Ronald Reagan's AFL-CIO Signed Speech Draft Delivered Minutes Before Assassination Attempt, 12pp, 770+ Words In His Hand
An assembled group of twelve pages, together constituting an early draft of the speech, "Remarks at the National Conference of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO," delivered by 40th U.S. President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) only minutes before his assassination attempt on March 30, 1981. Ca. March 27, 1981. [Washington, D.C.] Featuring approximately 770+ words in Reagan's hand in both cursive and block letters, with a margin note on page 6 signed by Reagan as "RR." Copious other presidential edits like cross-outs, insertions, and arrows are also present. Reagan incorporated his suggestions into the body of a speech draft outlined by Republican adviser Mari Maseng Will (born 1954) and overseen by White House Chief Speechwriter Ken Khachigian (born 1944). 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, and gifted to our consignor, her White House assistant.
Ronald Reagan delivered the final version of this speech, a luncheon address before members of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) gathered in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981. Reagan entered the enclosed hotel walkway around 1:45 pm, finishing his speech about 20 minutes later, at around 2:03 pm. Exiting the hotel complex at the T Street NW exit around 2:27 pm, Reagan was shot by gunman John Hinckley, Jr. (born 1955). Hinckley's sixth shot ricocheted off the presidential limousine, grazing a rib and penetrating Reagan's left lung, causing it to partially collapse, and stopping less than 1" from Reagan's heart. If Hinckley's aim had been more accurate, this would have been the last speech Reagan ever made.
The lot consists of one double-sided sheet of "The White House / Washington" stationery inscribed by Reagan on the reverse, a typed memorandum from his speechwriters on the obverse; and ten typed pages of the early speech draft bearing many more scattered Reagan annotations. In more detail, the lot includes:
- A 1p autograph manuscript by Reagan comprised of approximately 289 words, written on the back of a 1p typed memorandum dated March 27, 1981, addressed to him from Maseng and Khachigian, and initialed by Khachigian. On a leaf of watermarked stationery with "The White House / Washington" at the letterhead. A true working document, with multiple contemporaneous cross-outs. Reagan's autograph manuscript shows some expected wear including a few ink smears touching a handful of words. Stapled and with a partially rusted paper clip impression at upper left. Else near fine. 8.5" x 11."
Reagan writes in full, with unchanged spelling and punctuation:
I am pleased to take part in this Nat. Conference of the Bldg. & Construction Trades Dept. of the AFL-CIO. I hope you'll forgive me if I point with some pride to the fact that I am the 1st Pres. of the U.S. to hold a lifetime membership in an A.F.L.-C.I.O. Union.
Members of your organization have played & do play a great part in the building of America. They also are an important part of the industry in which my union plays a part. Now it's true that grease paint and make-believe are not tools of your members trade but we all know the meaning of work, family & country.
For 2 decades or more I participated in renegotiating our basic contract when it came renewal time. Here too we have much in common. Sitting at the negotiating table we were guided by 3 principles in our demands; is it good for our people, is it fair to the other fellow & to the customer and is it good for the industry?
Samuel Gompers who founded the Am. Fed. of Labor & who literally gave his life to that cause said: 'Doing for people what they can & ought to do for themselves is a dangerous experiment. In the last analysis the welfare of the workers depends on their own initiative. Whatever is done under the guise of philanthropy or social morality which in any way lessens initiative is the greatest crime that can be committed against the toilers. Let social busy bodies & professional morals experts in their fads reflect upon the perils they rashly invite under the pretense of social welfare.' Sam Gompers was repudiating the socialist philosophy when he made that statement."
Reagan's revisions to this important introduction were fully retained in the final draft, as one can see when referring to a transcript of the actual speech made available on the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum website. Reagan interspersed several improvisational asides and jokes in the speech, but the content of this autograph manuscript is all there word for word in the beginning.
- 10 typed pages originally submitted by Maseng/Khachigian as an early draft of the speech with extensive revisions and decisive cross-outs by Ronald Reagan scattered throughout. Stapled at upper left. Else near fine. 8.5" x 11." Reagan has written 82 words on page 1; 25 words on page 2; 9 words on page 3; 14 words on page 4; 140 words on page 5; 147 words on page 6; 15 words on page 7; 34 words on page 8; 14 words on page 9; and 6 words on page 10.
Highlights from Reagan's manuscript annotations to the typed early speech draft include:
"We have strayed far from the path charted by this man who believed so much in the freedom & dignity of the toilers" - p. 1 - appears in final draft
"What have been some of the results of this straying from basic principles? Well for one…" - p. 2 - appears in final draft
"I've heard the complaints coming often from those who had a hand in creating our present situation. They demand proof in advance that what we have proposed will work. Well the answer to that is we're living with the proof that what they want to continue doing wont [sic] work. I believe what we have proposed will work because it always has." - p. 5 - appears in final draft
"Again we are not asking govt. to get along on less money than it has been accustomed to. Our largest in history tax cut will only reduce the largest in history tax increase that was imposed on all of us at the beginning of this year. I have a feeling that in all the arguing & rhetoric many Americans have lost sight of the fact that they are facing not taxes as usual but a gigantic tax increase that takes almost a trillion dollars out of…check this figure '1 trillion' I think I'm right. RR." - page 6 - appears in modified form in final draft
Three others were seriously wounded in Reagan's assassination attempt on March 30, 1981. Although initially Reagan was thought to be uninjured, his condition soon worsened and he was rushed to the emergency room. After undergoing exploratory surgery, Reagan's recovery was rapid. He was released from the hospital on April 11, 1981.
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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