Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Why I Love Ronald Reagan--Part 2
I will always remember the day that Ronald Reagan died. I usually have Fox News on 24/7 because you never know when a "breaking news" story might happen and I wouldn't want to miss it :-). But on this saturday I had been gone all day. I came home and got on the computer and thats when I saw the headline. Tears started streaming down my face and I went to turn on the TV to watch the coverage. I cried off and on the whole week after his death as I watched the people who knew him tell their stories and as I witnessed his funeral. It hit me how much I had grown to love him through my odyssey of learning about him. I realized the world was losing a great man but his message would live on. Here is some of that message:
His Humor: Peggy Noonan said, "I think he thought everyone was too serious." Ronald Reagan was always known for his jokes and his ability to make people laugh. Its not that he wasn't a man of depth or that he didn't understand the seriousness of life. He had a lot of setbacks in his life. He just realized that nothing was accomplished by being a negative and unhappy person.
Two months into his presidency an assassination attempt was made on his life. He almost died and yet his response was that he forgot to duck and he hoped all the Doctors were Republicans.
The biggest and most impressive way he used humor was to deflect criticism from his critics. To me it is awe-inspiring. I'm trying to get better but when someone criticizes me my natural response is to get angry and lash back. But it is so much more effective to use humor and beat them at their own game. And thats one of the reasons why Reagan was so successful.
When he was continually attacked for being too old during his run for re-election he said this to Mondale in a debate, "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." When reporters criticized him for not getting his facts straight he admitted in a speech that even though he was quoting George Washington he hadn't actually heard him say it. And according to Peggy Noonan one of his ways of dealing with criticism was, "not to get mad but to undermine his critics by agreeing with them. When they said he was lazy he didn't deny it, he said, 'I know hard work never killed anyone, but I figure why take a chance?'"
To me it takes a strong person to laugh at yourself and agree with your critics when you know what they are saying isn't true. To be above the fray and to use humor to do it takes a strong person. And Ronald Reagan was just that.
His Optimism: The more I live life the more I see how important it is to be optimistic. Ronald Reagan was known for being an optimist and everyone loves to spend time and be around an optimist. One of his favorite stories he loved to tell was about 2 boys. One was too optimistic and the other was too negative. In order to cure them they were each put in a different room. The negative one was put in a room full of brand-new toys. This didn't cure him and he started to cry because he was sure that somehow he would break all of them. The positive one was put into a room full of dung. The boy started happily jumping in and digging through the dung. When asked what he was doing he said that with all this dung there was sure to be a pony in there somewhere.
His optimism never let him give up. When he barely lost the Republican nomination in 1976 he gave a speech to his loyal, teary-eyed supporters. He said: "Don't give up your ideals. Don't compromise. Don't turn to expediency. And don't for heaven's sake, having seen the inner workings of the watch, don't get cynical." Think of what could've happened had Reagan given up or compromised. Ford may have won the nomination that year but it wasn't because he was a better person or had better ideas. Reagan was right in his message not to give up.
His heart: Michael W. Smith sang a song in the 80's that had Reagan's voice interspersed throughout it with his words that he spoke the day the Space Shuttle Challenger crashed. The words were always very comforting and inspiring to me. They showed his heart and that he cared. Here they are: "The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to touch the face of God."
Reagan was unfairly criticized for not caring about the homeless and the aids crisis and many other things. Like W the liberals would blame him for anything and everything. Reagan had charm and did well in front of the cameras but his concern for people wasn't a photo op like it was for Clinton. There are many stories of Reagan doing things for people and specifically making sure the cameras were turned off while he was doing it.
Peggy Noonan tells a story that shows his heart and that wasn't done for the cameras about a woman named Frances Green. She was an 83 yr. old lady that had very little money but gave small amounts to the Republican party because she loved Ronald Reagan. She was invited to the Whitehouse but needed to RSVP. She spent all she had to take a 4 day train trip to the Whitehouse. When she got there they wouldn't let her in because she hadn't rsvped. A Ford executive was in line behind her and heard her story. He talked to the right people and had it set up for her to meet the President the next day. But the next day some serious events were taking place and it looked like she would only get to take a tour. While she was taking the tour the Ford Executive passed by the Oval Office and Reagan urged them to come in.
This is what Noonan had to say about the encounter: "This," I said in the speech about Reagan's character, "is why Reagan is Reagan. He knows Mrs. Green is a little old lady all by herself in the world, she's no one, with nothing to give him, and Reagan is behind his desk and he rises and calls out, 'Frances!' He says, 'Those darn computers, they fouled up again! If I'd known you were coming I would have come out there to get you myself.'" He asked her to sit down and they talked about California and he gave her a lot of time, and if you say on a day like that it was time wasted, there are a lot of people who'd say, Oh no it wasn't. No it wasn't. He had a big heart, a kind of liquid heart that flowed out to others."
Stay tuned for the 3rd and final part tomorrow. It would've been too long to get it all in today. This has been a labor of love for me. I hope it is inspiring to others and please share any Reagan stories that you have in the comments.
"When Character Was King" by Peggy Noonan
"How Ronald Reagan Changed my Life" by Peter Robinson
"Challenger Disaster" Speech