President Reagan’s 1986 Thanksgiving day Radio Address celebrated the generous spirit of Americans. He highlighted how the generosity from the private sector trumped expansion of programs from the federal government.

“The spirit of voluntarism is deeply ingrained in us as a nation. Maybe it has something to do with our history as a frontier land. Those early Americans who gave us Thanksgiving Day itself had to help each other in order to survive—joining together to plant crops, build houses, and raise barns. And perhaps they discovered that in helping others their own lives were enriched. In our own day, a poll showed most Americans believe that no matter how big government gets and no matter how many services it provides, it can never take the place of volunteers. In other words, we Americans understand that there are no substitutes for gifts of service given from the heart.

In our recent history, there was a time not long ago when this spirit seemed endangered, when philanthropy and personal involvement were giving way to bureaucratic plans and Federal programs. So, when our administration took office, we made it one of our main aims to encourage private sector initiatives, to reinvigorate the American tradition of voluntarism. And I have to admit, our success in this area is one of the accomplishments of which I’m most proud.”

Do you agree with President Reagan that volunteerism is an important part of American society?

Read this Next on