Sunday, February 6, 2011

Remembering Ronald Reagan

“There are no easy answers but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”

– 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.

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Vicki said...

A double amen! I loved him-we never knew exactly what we had in him-until he was gone. They were "the glory years' for sure.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

I think we must be the same age - I voted for him in '84 too!

Good memories and good food for thought.


VcdeChagn said...

Wow, I was 1 year shy of voting in 84, and Heinlein shaped my politics/morals (I wasn't saved until my 20's)as well. I agree with you that Reagan is "my president."

You should put together a list of what you've read and liked about Reagan. Would be good to hear from someone of like mind what is good and what isn't :)

threegirldad said...

I feel the same way. And I also had to explain to my (then very young) daughters why "Daddy" was crying.

One of the things that still stands out for me is this: there was no doubt whatsoever about the U.S. Military's opinion of Ronald Reagan.

And I thought Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's eulogy was particularly memorable at many points. For example:

"Presidents and Prime Ministers, everywhere I suspect, sometimes wonder how history will deal with them. Some even evince a touch of the insecurity of Thomas Darcy McGee, an Irish immigrant to Canada who became a father of our confederation. In one of his poems, McGee, thinking of his birthplace, wrote poignantly,

'Am I remembered in Erin?
I charge you, speak me true.
Has my name a sound, a meaning,
In the scenes my boyhood knew?'

Ronald Reagan will not have to worry about Erin, because they remember him well and affectionately there. Indeed they do. From Erin to Estonia, from Maryland to Madagascar, from Montreal to Monterrey. Ronald Reagan does not enter history tentatively; he does so with certainty and panache. At home and on the world stage, his were not the pallid etchings of a timorous politician. They were bold strokes of a confident and accomplished leader.

Some in the west, during the early 1980's, believed communism and democracy were equally valid and viable. This was the school of moral equivalence. In contrast, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet communism as a menace to be confronted, in the genuine belief that its squalid underpinnings would fall swiftly to the gathering winds of freedom; provided, as he said, that NATO and the industrialized democracies stood firm and united. They did. And we know now who was right."

Tom Chantry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Chantry said...

I missed meeting Ronald Reagan by an eyelash.

When I was a junior in high school one of my classmates was a cousin of Frank Carlucci, at the time Reagan's National Security Advisor. I won a lottery (the only drawing or prize I've won in my life) to be among a small group who visited the West Wing during the class trip to D.C. We sat in the Roosevelt Room - a conference room just off the Oval Office, and Carlucci talked to us about his work and the President's.

While we were there Reagan was giving one of his press conferences outside. Remember how he never used the Press Room, but gave those conferences in the hallway so that he could turn his back on the reporters and walk away without having to slide past them to the door? We heard the whole thing in muted tones. We had been told that if there was sufficient time he might come in and meet us, but apparently Helen Thomas asked one too many pointless questions.

It was only later that I really regretted not meeting him. At the time I only thought it would be cool because he was President and therefore famous. I only later realized that he was one of the few Presidents to also be a great man.

Our consolation prize (?) was that on the way out we wound up meeting Sam Donaldson - pheh! He was as fake in person as on TV.