Ronald Reagan "Win one for the Gipper" Famous Commencement Speech for the University of Notre Dame Class of 1981. Perhaps the Best Ever Offered!

A rough draft of 40th President Ronald Reagan's commencement speech given at the University of Notre Dame in May 1981, consisting of both handwritten and typed sections with handwritten revisions. AM, 12pp (8 handwritten pages, plus 4 typed pages with revisions), measuring 8.5" x 13", no place, ca. May 17, 1981. Reagan's handwritten portions can be found on yellow, legal sized paper with the typed additions stapled behind. Exhibits varying degrees of creasing, minor folding at corners, and darkened edge toning throughout. Else, near fine. 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-existant 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!

In his remarks, the President refers to the movie Knute Rockne, All American (1940) which was filmed on location at the school with Regan playing the role of halfback George Gipp, who died at the age of 25 from pneumonia. The occasion also marked his first trip outside of Washington, D.C. following an earlier assassination attempt in March.

The official transcript of his final speech can be viewed on the Reagan Library's website, found here.

Excepts include, with revisions designated with ^:

“I am the 5th Pres to address a Notre Dame commencement. The temptation is great to use this occasion forum for an address on some national or international issue having nothing to do with the occasion itself. Indeed this is somewhat tradition and I’ve been ^so I haven’t been^ surprised to read ^in a number of reputable journals^ that I was going to deliver a major address on foreign policy today . Others said it would be on our ec. proposals ^the economy^. It will be ^on neither.^” (p2)

“Take pride in this day. Thank your parents and those who over the last 4 years have been of help to you and do a little celebrating. This is your day and anything  ^whatever^ I say should take cognizance of that fact. This is a milestone in your life and a time of change.” (p2)

“Knute Rockne as a boy came to this country with his parents from Norway. He became so American that here at Notre Dame he was an All American in a sport that is uniquely American.” (p3)

“’Win one for the Gipper’ has become a line usually spoken more in a humorous vein. I hear it from members of Congress who are supportive of the ec. program I’ve submitted. But let’s look at the real significance of that ^his^ story. Rockne could have used it any time just to win a game. But 8 yrs. would go by after ^following^ the death of George Gipp before he ^Rock^ ever revealed the dying wish of the dying ^Gipps death bed wish^. Then he told the story at half time to one of the only teams he’d ever coached who were nearly ^that was torn by^ division, jealousy & factionalism. The Seniors on that team would ^were about to^ close out their football careers without ever learning or experiencing some the ^real^ values the game can has to impart. None of them had ever known George Gipp. They were children when he played for Notre Dame. Yet it was to this team that Rockne told the story and ^so^ inspired young men to rise ^them that they rose^ above their personal animosities.” (p3)

“Yes it was only a game and it might seem somewhat maudlin, but is there anything wrong with young men being so dedicate to some effort ^having the experience of feeling something so deeply^ that they can give so completely of themselves? There will come times in the lives of all of us when we’ll be faced with a causes bigger than ourselves and it ^they^ won’t be on the playing field.” (p4)

President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) was known for playing an active role in the crafting of his many speeches. Far from simply reading what he was presented, he edited and rewrote entire sections, as can be seen with this draft. The text he added to this, and other items in this sale (see lots 92-97), help to reveal his mind at work in the first months of his presidency. These speeches, drafted in collaboration with principal speechwriter Ken Khachigian (b. 1944) and other members of his staff, illustrate how President Reagan earned the nickname, “the Great Communicator.” Among his staff, Reagan was famous for pulling out a yellow legal pad and beginning to write. In the White House, his secretaries and other staff members routinely retrieved his notes and drafts from the wastebasket to save for posterity.

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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