ronald reagan

March 30, 2020

During the 2016 election campaign, Trump declared that many of America’s foreign-policy problems began with the “dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western democracy.” As on a number of other issues, the president-elect’s dramatic statement broke from not only establishment views within his own party, but the dominant perspective of America’s political and foreign-policy elites.

Of course, the image of a Marxist guerrilla is tied with the idea of camouflage and rifles, so we were trying to pitch the image that we could also dress in suits, speak in a moderate voice, and speak fluently in English. That simple thing changed many misconceptions about the FMLN. 

Guerrilla fighters playing soccer in El Salvador, late 1980s

Ricardo J. Valencia speaks with an unusual Ambassador.

[From the Archives] It may now be time to swing for the fences and for Washington to increase quiet coordination with the Vatican.

Before a standing room only crowd at the Institute of World Politics (IWP) in Washington, DC on October 5, President Ronald Reagan’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Faith Whittlesey, offered up some sage advice on lessons learned from a lifetime career in public service, “Listen carefully, read widely, listen to diverse opinions, and be somewhat humble about yourself and our country.”

It is an axiomatic fact of realpolitik that public diplomacy carries neither a presumption of truth and accuracy nor of completeness and objectivity. It behooves us never to forget that it is first and foremost an instrument of advocacy, a means to an end.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a lovely memorial on a hill, overlooking many miles of California countryside. It also hosts thoughtful discussions about Reagan’s legacy, including a recent one that marked the thirtieth anniversary of his speech to the British Parliament – the “Westminster speech” – in which he proposed an assertive future for builders of democracy.