Washington — President Reagan, speaking at commencement exercises at Notre Dame University in Indiana May 17, used the occasion as an opportunity to stress some long-held tenets:
* That "the careful structure of federalism, with built-in checks and balances, has become distorted."
The federal government, he said, has "usurped powers that properly belong to state and local government" and, in so doing, has in many ways failed "to do those things which are the responsibility of the central government."
* That the private-parochial school system must be saved. In this vein he has promised to initiate legislation soon that will provide income tax credits to parents with children in private schools, either secular or parochial.
"If ever the great independent colleges and universities, like Notre Dame, give way to and are replaced by tax-supported institutions," Mr. Reagan said, "the struggle to preserve academic freedom will have been lost."
The President again expressed his faith in the private sector. It must be remembered, he said, "that government has certain legitimate functions which it can perform very well; that it can be responsive to the people, that it can be humane and compassionate, but that when it undertakes tasks that are not its proper province it can do none of them as well or as economically as the private sector."
He also spoke of the need to keep up US defenses, saying the American people "want to know that this nation has the ability to defend itself against those who would try to pull it down." And he singled out international communism in these words:
"The years ahead will be great ones for our country, for the cause of freedom and for the spread of civilization. the West will not contain communism; it will transcend communism. We will not bother to denounce it, we'll dismiss it as a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written."
Reagan reiterated his approach to bringing about social change. "We forgot," he said, "to challenge the notion that the state is the principal vehicle of social change; or that millions of social interactions among free individuals and institutions can do more to foster economic and social progress than all the careful schemes of government planners."
He spoke of his commitment to curb violence and crime, asserting that the American people "want a government that not only can continue to send men through the far reaches of space but can guarantee the citizens they can walk through a park or in their neighborhoods after dark without fear of violence."
Basically, it was a speech that was intended to be inspirational -- one in which the President invoked the memory of legendary Notre Dame football hero, George Gipp -- the "Gipper" -- whom he had portrayed in a film.
There was also a touch of John F. Kennedy and Camelot in his closing words:
"I have one more hope for you: that when you do speak to the next generation . . . you will always be able to speak of an America that is strong and free, that you will always find in your hearts an unbounded pride in this much-loved country, this once and future land, this bright and hopeful nation whose generous spirit and great ideals the world st ill honors."