At a Medal of Freedom ceremony on January 19, 1989 President Ronald Reagan spoke for the last time to his fellow Americans with a love letter to immigrants :
“…A man wrote me and said : ‘You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany, or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.’
“This, I believe, is one of the most important sources of America’s greatness. We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people – our strength – from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation. While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”
“Perhaps I should mention that our first recipient today – the one who calls me kid – [laughter] – is the son of immigrants, from a country called Ireland.”
Author’s note : The President is referring to Mike Mansfield, former Senate Majority Leader and US Ambassador to Japan.