– Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States
Today would have been Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. Or, as Reagan would have us say it, the 71st anniversary of his 29th birthday.
Ronald Reagan will always be "my" president.
Ronald Reagan was not president when I was born, that was Lyndon Johnson. Ronald Reagan is not the first president I can remember, that would be Richard Nixon. Since the day I was born, there have been 8 men other than Ronald Reagan who have sat in the Oval Office, but Ronald Reagan will always be “my” president.
You see, Reagan was president during those formative years of my late teens and early twenties. He was elected during my freshman year of high school, and, when he ran for reelection against Walter Mondale in 1984, was the first president I ever voted for. Reagan alone is not responsible for shaping my political philosophy; my father played a big role in that, as did books by Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein and others; but Reagan’s beliefs were a huge influence. (My commitment to Biblical truth has further shaped my thoughts on politics, of course.) Of all the presidents who’ve served before, I’d have to say that Reagan’s politics are still the closest to my own.
During the 1990's, I had, in many ways, forgotten how much Ronald Reagan had meant to me, and to the United States. Due to the tragedy of his Alzheimer’s, he had been forced to withdraw from public life, and he wasn't in the news often. Other than the frequent mentions he got on talk radio, I didn’t think about him as I went about my daily routine.
And then, on June 5, 2004, word came of his death, and a strange sadness came over me. A sadness I’d never felt about a death outside of my own family. I knew that, though I’d never met him, I had lost someone very dear to me.
All that week, either the radio or the television was on to coverage of his life and the services that were held to honor him. I watched the thousands file past as his body lay in state at the Reagan Library in California. I cried. I explained to my then 13-year-old daughter why I was sad, and why this man had been so special. I watched as the horse-drawn caisson carried his body down Constitution Avenue to that slow, slow, painfully mournful drumbeat. I cried. I listened to the service from the National Cathedral in Washington, and watched the final service that took place during that beautiful sunset at the Regan Library in California as he was laid to rest on the evening of Friday, June 11, 2004. And I cried.
Since that time, I have become a more deliberate student of Reagan; his life, his character, and his politics. And, as I have, my respect and admiration for him has only grown more profound. Ronald Reagan wasn’t perfect, of course, no mere mortal man is, but he lived a life more admirable than most.
As we remember Ronald Reagan today, remember that, for a time, God blessed us with a very special leader, and give thanks.
Happy Birthday, Mr. President. Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.