Posted by Mark at 1:16 PM
Remembering the Great Communicator
continuing my reflections on President Reagan....
Ronald Wilson Reagan: 1911-2004 Gone but the Legacy Lives On
Ronald W. Reagan, one of the most popular Presidents ever in US History, died Saturday due to complications resulting from pneumonia. He had struggled mightily with Alzheimer's Disease since his poignant announcement and withdrawal from public life in 1994. He leaves behind his wife Nancy, two sons, and one surviving daughter. He also leaves behind a world he helped save from Communism and defeatism and the thankful citizens of America and nations he helped liberate from Communism via his unflappable and unshaking resolve in fighting the Evil Empire.
to be continued.......
Ronald Reagan lived the American Dream, the American Story. He overcame adversity and setbacks and came to be the Greatest President of the 20th century, defeating Communism and inspiring Americans to dream again. Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, to a shoe salesman father and his mother Nelle. His father was an alcoholic. The Reagans were very poor, but Reagan persevered, taking jobs as lifeguard, dishwasher, and other odds and ends to work his way through college at Eureka College. He graduated with a degree in Economics, but chose to go into radio broadcasting. However, I want to talk about his lifeguard duty back home in Dixon, because it is a striking metaphor to me. Over three summers, Reagan is credited with saving 77 people from drowning in a river he often had to swim against to reach people. Likewise, he spent his political life swimming against the river of detente and containment and Mutually Assured Destruction, to save the world from the Cold War and Communism. He was truly the Lifeguard of the 20th Century (take that, Hasselhoff!)
Mr. Reagan began a career in radio which was going very well, broadcasting major league baseball games as well as football. Someone told him to go get a screen test in Hollywood, and the rest is history. He became a solid, if not heralded actor, and worked in 53 films. He called himself the Errol Flynn of the B Movies. From there, he went on to do TV and to become President of the Screen Actors Guild.
As Reagan's career in Hollywood waned, his allegiance to the Democrats did as well. He saw a departure from traditional values, a move to embrace far left thinking, and felt like the party was leaving him. He then began to campaign for Republicans, becoming one himself in 1960. It was after a tremendous speech that Mr. Reagan wrote himself and gave on TV supporting Barry Goldwater in the '64 election that Reagan became overwhelmed into politics.
Of course, we know the rest. He took California from recession to success, from disaster to model state. He even ran for the nomination in 1976, losing at the convention to Ford, partly because Goldwater refused to endorse Reagan, leaving Ford to get the vote.
Here is where I come in. Reagan ran for President in 1980. I was four years old. I can remember watching the campaign unfold with my Grandma and family. I remember one relative talking about how I refused to change the channel when Reagan was on, and that I actually seemed to pay attention to the issues. They were right. Somehow, Reagan reached me at such an early age. When a relative jokingly asked me who I would vote for, said, "I like Reagan. He is better. Don't vote for Peanut Head." (What my dad called Carter) Over the weekend, that same relative and I were talking, and she reminded me of the story. "You were right," she said. "Reagan was right."
I grew up on Ronald Reagan. From my kindergarten days through Jr. High, he was there. Reagan helped me to see hope in the world, and inspired me to remain up on current events. When I listened to him talk about history's special place for America, and our mission, I felt like I wanted to tell his story, that I wanted to be part of that mission. He made me want to make a difference, and in some ways inspired me to teach, especially when my observations did not agree with some liberal teacher's views, and I would have to bring facts in. Reagan was an inspiration.
When the Challenger disaster happened, I recall being comforted by Reagan's words. His talk about them touching God (from the poem High Flight, by the way) was inspiring, and it moved me. Other memories I have are sending get well cards during his recoveries from assassination, cancer, and other surgeries; and of being so proud of him when he went after Libya and Grenada, and hearing my great uncle Gerald talk about how his son Eddie had a great Commander in Chief. (Uncle Gerald and Cousin Eddie were both in the Green Berets, special forces). Ronald Reagan became a part of my family. I listened to all his speeches on TV, and I grew to really dislike Dan Rather and others for making fun of his age. This was a guy in his 70s who beat a bullet, and who chopped trees on his ranch. IN HIS 70s!!!!! He was a superman, for goodness sake!
Ronald Reagan taught me that the best government is one which does little. Government is not the solution, it is the problem. Too much taxes, not enough sense. Reagan was right on, and even Clinton realized this when he caved to pressure and reformed welfare. Reagan knew what to do.
Some would argue that he was a big spender, that the deficits created were irresponsible. However, if you look at his budgets, he was for cutting waste from programs, but the Democrat controlled Congress filled his budgets with pork, and in order to get THE NEEDED AND NECESSARY STIMULATING TAX CUTS, Reagan had to approve the spending. So, one has to ask, who really caused the deficits, the President or the Lefty Congress? I say Congress. They used their majority power to make Reagan compromise, but Reagan knew something they did not. He knew that even with deficits, we could have growth. And Growth would outpace the deficit, and we could grow out of the deficits. And he was shown to be correct, as we look at the decreasing deficits of the last few years of his administration into the 1990s. Amazing, he was right again. God bless him.
Ronald Reagan ushered in an era of Growth and Prosperity never seen in America. Our pride was back, we were growing economically, and we were having faith in our future again. We badly needed someone to restore our faith in the Presidency, after the failed Presidencies of Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. He acted like a President, talked like a President, and led like a President. He was the medicine we needed. He was the lifeguard, saving us from the stream of distrust, depression, and self-loathing that sought to drown us. He showed us the way, sometimes when we didn't want to go, and led us with a smile, a joke, but with underlying determination and faith in our mission and in our ideals. Ronald Reagan was an amazing force, but he was also an amazing man, laughing in the face of hateful words about his age, his intellect, and his ability. He took the criticism and never fired back, preferring instead to allow the People and History to judge him. And they resoundingly approved, despite even today misrepresentation of his goals and his administration, one cannot argue with the results. Through sheer force of will and resolve, Ronald Reagan threw America on his back and put us back on the map. Through force of will, he brought the Soviets to their knees, and pretty much tore down the Berlin Wall as if he were a bulldozer himself. Some would say these things were inevitable, but they are saying that now, with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, we had no idea about the conditions of the Soviets, and we were sure we would both be around and in the Cold War forever. Reagan proved that wrong, even when the pundits and press were saying, no, we can't offend the Russians, we have to keep detente and accept totalitarianism. Reagan said no, the only way to deal with the Russians is to force their hands, to yank their economy to the ground in trying to keep up with us.
Reagan, before the facts came out, correctly theorized that the Russians were lying about their economy. He correctly predicted that if America built up forces and the Russians were forced to compete, they would crush themselves and be forced to bargain. He correctly theorized that putting pressure on their economy and telling the world how bad they were would get the Soviet citizenry up and fired up to change. Pundits said he was wrong, that the Soviets could last, that we were going to be beaten. But, history has proven Reagan right, and proven that liberty and freedom are the best ways to go. Thank God for his faith and determination, as I am sure many in the former Eastern Bloc are saying thank God for Reagan as well, for setting them free from the heel of the Soviet boot. Thank you, Mr. President.
Ronald Reagan helped me to believe in America, and to understand America's special place. He taught me Economics, History, and kindness to one's rivals while still disagreeing ( a lesson I still have trouble with). Reagan was a teacher, a mentor, and in some ways another Grandpa. He always assured me of brighter days ahead, and when I was down, even after he went secluded after his Alzheimer's announcement, I would read his memoirs and story and realize I had to keep going. Even in his disappointments, Reagan had faith in God, and in America. He truly shaped and changed my life, and I am forever grateful.
He helped make my future one safe from nukes from Russia, and he made it so I went from fearing Russian nukes to today being able to go to the Gardens and root for a Russian-born goalie, and to fellowship with him after games. Ronald Reagan did that, by standing up to defeatism, to critics who thought the Cold War would go on forever and we just had to put up with the Evils of Communism. His plan was simple: we win they lose. However, he used everything at his disposal: budgets, weapons, and his gifted speechmaking; to fight the Soviet evil...and we won. He fought people who said America could no longer compete and through his tax cuts and pro growth policies made America great again. He never wavered in his faith in America, Americans, and especially God.
Ronald Reagan, actor, President, inspiration. I will miss you, and I thank you for the kindness of sending me that picture those years ago. Thank you for swimming upstream against the tides of malaise, defeatism, and apathy and restoring American greatness. Thank you for rescuing us from the tides of defeatism, and for being America's Lifeguard. God bless you, God bless America.
Godspeed, and I hope to see you again one day.....
Mark E. Garbett, Jr.