Ronald Reagan, 1st Draft of "Welcome Home" Freed Iranian Hostages Speech, Signed & Copiously Annotated

An assembled group of six pages, together constituting the first draft of one of the most famous speeches delivered by 40th U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), his "Remarks at the Welcoming Ceremony for the Freed American Hostages" presented on January 27, 1981 on the South Lawn of the White House. January 26, 1981. [Washington, D.C.] Featuring one Reagan signature as "RR" and nearly 350 words in Reagan's hand, in addition to many other presidential edits like cross-outs and arrows. Reagan's White House Chief Speechwriter Ken Khachigian (born 1944) has also signed one of the pages as "Ken." Expected light wear, else near fine. The average size of the pages is 8.5" x 11." Impeccable provenance as this item comes from the files of Helene von Damm (b. 1938) Reagan's longtime personal secretary and later Ambassador to Austria, gifted to our consignor her White House assistant.. Reagan speeches are relatively rare yet they are almost non-existent as President. Looking through auction records we cannot locate a single example, though it may exist. In 2022 at Sotheby's a speech as Governor having nowhere near the content of the present item, fetched over $21,000!

The lot consists of one White House memorandum cover annotated and signed by Reagan; a lengthy autograph manuscript note in Reagan's hand; and four typed pages copiously annotated by Reagan. In more detail, this includes:

- A 1p typed "Memorandum for the President" cover on watermarked "The White House / Washington" letterhead. January 26, 1981. [Washington, D.C.] Signed and inscribed by Reagan at center as: "Ken I did some trimming / I just felt it should be / a little shorter. / RR." Also signed by Ken Khachigian, Reagan's Chief Speechwriter, as "Ken" besides his typed name on the "From:" line. Expected wear including a paper clip impression along the top edge. A gentle diagonal wrinkle across the center, else near fine. 8.5" x 11."

- A 1p autograph manuscript by Reagan, totaling approximately 107 words, which Reagan wanted to serve as the revised first paragraph of the remarks. On a partially torn sheet of yellow blue-lined paper, measuring 8.5" x 9.75."

Reagan's inscription reads in part, with original spelling and punctuation:

"I can think of no better way to let you know how Nancy + I feel about your presence here today than to say on behalf of us, the V.P. + Barbara, the Sens. + Cong. + members of the cabinet + all our fellow citizens these simple words: Welcome Home.

You are home + believe me you are welcome.

If my remarks were a sermon my text would be lines from the 126th Psalm: 'We were like those who dream. Now our mouth is filled with laughter + our tongue with shouts of joy. The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.'"

- 4 typed pages originally submitted by Khachigian as "First Draft - 1/26/81" with extensive revisions by Ronald Reagan, as well as a few edits in another hand, probably Khachigian's. In near fine condition, 8.5" x 11."

On the new page 2, Reagan has written 18 words in his hand, including "the crew of the Pueblo, the prisoners in 2 world wars, in Korea + Vietnam." Reagan has crossed out the important introductory paragraph (substituting it with his autograph note, see above) and crossed out an additional 7 lines.

On the new page 3, Reagan has penned approximately 51 words from top to bottom, including "whether you were conscious of it or not it must have sustained you during some the worst times. No person on earth could [prevent them] from doing that." 18 lines, partial or full, were crossed out by Reagan.

On the new page 4, Reagan has written 61 words in his hand including the beginning of the president's warning to terrorists, "Let terrorists be aware that…" Reagan's revision is much more assertive and concise than Khachigian's, as we can see from his proposal: "My next message is to the terrorists of this world and their sympathizers. Please listen carefully…" Reagan has carefully cut out 23 lines including entire paragraphs.

On the new page 5, Reagan has crossed out the entire last paragraph and entirely rewritten it with 98 words.

Reagan's inscription reads in part:

"I'm sure you will want to know that what us here today are families of the 8 heroic men who gave their lives in the attempt to effect your rescue. 'Greater glory hath no man than that he lay down his life for another.' With us also are [Col. Beckwith +] some of the men who did return from that mission. We [ask] God's special healing for those who suffered wounds his [comfort] to those who lost loved ones.

To them, to you + to your families - again - welcome from all America and thank you for making us proud to be Americans."

Many of Reagan's revisions to Khachigian's First Draft went unchanged and appeared in the presidential remarks delivered the next day. Khachigian helped flesh out many of Reagan's most notable speeches from his first presidential term, including his January 1981 Inaugural Address and these Iranian hostage remarks.

Iranian student protestors loyal to Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini had stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979, during the administration of Reagan's predecessor, 39th U.S. President Jimmy Carter, taking dozens of American hostages. Carter's efforts to secure the release of these American diplomatic employees, service members, and citizens proved fruitless. Failed release negotiations early in 1980 were followed by a failed rescue attempt, Operation Eagle Claw, which is mentioned in President Reagan's remarks in the context of the 8 U.S. servicemen who died in the April 24, 1980 helicopter accident. 52 U.S. hostages were released just moments after President Reagan was inaugurated on January 20, 1981, in a deliberate symbolic snub of Carter. They had spent 444 days in captivity.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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