Primary Sources

President Reagan's "Evil Empire" Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals


Ronald Reagan began his presidency in 1981 confident that the policy of détente with the Soviet Union—initiated by Richard Nixon in May 1972 and terminated in January 1980 by Jimmy Carter as a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan—was misguided. During his first three years in office, Reagan substituted a confrontational approach that he mediated occasionally with pragmatic policies. Reagan increased military expenditures massively, yet for domestic political reasons lifted the grain embargo imposed by Carter and engaged in strategic arms talks. The following address was not planned as a major speech, intended as it was to dissuade clergymen from supporting the nuclear freeze movement. Yet Reagan’s designation of the Soviet Union as “the focus of evil in the modern world” and “an evil empire,” a characterization commentators connected to Reagan’s belief in Armageddon, heightened Cold War tensions and overshadowed his other statements of the time calling for a “constructive relationship” between the superpowers.


Ronald Reagan, "Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals," speech, Orlando, Florida, March 8, 1983, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Public Papers, Reagan Library (accessed May 15, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin. There is sin and evil in the world, and we're enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might....

And this brings me to my final point today. During my first press conference as President, in answer to a direct question, I pointed out that, as good Marxist-Leninists, the Soviet leaders have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is that which will further their cause, which is world revolution.... Well, I think the refusal of many influential people to accept this elementary fact of Soviet doctrine illustrates an historical reluctance to see totalitarian powers for what they are....

Yes, let us pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness—pray they will discover the joy of knowing God. But until they do, let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world....

So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride—the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil....

I believe that communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written. I believe this because the source of our strength in the quest for human freedom is not material, but spiritual. And because it knows no limitation, it must terrify and ultimately triumph over those who would enslave their fellow man.

How to Cite this Source

President Ronald Reagan, "President Reagan's "Evil Empire" Speech to the National Association of Evangelicals," Making the History of 1989, Item #64, (accessed January 25 2022, 11:21 am).