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Education secretary butchers famous Ronald Reagan quote, but the joke is on him
Colin Myers/Claflin University/HBCU via Getty Images

Education secretary butchers famous Ronald Reagan quote, but the joke is on him

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is going viral for badly misrepresenting a famous Ronald Reagan quote.

Several weeks ago, Cardona spoke at the 2023 Winter Meeting of the Western Governors Association in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. During his speech, Cardona laid out the ways in which the Education Department wants to partner with governors to help states achieve their education goals.

At the end of his speech, Cardona channeled his inner Ronald Reagan to summarize his motivations.

"I think it was President Reagan who said, 'We're from the government. We're here to help!'" the secretary recounted.

It's true that Reagan said those words in that order. But what Cardona conveniently omitted from the quotation — either accidentally or purposefully, both possibilities giving insight into Cardona's perspective on government intervention — is that Reagan observed that those words are the "most terrifying" words that an American can hear.

This is the full quote:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.

Reagan uttered those words at a press conference in August 1986 to emphasize, according to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, that "government tends to be inefficient, to such a degree that instead of helping, it often causes harm instead."

This, of course, is the irony of Cardona's blunder.

In an America where the centralized government is bigger and more powerful than ever, Cardona used Reagan's words to advocate for the exact opposite vision of America from the one that Reagan dreamed of: Cardona is promising more government intervention, whereas Reagan envisioned an America with less.

What is even more ironic is that it was the education secretary, of all government officials, who butchered this famous American quote.

Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that Reagan wanted to abolish the Education Department, a proposal that he eventually dropped because Congress did not support it.

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