Ronald Reagan handed George Bush the reins of the Republican Party Monday with one last request: "Go out there and win one more for the Gipper."
And Republicans will detail Tuesday night how Bush hopes to win the presidency and build on the Reagan era as they discuss the party platform and the differences between Republicans and Democrats.But before the Republicans moved onto the platform and the future with Bush, they took one last emotional, nostalgic look at the Reagan years - and as Reagan had promised, few Republicans in the Superdome were left with dry eyes. Even Reagan - the old Gipper himself - brushed away a few tears.
"Eight years ago, we met at a time when America was in economic chaos - and today we meet in a time of economic promise."
He recounted how the "misery index" of unemployment and inflation rates was almost 21 percent when he took office. "And last month in Atlanta at their (Democratic) convention, there was again no mention of the misery index. Why? Because right now it's less than 9.2 percent."
He added, "When our (Democratic) friends last month talked of unemployment, despair, hopelessness, economic weakness . . . I wondered why on earth they were talking about 1978 instead of 1988. Now, we hear talk that it's time for a change. Well, ladies and gentlemen, another friendly reminder: We are the change."
Reagan also talked of military and diplomatic success in Grenada, where Communists were overthrown; in Libya, where terrorists were attacked; in Latin America, where he said Democracy is growing; in Afghanistan, where Soviets are withdrawing; and in Southwest Africa where foreign troops are withdrawing.
"And in the 2,765 days of our administration, not one inch of ground has fallen to the Communists," Reagan said amid wild cheers.
He said the world is entering a new era of peace, during which the United States and Soviets are actually destroying arms.
Reagan said America is proud again, is working again and is strong again _ all accomplished despite opposition from liberals.
"And George was there," he said, alluding to a Democratic convention speech by Sen. Ted Kennedy who repeatedly asked "Where was George?" during the Iran-Contra and other scandals.
"George played a major role in everything we've accomplished," Reagan said. "Without George Bush to build on those policies, everything we have achieved will be at risk."
But he said the future could be bright with Bush.
"With George Bush, I'll know as we approach the new millenium our children will have a future secure with a nation at peace and protected against aggression; we'll have a prosperity that spreads the blessings of our abundance and opportunity across all America."
He added, "We need someone who's been big enough and experienced enough to handle tough and demanding negotiations with Mr. Gorbachev - because this is no time to gamble with on-the-job training . . . It will take someone who has seen this office from the inside, who senses the danger points, will be cool under fire and knows the range of answers when the tough questions come. That's the George Bush I've seen up close."
He concluded that Bush is needed to keep America the world leader in freedom.
"I believe that God put this land between the two great oceans to be found by special people from every corner of the world who had that extra love for freedom that prompted them to leave their homeland and come to this land to make it a brilliant light beam of freedom to the world."
Reagan's speech didn't disappoint the Utah delegation at all. But it ran so long - because he was interrupted by applause so often _ that Gov. Norm Bangerter and Sen. Orrin Hatch had to stifle a few yawns before it was over.
But they both loved it. "He took on the Democrats as he should," Hatch said.
"It was terrific," said Bangerter. "He set the foundation for peace and prosperity that George Bush will build on."
Delegate Ted Bell, who was Reagan's education secretary for four years, said the speech was a masterpiece. Bell has heard a lot of Reagan speeches, but this was the best, he said. "He captured the emotion of the moment. He was eloquent. It was a wonderful moment, historic in our party."
Utah delegates were also at ground-zero where balloons and confetti dropped from the rafters to bomb the crowd after Reagan's speech.
They saved a few that they waved in rhythm above their heads as they sang "God Bless the USA" with singer Lee Greenwood after Reagan's speech.