Reagan Remembered

‘Where’s your favorite guy?? Sean, 4, asked me, as he, his older brother Shamus and I watched the horse-drawn funeral hearse on the television screen.
‘He’s under that American flag,? I answered. ‘In a coffin.?
‘Your favorite guy is dead,? Sean stated flatly.
‘Yes,? I agreed. ‘That man’s name is Ronald Reagan. He’s one of my favorite presidents.?
As we watched a few minutes of the somber military procession which carried the 40th President’s body to the Rotunda, your stoic scribe smiled. No, not like ‘Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead.?
Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. President I was privileged to vote for — something many of my fellow Central Michigan University classmates frowned upon. I remember defending my vote — I remember defending my president.
I smiled as Reagan’s body was carried for the last time through Washington DC, not because he had died (though it was time), rather because I remember what he meant to me. I remember a positive change. I confess my sin — I swelled with pride that we were American. I well remember the mood of the nation — or at least our little part of it in Northeast Oakland County — prior to his election to office.
Let me count the ways . . . the economy was tanking. By the time Reagan took office inflation was rising to over 11 percent. Interest rates were on a steady incline that reached 20 percent at the end of 1981 (the rates then started to decline — declining bit by bit until the end of the century.) Folks were gloomy. The local auto industry was being beat up by its foreign counterparts. There were too many layoffs.
Americans were still hanging their heads low about being American — we were only a handful of years removed from Vietnam. Anti-Americanism abroad (nothing new) was no better evidenced than when 70 Americans were taken hostage in 1979 — that ordeal lasted 444 days.
I remember all these things even though I was just a young lad with big hair and bad clothes (no wonder I could never find a date). I remember the ‘cowboy? comparisons, the fears of some that if Reagan got into office, nukes would fly. The world would end. Since I liked cowboys, I thought cowboy comparisons were a darned-tootin? good thing.
I remember reading newspapers and watching the debates between him and President Jimmy Carter. I remember feeling good — the same feeling I had whenever I listened to or watched Reagan from then to his last public communication — the letter addressing how Alzhiemers was eating away at his mind.
I wasn’t alone. Most of the country felt the same way and voted him into office by huge margins. With Reagan at the helm it was okay to be American. With Reagan in charge we knew folks would think twice about hurting us. With Reagan in the White House we knew we all had the chance to succeed.
Whether you agreed with him philosophically, you knew what you were getting. He wanted to hasten the end of communism and restore our faith in ourselves. Talking head pundits, to this day, label him a dunder head, somebody else’s puppet. From what I’ve read this week, those who knew him, even those on the other side of the political spectrum, do not think he was muddle-minded. (I think he was as Bill Clinton is — you meet him, you can’t help but like him, even if you disagree with him.)
I remember the would-be assassin’s bullet. I remember the Contras, everything else. I still believe he was one of ‘us? and not one of ‘them.? I have good thoughts when I think of Ronald Wilson Reagan and I believe hope and optimism are his legacy to America.
I like to think of America as filled with lots of good people. I see and take into account our faults but know, for the most part, Americans will try to do what is right.
I guess I bought it — hook, line and sinker — when I heard:
‘Let us resolve tonight that young Americans will always … find there a city of hope in a country that is free…. And let us resolve they will say of our day and our generation, we did keep the faith with our God, that we did act worthy of ourselves, that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill.?
or . . .
‘We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.?
And, I believed he was correct when he said:
‘Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears….
‘May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance and never lose your natural, God-given optimism.?
Rest in peace and God-bless you Ronald Reagan.
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