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Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan speaks in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany in 1987. Photo: CBSNews.
Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan speaks in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany in 1987. Photo: CBSNews.

When Ronald Reagan gave us hope, not fear

“Justice and truth can flourish only when journalists are given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about,” the former president said 30 years ago —…

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It was Ronald Reagan who used to claim that “Latinos are Republican.”

The only problem, he said, is that “they just don't know it yet.”

What the former president was getting at, teasing this constituency, was that Latino families in the U.S. cherish conservative values, such as hard work, disciplined entrepreneurship, family unity, and fear of God,  to the point that they could easily be swayed to join Abraham Lincoln’s Grand Old Party, the GOP, as long as there is a leader willing to do the asking.

George W. Bush did so, and he won the presidency in a super tight race against Al Gore, who felt he didn’t need to appeal to the Latino vote, certain as he probably was that Latinos would vote for him anyway. George W., like his father before him, cleverly outdid Gore in critical states like Florida, Colorado, and Nevada, carrying him to win the final electoral vote count.

So did a victorious Obama, especially in 2008 when he heavily courted the Latino vote with Mariachi songs and more, on his way to beating none other than his own future Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary. Remember the popular “Viva Obama”?

So didn’t do Trump, who took advantage of the fact that Hillary Clinton, in her second and perhaps final attempt at the White House, like Gore and unlike Obama, easily assumed, the Latino vote would flock to her. She paid dearly for it.

I am not going to abandon my Democratic Party affiliation yet, but I will pause here to remember the Republican President that used to arouse us with his speeches, and the charming power of his diction.

The fact is that Latinos sat out the election four years ago, as more than five million registered voters chose to stay home, feeling afraid, rebuffed or uninvited, who knows, after a cruel campaign that threw them under the bus, with no national leader saying a word at their defense.

The antagonistic tactic of scaring those who fear the upsurge of Latino demographic growth in the country worked well instead, in the 2016 election which saw new electoral tactics emerge, from Facebook’s admitted manipulations, fake news claims, and the abuse of Twitter, to the stories of Russian hackers and Wikileaks revelations.

All of this played to the erosion of public trust, the further imploding of legacy news media, and the endangering of our democracy, as the Knight Commission Report recently warned us all.

I am still a Democrat

I am not going to abandon my Democratic Party affiliation yet, but I will pause here to remember the Republican President who used to arouse us with his speeches, and the charming power of his diction.

One particular speech, relevant to this edition of AL DÍA about the border wall, was given in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, on June 12, 1987.

Like the famous wall in the City of Jericho in the Bible, as described in the Book of Joshua, President Reagan, under the spell of his well-written and better-spoken words, made the Berlin Wall tumble to the floor.

Completing that day, as a matter of speech, the reunification of East and West Berlin —all without shooting a single bullet,  ending, just months later, the almost 70-year long confrontation between the U.S. and the now obsolete Soviet Union.

In that famous speech, preserved here for posterity by the Reagan Presidential Library, President Reagan spoke of “the practical importance of Liberty.”

“Justice and truth can flourish only when journalists are given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessmen (and businesswomen) enjoy economic freedom.”

His line “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”, was the gravestone sentence on the Soviet regime and that infamous wall, now reduced to pieces exhibited in museums all over the world to illustrate liberty through its prosaic cement and steel.

What future awaits the new wall promised by Trump on the southern border, President Reagan?

Please, give us a clue, Mr. President.

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