In this year of Ronald Reagan's centennial, there's talk of yet another new memorial, this one to his famous "Evil Empire" speech in March 8, 1983 in Orlando, where he decried the Soviet Union's "totalitarian darkness." [See photos of Ronald Reagan.]
Eleven at he time and living in Orlando, Elliot Berke was wowed by the speech. Now a Washington lawyer, Berke is raising about $1 million to build a memorial to the address and Reagan in Orlando. "Many have no idea that Reagan even gave the speech in Orlando," he says. "There really should be something there to recognize the speech," which he calls a bookend to Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech, given in 1946 at Westminster College in Missouri.
Berke tells us that the Reagan speech captured a central theme of the Gipper's agenda: Expanding democracy and freeing enslaved citizens and dissidents. "It's his most important Cold War speech delivered on U.S. soil," says Berke.
Berke says that he's not working on anybody else's behalf or carrying water for any Reagan group, but instead feels a civic duty to recognize Reagan's speech. "If nobody else is going to do it, I should do it," he says.
First he set up a group to raise money, the "Evil Empire Speech Memorial Foundation." Next came his webpage, www.evilempirespeech.org. Then he set out to find a location for the memorial and pitch local officials for a gift of land, though he won't use taxpayer money to build it.
The spot where Reagan gave the speech is a hotel across from Universal Studios, but he's looking at a spot closer to the county convention center. And in the end he plans for something more than just a statue of Reagan. "This is a memorial to the speech," says Berke. "It's more than statue, we want to also recognize his push for religious freedom and human rights."