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Reagan's Visit to Tuscaloosa

By Mandie Trimble, Alabama Public Radio

Tuscaloosa, AL – Today, Americans and much of the world will mourn former President Ronald Reagan, who died last week at the age of 93. Twenty years ago, President Reagan was on the campaign trail seeking another term. And just weeks before the 1984 presidential election, he made a quick stop in Tuscaloosa to secure more votes. Some of the topics highlighted in Reagan's speech mirror some of the themes in this year's presidential election. Mandie Trimble reports.

On October 15, 1984, about nine-thousand people piled into what is now Coleman Coliseum at the University of Alabama to hear President Reagan speak. A good-humored Reagan spoke fondly about Paul "Bear" Bryant and even related economic growth to a rolling tide causing the crowd to erupt into a impromptu "Roll Tide Roll". And just like today's campaigns, freedom, taxes, employment and the economy were at the forefront of Reagan's re-election bid.

"The centerpiece of our administration is one word -- freedom. The foundation has been a program aimed at lowering tax rates, revitalizing the economy and creating opportunity so that every American gets a chance at a good life."

President Reagan said he wanted Americans to keep as much of the fruits of their labor as possible. This idea carried over to President Bush when he recently implemented federal tax breaks. But that fall day Reagan warned the crowd what would happen to the prosperity they were enjoying if taxes increased.

"People will have less money, spend less money, save less money, no new jobs will be created, and many jobs will be lost. I don't think you want economic policies that will send you from the graduation line to the unemployment line"

Reagan also spoke about strength, another subject just as popular today as it was in 1984. Americans have heard its leaders speak of strength in times of despair like September 11th and the war in Iraq. Reagan commended U-S soldiers for their part in liberating Grenada from what he called Communist thugs. He said without strength, America would not be able to be a good neighbor or friend to its allies.

"We always want everyone in the world to understand that Uncle Sam is a friendly old man, but he has a spine of steel."

Reagan left the audience with his positive outlook for the future. Looking over the crowd, he told them he was confident the future was in their hands.

America is at peace and the economy is in one piece. And I think if we all stick together, we'll move on together and we'll recreate a country rich in opportunity and enterprise, growth and creativity. A country even greater in areas of art and learning and scientific inquiry, even greater in worship and belief."

Reagan was the first and remains the only sitting president to visit Tuscaloosa. Just a few weeks later, Reagan won the 1984 general election by a landslide, carrying 49 states and capturing 525 of 538 electoral votes.

For Alabama Public Radio, I'm Mandie Trimble.

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