflation, and allow interest rates to come down.

People who hold down jobs in the building trades probably understand better than anyone — well, that is, better than anyone except someone who’s just lost his job in the building trade — the need for a stable monetary policy. Fewer than 1 in 11 American families can afford to buy a new home. Housing starts are down by 36 percent from what they were in 1978. Mortgage rates for this year are averaging 13\1/2\ percent, although I’m told in some parts of the country they’re currently running in excess of 15 percent.

The main source of strength in this fight is going to be the people themselves. The idea is to unleash the American worker, encourage the American investor, and let each of us produce more to make a better life for all. After all, why should we pay for some luxuries that are not truly essential to our well-being, pay by way of a subsidy when the man and his wife in Peoria are out of work? Why should we subsidize increased production of some things that we already have in surplus? And why should we go in debt to pay for school lunches for children of upper-income families when borrowing by government may cost you your job? We not only shouldn’t do those things, we no longer can afford to do them.

We’ll continue to fulfill our obligations to those who must depend on the rest of us. Those who are deserving can rest assured that they’ll not be cut adrift, but the rest of us will feel the impact of the budget cuts, which have been distributed through the economy, as evenly as possible.

There is one area, however, where we must spend more and that is for our national defense. Now, don’t get me wrong. Cap Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, has shown me programs in his department where we can and will realize substantial savings. We’ll cut $2.9 billion in next year’s budget alone, and the cuts will accumulate to more than $28 billion by 1986 in the Defense Department. But those savings will be applied to the necessary things we must do, thus reducing the amount of additional spending that we’ll need.

Since 1970 the Soviet Union has undergone a massive military buildup, far outstripping any need for defense. They’ve spent $300 billion more than we have for military forces resulting in a significant numerical advantage in strategic nuclear delivery systems, tactical aircraft, submarines, artillery, and anti-aircraft defense. And to allow this defense or this imbalance to continue is a threat to our national security. It’s my duty as President, and all of our responsibility as citizens, to keep this country strong enough to remain free.

As union members and as concerned citizens of the world, we watch with great interest the struggle of our fellow workers in Poland. Their courage reminds us not only of the precious liberty that is ours to nourish and protect but of the spirit in each of us everywhere. The Polish workers stand as sentinels on behalf of universal human principles, and they remind us that on this good Earth, the people will always prevail. They serve to show us how trust and unity keep alive the very purpose of our existence and to remind us that man’s work is not only directed at providing physical sustenance but that the toil of men and women everywhere must also have the goal of feeding the spirit of freedom.

As we work to solve our economic problems, let us tap that well of human spirit. We’ll find more than strength of numbers and strength of resources, we’ll find strength of individual determination. We may even find strength in mutual trust. For too many years now, we’ve trusted numbers and computers. We’ve trusted balance sheets, organization charts, policies, and systems. We’ve placed trust in rules, regulations in government, government dictates. Well, I think it’s about time that we placed trust in ourselves.

I’m here today because I salute what you’ve done for America. In your work you build. In your personal lives, you sustain the core of family and neighborhood. In your faith, you sustain our religious principles. And with your strong patriotism, you’re the bulwark which supports an America second to none in the world. I believe the American people are with us in our cause. I’m confident in our ability to work together, to meet and surmount our problems, and to accomplish the goals that we all seek.

Now, I know that we can’t make things right overnight. But we will make them right. Our destiny is not our fate. It is our choice. And I’m asking you as I ask all Americans, in these months of decision, please join me as we take this new path. You and your forebears built this Nation. Now, please help us rebuild it, and together we’ll make America great again.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:03 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Robert A. Georgine, president of the AFL-CIO.

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