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Commentary: Mailbag: Recalling Reagan’s 1988 Christmas Eve speech after earthquake in Armenia

Three decades ago there was a historic Christmas Eve radio address that then-President Ronald Reagan gave titled “President Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on the Holiday Season and the Earthquake in Armenia in the Oval Office.” It is archived in his presidential library.

Reagan talked about love and peace. He greeted a forgotten nation on that night in late December 1988, saying, “In Armenia the birth of our Lord is not celebrated until Jan. 6. It is an Armenian tradition that priests travel to the homes of their flock and there make a special blessing with bread, water and salt, representing life and substance …”

Reagan’s last Christmas address was historic because the Spitak earthquake had hit Armenia on Dec. 7 of that year, a harshly cold winter day during the Cold War Era. Armenia had not yet regained its independence. The Iron Curtain separated Soviet Union countries from the outside world.

Within three days American rescuers arrived in Armenia to find survivors buried under the rubble. The entire town of Spitak “was practically erased from the face of the Earth,” Russian TV reported.


Reagan crossed all political boundaries to reach out and touch the Armenian nation, where 50,000 to 100,000 people perished, 140,000 or more were injured, and 500,000 to 700,000 people lost their homes. That’s the power of President Ronald Reagan’s love manifested through Christ.

Rachel Melikian