Ronald Reagan – America’s 40th President
When most of us think of President Ronald Wilson Reagan, we think of a time when things were simpler. When people had patriotism, strong family values, faith in God, and a belief in a free market system. Most Americans believed that they could accomplish anything with enough hard work, diligence and if they had a strong work ethic. During the time of his presidency, Reagan validated this belief and encouraged it with his policies and his way of communicating to Americans that we, as citizens of this great country, have limitless potential and a strength of spirit like no other country in the world.
He restored this American spirit, pride and our faith during a time of indisputable malaise, when this country was divided, disillusioned and very nearly broken down by recession and liberalism, and on the heels of major social and economic changes in the United States. The 20th century ideologies such as communism, fascism and centralized “Big Government” were running rampant and we had seen the growth of an expansive welfare state throughout the industrialized world.
Reagan, having lived through such events as “The Great Depression”, two World Wars, the Vietnam and Korean Wars, as well as many other significant changes throughout the world, saw that placing too much power in the hands of the government was a dangerous thing to do and that it would be detrimental to life as we knew it in America. At a time when many were saying that our government should be a catalyst for social good and be setting more regulations, doing more to help the needy, be the shaping influence of modern life and the remedy to the ills of society, he maintained the belief that the more the government does for its people, the less the people will be able to do for themselves.
This country had been severely divided on issues concerning our military, social programs, taxes, space exploration and the government’s role in the everyday lives of American citizens. The Republicans (conservatives) seemed to move further “right” and the Democrats (liberals) moved even further “left”. There were some who sympathized with various socialist or communist ideologies and attempted to create policies to incorporate these into American politics and life.
A major backlash against Reagan began; he was vilified and demonized regularly by the media, who had begun leaning more liberal in their reporting, and many painted him as a “big government” man or a “rich republican”. But Reagan stood his ground and was convinced that communism would be the end result of implementing policies giving government more control and by instituting what we now call “the nanny state”. Communism, he believed, was a false religion that would seek to destroy the family unit, right to private property and genuine spiritual or religious faith and practices in order to secure a kind of “utopian” society where everyone was treated the same and had no more or less than their neighbor.
His love of history, reading and intense study of the structures of governments helped shape his very fundamental beliefs. As a radio talk show host in the 1970’s he had explored (and even proposed) some of his imaginings regarding changes he wanted to see happen in the U.S. and around the world. Later, as president, he was actually able to see many of his dreams come to fruition, but others he did not.
His thoughts ranged from things like his desire to see America revert back to The Monroe Doctrine, thoughts of how to rid the world of Castro, ways to distribute Bibles and other literature to the people throughout Eastern Europe, rolling back the Soviet Union to its pre-World War II state and so on, to his musings about making Social Security voluntary and the elimination of the current U.S. system of progressive taxation, and the possibility of a return to proportional taxation (now called the flat tax).
Undoubtedly, the most well remembered and notable of these “dreams”, was the end of the “Cold War” between the United States and The Soviet Union and the “tearing down of the wall”. After many meetings, developing policies such as “SDI” (the Strategic Defense Initiative), much strategizing and by standing on his principles, Reagan was ultimately able to build a relationship of trust with the Soviet leader at the time, Mikhail Gorbachev, that would forever change the texture of world politics and international relations.
On June 12, 1987, Reagan made a trip to visit the Brandenburg Gate and during a most chilling and heartfelt speech, he firmly and passionately said, “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization; Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Once called a “providential man” by Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he was known as being gallant and decent and was characterized by his courage, kindness, and simplicity. Today, even liberals speak of Reagan’s time as a “gentler time in politics”, yet he maintained such strength in the face of opposition and adversity. If it is remembered as gentler now, maybe it is because there was a true “gentleman” in the White House at the time. Ronald Reagan courageously fought to protect the very freedoms and advantages we enjoy as U.S. citizens today. During the 1980’s, with President Reagan leading the fight, we saw “freedom ring” as it spread its wings, carrying democracy around the world.
Former Vice President, Dick Cheney said of Reagan recently, “He stands tall in our memory… He came along at a time when this nation and the world needed him the most!”
As we celebrate the birth of Ronald Reagan, on February 6, 1911, one hundred years ago, my hope is that we can commit to having the kind of life this kind, decent, patriotic and inspirational man envisioned for us. A life of conviction, honor, regard for humanity, belief in God and country and filled with the knowledge that we can have what we want if we are willing to work for it. These are the values Ronald Reagan truly embraced and the way in which he lived his life. May his life, and what it stood for, never be forgotten in the minds of men or in the future annals of our country’s history.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” ~ Ronald Reagan