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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reagan Remembered

When I think of heroes from my childhood, I can't think of anyone from a position of national prominence or stardom who was more influential on me than President Ronald Wilson Reagan.  I'm sure a lot of people are making the same claim now since we are celebrating his would-be 100th birthday; and its probably intensified with so many Republicans claiming to be the one to carry forth Reagan's true legacy of Conservatism. 

Nancy and Ronald Reagan
Happy 100th Mr. President
It's an understatement to say that President Ronald Reagan was an amazing American.  If you've read Ronald Reagan: An American Life you can glean a great deal about Reagan's upbringing, humanity, and his conversion from a union Democrat to a Conservative Republican.  His life story embodies the American spirit from start to finish.   

Reagan is lauded by conservatives because of his economic policies which included shrinking the size of Government, cutting excessive spending, reducing regulations, and cutting taxes to build individual wealth and prosperity. Reagan was also a hawk; his vision of a strong America defeating Soviet Communism, and serving as a beacon of light for those in foreign lands oppressed by tyrannical authoritarian regimes. Reagan was a President for the times.  He was a giant among men.

Much of Reagan's adoration was and still is due to his incredible personality - his endless optimism, and positive attitude even in the face of opposition or strife.  It's been 30 years since his Presidency, and his manner of governing is still considered the standard for building diverse coalitions to get things done.  Reagan mastered the ability to work with Democrats and Republicans, and sought compromise without compromising his own principles.  Reagan never wavered, and his opponents respected him for it.  Even the press melted in his presence - its hard to hate a man who never showed hate, and rarely showed anger (except on purpose).

But to be fair - Reagan's time was an eon ago.  You have to wonder whether Ronald Reagan with his broad smile and good nature would have been as successful in today's incredibly hostile political environment.   Back in the 80s, Republicans and Democrats, particularly the leaders of that era were capable of working together for the common good; politics seemed less personal than they do today. In our current climate, people like Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are vile, angry creatures who spew hatred, and thrive on dividing people.  They are 100% ideological; compromise is out of the question - they operate on a winner take all mentality. The HealthCare Reform Bill with its mandate to force Americans to purchase coverage is a prime example of this mentality in action.  Nancy Pelosi is so partisan, that it was reported this week that she refuses to meet or work with Blue Dog members of her own party. This is how bad things have become.  It's all or nothing.

Then if you throw in the vicious media which is more bias today than at anytime in our nation's history - publicly supporting Democrat candidates, and slanting news to be critical and derogatory of Republicans.  How would Ronald Reagan have looked under a constant attack by so-called journalists like Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann?  Simply, no filter, and no ability to show respect for our American institutions. All that matters is
advancing the agenda at any cost, even if it means substituting facts with fiction.  Or worse, mischaracterizing situations and things such as resent attempts by Matthew's to mislead the public into believing the Muslim Brotherhood is on par with the Tea Party.  And you wonder why so many people distrust and resent the media.

Admittedly, there is also another factor to consider.  Perhaps when we celebrate Reagan, we also long for a bi gone era.  The 80s were a time of energy, optimism, American ingenuity, and American greatness.  Through his vision and policies, Reagan presided over a great economic recovery, and through his leadership renewed America's strong position in the world as a force for good, and for freedom and democracy.

When I opened this essay, I started by stating President Reagan most influenced me as a young man.   I can distinctly remember the terrible Carter years - waiting in long gas lines with my Father, position in line based on days of the week and license plate numbers and letters, and watching the daily update about Americans being held hostage by thugs in Iran (similar to the ones we are dealing with today), and I recall the news of our failed helicopter rescue of those very hostages.  Those days were not happy ones.

Then I recall the energy and optimism regarding the news that Ronald Reagan won the Presidential election.  Almost immediately upon hearing the news, the Iranians released the hostages. And it was if a vale of darkness was suddenly lifted from America.  And in the eight years of his Presidency, I saw new ideas, and new prosperity, and I remember seeing Americans actually being proud to be American. 

The new optimism spawned incredible waves of ingenuity - new products, new music, new ideas, and a sense that anything was possible.  I saw my own family see greater prosperity and happiness during Reagan's tenure.

I remember watching Ronald Reagan give speeches about American ideals and principles and speaking of inclusion of all people regardless of background or ethnic group.  Reagan emphasized Americans, not hyphenated this or that.  Reagan talked about freedom, and publicly challenged Communism.  He helped forge a relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev and opened up relations with Russia in a way never seen before.  And who can forget Ronald Reagan going to the Berlin Wall proclaiming, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." 

I remember that Ronald Reagan always led from the front, and formed his own principled positions.  He didn't run to pollsters, think tanks, or deal with focus groups.  And he didn't pander to special interest groups even if they were connected with his own party.  He did what he thought was right.

And of course, I remember watching television coverage of President Ronald Reagan getting shot by a coward.  I remember calling one of my junior high school teachers at school, and relating the story and the details of the loop which was being shown over and over again. I remember a unified grieving country, and I remember our school teachers organizing us to sign and send a huge get well card, with a jar of jellybeans to a man who was an inspiration to us all (President Reagan actually acknowledged the gesture).   I also remember, Ronald Reagan transcending the incident by asking people to pray for his shooter - while he recovered in a hospital perhaps having narrowly escaped death.  Few men would chose forgiveness over revenge in a similar situation.

I remember Reagan's appeal to most everyone, even his opponents.  And I remember his last days in office, and the fond genuine farewell from everyone around him, even his traditional foes.  And I remember reading his last communication to the American People, a somber good-bye as he struggled with Alzheimer's Disease through his final days.  And I recall his funeral - and all those who came to mourn the loss of a great President and a great man.

I remember a lot more about the Reagan years - stories, interviews, quips, and the results of Reagan's impact on America, and the world - than I couldn't ever write in this short entry. And none of these are manufactured, overinflated stories.  I'm writing about the REAL Ronald Reagan.  The man that inspired me to become a Republican, and a patriot.

Ronald Reagan is worth remembering and celebrating.  And unapologetically - worth emulating. Our own experiences of his tenure burned into our memories, reminds us of a much different America than the America we live in today.  We were more united, more agreeable, and largely optimistic about the future.  Reagan always saw the good in situations, and in people.  Reagan talked about solutions, and didn't place blame on others around him, or on past mistakes. 

Reagan didn't apologize for freedom, capitalism, Christianity, democracy, or America.  Instead, he served as an advocate for the principles on which America was forged; the very principles that make America strong.  Today's leaders are quite the opposite, and you can plainly see the failed results of negative rhetoric, and weak policies which placate and embolden our enemies. 

I recognize that its not likely that we will ever get back to the simple days of worrying about whether Coke is better than Pepsi.  But, once we get beyond the nightmare of the current administration, we can once again move in a Reaganesque direction.  But its going to take more than a charismatic, respected figure at the head of Government; its going to require wholesale demands from the public - through electing positive, qualified, constitutionally-responsible individuals to Congress.  And further by demanding that reporters, and news organizations drop their liberal agenda, or face ruin.  The public must reject biased newspapers and news agencies, and punish those who sponsor or advertise to keep these propaganda machine going.

If its to be Morning in America again, then it will be up to Americans to reclaim the Reagan legacy.  That House on a Shining Hill can still be us.  If we allow ourselves to make it so in  the same manner that Ronald Reagan did.

Good Bless you Ronald Reagan.  We miss you!  Happy 100th birthday, no doubt there is a grand celebration for you beyond the Heavenly Gates!

This original blog post can be found at

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