Love of fellowman is not just a phrase, it should be the guiding principle of life, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan told Brigham Young University students Feb. 15.
" . . . As you climb the ladder of success, do not skip over the rung labeled humanity. Stop to think what you are giving to society," Reagan said in his speech. "Think about those whose lives may not be as blessed as yours."Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, also paid a courtesy visit to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City during his visit to Utah. He was greeted in the north board room of the Church Administration Building by President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson and members of the Council of the Twelve.
After the 45-minute visit, President Hinckley presented Reagan with a statue of a white seagull.
Reagan came to the BYU campus after BYU Pres. Rex E. Lee, who served in the Reagan administration as U.S. solicitor general from 1981 to 1985, personally invited him to speak.
"I am honored to be here today at BYU speaking to the students and faculty," Reagan said. "All of you should be very proud of your university, founded in 1875. BYU is strong, a birthplace of many talented leaders and athletes.
"As students you've made all of us very proud and also very optimistic about what this country will accomplish in the years ahead. A whole new world is opening up to you students.
"What has made the United States great is that ours has been an empire of ideals – the ideals of freedom, democracy and of belief in the remarkable potential of the individual."
Reagan, a two-term president who left office in 1988, said, "I believe there was a divine plan that placed this great continent here between the two oceans to be found by peoples from every corner of the earth. I believe we were preordained to carry the lamp of freedom for the world.
"The struggle for freedom begins in the hearts and minds of all men and women and will not end, must not end, until all peoples everywhere are free.
"As you enter the real world, do not take freedom for granted. It is a precious gift which we must constantly seek to preserve. It's so easy to take things for granted at your age, but none of us will be here forever. Make every day count."
Reagan, who primarily spoke of current world affairs, also encouraged the students to treasure their time at BYU. "Savor the moment. Keep the memories close to your heart. Cherish your families, many of whom are responsible for your attending the university. Stay close to them. Whether it is our basic freedom as citizens or our relationships with loved ones, nothing in life can be maintained without effort. So appreciate what you have and work every day to make it better. For that which is taken for granted is sure to vanish."
How people will live in the years to come rests with each person, he remarked. "You will determine the quality of life for yourselves, your children and your grandchildren. You will decide what we stand for as a society.
"As you go, do so with the enthusiasm, optimism and hope that guided our founding fathers. And if you do, I'm convinced that your contribution to this wonderful experiment we call America will be greater than any of us can ever imagine and that your happiness will be unlimited."
In answer to one student's question about the role of religion in America, Reagan said it can and must play an important role in the country. "I learned one thing . . . about a few words that Abraham Lincoln spoke when he was president. And that was when he said, `I could not perform the duties of this office for 15 minutes if I did not know that I could call upon one who is stronger and wiser than all others.'
"I have great admiration for your school here. I know how great it is and know how successful you are in so many ways."
Reagan was presented with a plaque commemorating his visit, a video copy of "A More Perfect Union, America Becomes A Nation" produced by the BYU Motion Picture Studio and a BYU Cougar sweatshirt.