"I Can't Get Enough Of The Man!"
"The house we hope to build is not for my generation but for yours. It is your future that matters. And I hope that when you are my age, you will be able to say as I have been able to say: We lived in freedom. We lived lives that were a statement, not an apology."During the days of Ronald Reagan’s funeral rites, a client of mine uttered the words providing the title to this blog article. This client, some ten years younger than I, was quite young when Ronald Reagan assumed the Presidency in 1981; and I was surprised that she so revered him. When Mike's America invited me to contribute to the tribute honoring the twenty-fifth anniversary of Reagan's first inauguration, I immediately recalled my client's words and decided to consider this question: What was it about our fortieth President which made him so special?
--Ronald Reagan (from this source, which offers quotes by category)
Reagan’s optimism about our nation, along with his sincere patriotism, made him a great leader. He had a clear vision as to American ideals and was not hesitant to express them. Furthermore, his optimism and patriotism were contagious. Never before Reagan's Presidency had I felt so blessed to be a citizen of the United States. And I know other people who felt the same way. In fact, back in 1980, one of my best friends left the Democratic Party because she felt the Reagan would represent the best of America to both this nation and to the world—and he did so.
Yes, Reagan was a Hollywood actor, the camera loved him, and he had that winning, crooked smile. But his appeal went beyond those qualities. The man was hard to dislike, in part because he could laugh at himself. Remember his appearances on The Dean Martin Roasts? He even got roasted himself! Americans love a leader with a self-deprecating sense of humor, a leader who is not full of himself. “Reagan was not a stuffed shirt,” as my husband says. And my husband should know because he met Reagan a few times in social situations between Reagan’s California governorship and his election to the White House. At the time of my husband’s contacts with Reagan, my husband was quite young, but he was impressed by how a very important man made everyone feel just as important as a celebrity. In sum, Reagan was “a nice guy.”
“Nice guys,” however, do not always make good leaders. It was Reagan’s ability to discern and to speak out boldly against evil which defined him as the greatest leader of the last half of the Twentieth Century. Read some of his speeches—The Wall, Bergen-Belsen, Farewell Address--as well as his final poignant letter as he entered the long night of Alzheimer's Disease—and you will find ideas which resonate across the ages. I believe that Reagan’s speeches and the ideals he held at the core of his soul will forever speak across the ages.
During his eight years in the White House, Reagan took whatever steps he felt necessary to combat evil and to make America a better nation. Though the man enjoyed being liked, he did not place a priority on popularity. Rather, he lived by the words “Be sure you’re right. Then go ahead.” Commitment to a considered path of action is the most important quality which any leader can have, and Reagan embodied that quality.
Perhaps we shall not see the likes of our fortieth President again. We need him now as we face the confrontation with the warriors of Islam. Even though we don’t have Ronald Reagan to face the enemy, we do have his words and his example to support our efforts. I, too, “can’t get enough of the man.”
God bless America. God bless Ronald Reagan.
[Note: Visit Mike's America to see a collection of tributes to Ronald Reagan.]