The Public Papers of the President: Ronald Reagan, contain papers and speeches of the 40th President of the United States issued by the Office of the Press Secretary during the period of January 20, 1981 to January 20th 1989.  This material was compiled and published by the Office of the Federal Register, a component of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The material is presented in chronological order so the date shown in the heading is the date of the document or event.  Instances when the release date differs from the date of the document are noted.  Extra effort was made to ensure accuracy.  For instance, tape recordings of Presidential remarks are used to check for errors in transcription and signed documents are compared to the originals for verification.  Text notes, footnotes, and cross references are provided for purposes of clarity. All speeches were delivered in Washington, D.C. unless otherwise indicated and all times noted are local time.

The Public Papers series as we know it today began in 1957 at the recommendation of the National Historical Publications Commission. Prior to that, official publication of the President’s public papers was not commonplace.  In the 19th century, James D. Richardson assembled an extensive compilation of messages and papers of the Presidents, published under Congressional authority, covering the period 1789 to 1897.  However, after that, only various private compilations were issued and there was no uniform, official publication comparable to the Congressional Record or the United States Supreme Court Reports.  Many Presidential papers could only be found in the form of mimeographed White House releases or in news media reports.  Due to this situation, the NHPC recommended the establishment of an official series to make public Presidential writings, addresses and remarks available to all.

In 1965, a companion publication to the Public Papers series, the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, began providing a broader range of Presidential materials on a timelier basis for contemporary readers.  Material now included the President's daily schedule, when announced, and other items of general interest issued by the Office of the Press Secretary.  Also included were Presidential nominations and legislation signed by the President.  The Public Papers series expanded its coverage in the Carter administration to include, as it does today, all material printed in the Weekly Compilation.