Ronald Reagan, Pat Boone and The Evil Empire

05/01/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mark Joseph Producer, author and publisher of

In 1983 Ronald Reagan gave his famous/infamous Evil Empire Speech in which he decried the Soviet Union as "the focus of evil in the modern world" and in so doing horrified many in the diplomatic community who were not used to such blunt talk from the leader of the free world. The speech was given to a group of Christian broadcasters known as the National Association of Religious Broadcasters and after chastising the Soviet regime for its lack of religious freedom, Reagan personalized it by telling the story of a prominent entertainer whom Reagan had once heard give a speech in which he had argued that he'd rather have his girls die as believers in God rather than grow up in a totalitarian system in which they would lose their beliefs.

Some historians have identified that entertainer as none other than Pat Boone, the father of four daughters, but when I checked with Boone, he wasn't aware that he had been a part of such a historic speech and replied:

"Thanks for making me aware of this... My friend Ron Reagan told me he had quoted me a number of times, never mentioning my name in case I'd prefer he not. But I'm happy to be quoted in this, and specially humbled that our great President felt it worthy of quoting, and in that famous speech? The phrase sweeping the nation, specially on college campuses was 'better Red than dead,' presuming opposition to Communism would bring on nuclear war. My actual quote was 'I pray it will never happen -- but if it comes to it, I'd rather see my four daughters blown into heaven in a nuclear blast than taught into hell in a communist United States.' Shirley has always shuddered at that, almost feeling I was inviting such a answer was, and is, that if we truly understand the deep urgency of the situation, we'll opt for the right course of action."

The entire speech can be seen here and the Boone portion here.