President Reagan laid out the themes for the 1982 campaign here today, defending his economic policy but only after reverting powerfully to the traditional patriotic and conservative issues that helped him to office two years ago.
Delivering the Alfred M. Landon Lecture on Public Issues, Reagan dismissed the "doom-cryers" who suggest that America is in an era of decline and asserted that despite "awesome problems" the nation "can be proud of the red, white and blue and believe in her mission."
He demanded "swift and sure punishment" for "lawbreakers and drug peddlers" and a restoration of "bedrock values handed down by families to serve as society's compass."
He heaped scorn on "so-called experts who lack faith in the American people" and are "infecting another generation with negativism."
He stumped for his programs and attacked liberals for creating dependency on government.
And he complained about the quality of the national political dialogue. In the last half century it "hasn't gone much beyond 'Me Tarzan, You Jane,' " he said.
Pointing to a decline in inflation and the recent drop in interest rates, Reagan said that a turnaround in the sluggish, recessionary economy has been "sighted" but did not predict when recovery would occur. Reagan flew here to Kansas State University to deliver the Landon lecture and to honor Landon, who celebrated his 95th birthday today.
In the face of record levels of unemployment and bankruptcies, Reagan chose in his lecture to stress patriotic and religious themes and to accent positive achievements.
His basic message was that those who are pessimistic have almost always been wrong because they do not take into account the ingenuity and energy of Americans.
"I've always believed that this blessed land was set apart in a special way--that some divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by people from every corner of the earth who had a special love for freedom . . . , " he said.
"Let us reject the nonsense that America is doomed to decline, the world sliding toward disaster, no matter what we do," Reagan told the students.
"So many so-called experts lack faith in the American people. They just don't seem to understand what a proud, free people can achieve," he said.
The 10,000 jeans-and-sneaker-clad students, literally packed to the rafters of Kansas State's musty fieldhouse to hear Reagan's speech, frequently interrupted him with applause, cheering and stamping their feet with the kind of fervor usually reserved for the final minutes of a close game against the University of Kansas.
They responded enthusiastically to his promise to end "budget hemorrhaging," seek a school prayer amendment and sell "a lot more" American grain to the Soviet Union.
Reagan's anti-abortion stance brought the only indications of dissent but even on that issue, the majority of the students, judging by their applause, appeared to agree with him.
After the speech, Reagan helicoptered to Topeka for two GOP fund-raisers that were expected to raise more than $105,000.
He then flew to Utah for even more politics, meeting with GOP chairmen tonight and planning to campaign tomorrow for Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, who is in a close contest for reelection.
But late tonight, after the House overrode Reagan's veto of a supplemental appropriations bill, the president asked Hatch to return to Washington tomorrow when the Senate votes on the measure. Hatch said the president "felt that it was crucial that I go back, but I did, too."
No changes were planned in Reagan's schedule. White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes said, "We're going to be out there rallying Republicans."
Reagan was greeted in Kansas by Landon and his daughter, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.), when his helicopter touched down at Kansas State's stadium.
During the lecture, Reagan praised Landon as a "wise, effective and revered leader" and interrupted his remarks to lead a chorus of "Happy Birthday" for the former Kansas governor who is best remembered for his ill-timed run against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 that resulted in the worst Republican presidential defeat in history.
"One of the nicest things Alf Landon ever did for his country was to give us someone as talented and charming as his daughter, Nancy, the first woman to be elected senator from Kansas. And, you know, Nancy, that's a nice name. I like the name Nancy."
The Landon lectures here were begun in 1966. Reagan gave the address once before in 1967 when he was governor of California.
Both Gerald R. Ford and Richard M. Nixon delivered the lectures while in the White House.