The Year of the Bible, 1983
The Bible’s Importance and Influence in American History and Culture
The year 1983 was the two hundredth anniversary of the Paris Peace Treaty ending the American War for Independence and the beginning of the United States’ third century as a nation. Looking back upon two centuries of the United States and forward to a third, the Congress of the United States encouraged President Reagan to proclaim 1983 the “Year of the Bible.” The following is his proclamation:
By the President of the United States of America
Of the many influences that have shaped the United States of America into a distinctive Nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible.
Deep religious beliefs stemming from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible inspired many of the early settlers of our country, providing them with the strength, character, convictions, and faith necessary to withstand great hardship and danger in this new and rugged land. These shared beliefs helped forge a sense of common purpose among the widely dispersed colonies – a sense of community which laid the foundation for the spirit of nationhood that was to develop in later decades.
The Bible and its teachings helped form the basis for the Founding Father’s abiding belief in the inalienable rights of the individual, rights which they found implicit in the Bible’s teachings of the inherent worth and dignity of each individual. This same sense of man patterned the convictions of those who framed the English system of law inherited by our own Nation, as well as the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
For centuries the Bible’s emphasis on compassion and love for our neighbor has inspired institutional and governmental expressions of benevolent outreach such as private charity, the establishment of schools and hospitals, and the abolition of slavery.
Many of our greatest national leaders – among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson – have recognized the influence of the Bible on our country’s development. The plain spoken Andrew Jackson referred to the Bible as no less than “the rock on which our Republic rests.”
Today our beloved America, and indeed, the world, is facing a decade of enormous challenge. As a people we may well be tested as we have seldom, if ever, been tested before. We will need resources of spirit even more than resources of technology, education, and armaments. There could be no more fitting moment than now to reflect with gratitude, humility, and urgency upon the wisdom revealed to us in the writing that Abraham Lincoln called “the best gift God has ever given to manƒBut for it we could not know right from wrong.”
The Congress of the United States, in recognition of the unique contribution of the Bible in shaping the history and character of the Nation, and so many of its citizens, has by Senate Joint Resolution 165 authorized and requested the President to designate the year 1983 as the “Year of the Bible.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, in recognition of the contributions and influence of the Bible on our Republic and our people, do hereby proclaim 1983 the Year of the Bible in the United States. I encourage all citizens, each in his or her own way, to re-examine and rediscover its priceless and timeless message.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of February, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventh.