Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Happy 102nd Birthday Ronald Reagan...America's Lifeguard

In 2011, former Alaska Governor and 2008 GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin wrote of our nation's 40th President, Ronald Wilson Reagan:
The image of the lifeguard seems to represent what Reagan was to America and to the freedom-loving people of the world. He lifted our country up at a time when we were in the depths of economic, cultural and spiritual malaise. We were told that we must accept that the era of American greatness was over; but with his optimism and common sense, President Reagan held up a mirror to the American soul to remind us of our exceptionalism.
Today marks the 102 anniversary of the birth of "America's Lifeguard" as Palin called him in her USA Today piece, because as a teenager he served as a lifeguard in his hometown, saving 77 lives from the waters of the Rock River.
If you were able to remember the late 1970s, even in your early years or teens, you would have known about inflation, and most likely would have seen long gas lines not only on TV, but sat in them as well.
In the "About Me" section of this blog, I tell the story of how when I was around eight years old, a neighbor's kid told me the story that sometime in 1980 the Soviet Union had a device that was going to kill the whole world.  As 1980 got closer, it almost seemed like the end of the world was near. The images on TVs across America showed Americans paraded as hostages by the Iranian regime, and the Soviet Union marching into Afghanistan.
The president at the time, Jimmy Carter, was a weak, feckless occupant of the Oval Office who did nothing to ease Americans fears about crises abroad, and at home. In many ways, he blamed us for our problems (remember the "Malaise" speech in 1979?).  Carter was up for re-election during this time of great crisis, and there was Ronald Reagan, showing confidence and strength, telling us that America's best days were still ahead of us, not behind us.  It seemed like if anyone would save not just America, but the world, from mutually assured destruction, Ronald Reagan could do it.
What some miss about Reagan and how many yearn for "another Reagan" is not in the "Cult of Personality" sense, but instead in the unwavering principles that Reagan espoused and served this nation by...that it was the people of the United States, NOT Washington, who not only made this country work, but made it great.
You can tell that from his first inaugural address in 1981, and contrast that with Richard Milhous Obama's hyper-partisan, ode to big government address given last month.

The recovery didn't happen overnight, but America came back. We felt good about ourselves, and were stronger than ever. By 1984, it was Morning in America again.

Before leaving office, Reagan reminded us in his eloquent farewell address that "all real change begins at the dinner table," but spoke instead of "we" accomplished, instead of "I, me, or my" every other word. 

What sums up the legacy of Ronald Reagan, in my view, are these lines that he spoke near the end of his last major speech to America at the GOP Convention in 1992 (at 33:00 in video below).


My fellow citizens -- those of you here in this hall and those of you at home -- I want you to know that I have always had the highest respect for you, for your common sense and intelligence and for your decency. I have always believed in you and in what you could accomplish for yourselves and for others. And 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, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way.
That's what made Ronald Reagan great, and what is sorely missing today. Or, as Sarah Palin concluded her tribute to Reagan in 2011, "We need more lifeguards like him."

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