1985 presidential visit
After an informal reception with donors to his campaign, Senator and Mrs Denton shared the stage at the luncheon with Alabama Republic Party chairman Emory Folmar and Perry Hooper and Jean Sullivan of the Republican National Committee.
After being introduced by Denton at 12:48 PM, President Reagan praised the Senator, calling him "a pillar of support for our efforts to keep America strong and free and true." He noted that the National Journal had listed Denton as the most conservative member of the Senate and the American Conservative Union credited him with a 100% favorable voting record.
The President praised Denton's leadership in Congress in pushing for the completion of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. He further noted the shift in the South from the Democratic Party to the G.O.P. (which he dubbed the "Great Opportunity Party"). He acknowledged that changing parties was as painful as changing religion, and quoted Winston Churchill as saying "Some men change principle for party and some change party for principle."
Reagan went on to praise the civilizing values that are passed along to new generations through strong families. He contrasted the role of families in a free country with the evils of totalitarian states that reduce the authority of families in cultivating individual values. He then noted that Denton had established the Senate Caucus on the Family and had sponsored the Adolescent Family Life Act of 1981 to reduce teenage pregnancy.
The president also bemoaned the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision in Wallace v. Jaffree that nullified an Alabama law specifically authorizing public school teachers to set aside a minute each morning for "meditation or silent prayer." He acknowledged Denton's vote in favor of the Equal Access Act, intended to require schools to allow Bible study groups to meet on campus, and expressed hope that Alabama's congressional delegation would unanimously support Sen. Robert Byrd's repeated proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to permit prayer in schools.
In speaking of his proposal to overhaul federal tax policy, Reagan described it as a measure to "take the tax lid off our economy," and as "the most effective jobs creation bill that ever came before the United States Congress."
From there, Reagan transitioned to foreign policy, which focused on combating communism, which he characterized as "the transcendent moral issue of our time." He made reference to Denton's Viet Nam P.O.W. memoir, When Hell Was in Session as a graphic depiction of the horrors of communist regimes. He specifically mentioned the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua, connecting them to international terrorism and to the flood of refugees forced from their homes by violence between the government headed by Daniel Ortega (which Reagan labeled as "agents of Soviet expansionism and the sworn enemies of freedom.") and the "Contras" which were covertly supported by the United States.
The President said that, "in spite of what some keep saying, we remain committed to a peaceful solution," and said that American humanitarian aid to the Contra "freedom-fighters", which had been opposed in Congress, was designed to "give peace a chance".
Reagan returned to the Viet Nam war and to his opposition to normalizing relations with the Vietnamese government. He called for "the fullest possible accounting" for U.S. P.O.W.s and M.I.A.s and for an end to their occupation of Cambodia.
- Remarks at a Fundraising Luncheon for Senator Jeremiah Denton in Birmingham, Alabama from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum