This is my 3rd and final post on Ronald Reagan. I hope you have been as inspired by his life as I have been to learn and be a better person as a result. I feel a kinship with him when it comes to faith, convictions, belief in freedom and his heart. When it comes to his humor and optimism I aspire to be more like him. I was encouraged during the Alito hearings that for the most part I was able to laugh at the democrats instead of getting mad. In the future I hope to be able to beat my critics at their own game with humor like Reagan did.
Reagan was by no means perfect since none of us are. It was actually encouraging to see that he was human. In my opinion his biggest failure was in his role as Dad. I think most of it was a generational thing and that he just didn't know how to be a great dad. His own father had been an alcoholic. But one only needs to look at Ron Jr. and the way he carries himself (like he has a chip on his shoulder) to see that Reagan was not able to translate some of his powerful lessons to his own kids. And thus we see he was only human. Now back to the positive stuff :-).
His Convictions: One of the most inspiring things to me is a person with convictions who doesn't compromise on their core principles. This is the essence of Ronald Reagan. He didn't care if he was criticized for something he believed in. If he believed in it he did it no matter what the polls said. Gary Bauer recounted a story of giving one of his first presentations to Reagan and started it off by quoting a poll. Reagan immediately cut him off and said don't ever quote polls as your reason for wanting me to do something.
Reagan refused to give into Gorbachev's early deals even though he was pressured by many to do so. If he hadn't stuck to his convictions the cold war may still be going on today and the Berlin Wall might never have come down.
One of my very favorite stories is one that Bill Bennett likes to tell because it involves him. Bennett was the Secretary of Education in Reagan's administration and right from the start he became controversial because he was blunt in how he presented his views. He had been getting a lot of bad press and was under a tremendous amount of heat for things he had said. There were even papers calling for his resignation. When the next cabinet meeting came Bennett was very nervous and even felt that the others in the meeting were distancing themselves from him. Here is Peggy Noonan quoting Bennett's account of what happened:
"And we finally got to the last item: Bennett. And the president--I was pretty isolated at this point, and the president started to read aloud just the headlines. 'BENNETT, A DUNCE IN THE CLASSROOM,' 'BENNETT, THE JAMES WATT OF THE SECOND TERM,' 'BENNETT MUST BE FIRED.'
"And I was sinking farther and farther in my seat as the president read aloud. And my colleagues were drawing farther away. Reagan put the last clipping in and folded it up, and he said, 'Now, that's Bill Bennett's first three weeks in office. What's wrong with the rest of you?'
"It was a great moment--it was an exhale moment, too .... But it was also one of the kindest and most considerate things anybody ever did for me .... It was a moment I'll never forget, and it taught me what a leader can do, and what it can mean to the morale of people to have done that."
When the meeting was over, Bennett went to the president and said, "Boss, thank you. Thank you very, very much."
And Reagan told him, "You know, they like to criticize me for being in show business. But one thing you learn in show business, there's a difference between the critics and the box office. Don't worry about the critics; just keep doing your job."
Bennett later summed up Reagan this way: "He was a man in possession of his own soul."
Reagan didn't care that Bennett was getting attacked and how that would reflect on his administration. He didn't ask him to tone things down because he agreed with Bennett and knew he was doing the right thing. So Bennett was unpopular with the papers, Reagan didn't care because they were doing what was right.
His faith: Reagan was a great man of faith. He admitted that he wouldn't have gotten through his presidency without the help of prayer. "I've prayed a lot throughout my life. Abraham Lincoln once said that he could never have fulfilled his duties as president for even fifteen minutes without God's help. I felt the same way."
Mike called Margaret Thatcher Reagan's "conservative soulmate" and I couldn't think of a better way to describe their relationship. I am posting this picture and a quote of hers from his funeral to set up my last topic. "We have lost a great president, a great American, and a great man. And I have lost a dear friend." Margaret Thatcher was Reagan's soulmate when it came to their belief in freedom.
His belief in freedom: Peggy Noonan said that Reagan's foreign policy could be boiled down to 3 words: "Peace through strength." That sounds a lot like Teddy Roosevelt's famous saying of "Speak softly and carry a big stick." If you show strength and resolve and that you mean what you say you sometimes avoid war. My husband and I were talking about how the Iranian hostages were released the day Reagan took office. I never knew what to make of that and then my husband made an awesome point. Iran knew that Reagan wouldn't be a weak appeaser like Jimmy Carter and that he would take action. So to avoid the inevitable confrontation they released the hostages. Reagan had already demonstrated his strength and it enabled him to avoid a conflict.
The Reagan doctrine was described like this: "Commitment to support 'those fighting for freedom and against communism wherever we found them.'"
Here are some quotes from his "Westminster Speech" that he made on June 8, 1982:
"It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy. Who would voluntarily choose not to have the right to vote, decide to purchase government propaganda handouts instead of independent newspapers, prefer government to worker-controlled unions, opt for land to be owned by the state instead of those who till it, want government repression of religious liberty, a single political party instead of a free choice, a rigid cultural orthodoxy instead of democratic tolerance and diversity?
...given strong leadership, time and a little bit of hope, the forces of good ultimately rally and triumph over evil.
I've often wondered about the shyness of some of us in the West about standing for these ideals that have done so much to ease the plight of man and the hardships of our imperfect world.
So, let us ask ourselves, ``What kind of people do we think we are?'' And let us answer, ``Free people, worthy of freedom and determined not only to remain so but to help others gain their freedom as well.''
For the sake of peace and justice, let us move toward a world in which all people are at last free to determine their own destiny."
Here are some from his "Evil Empire Speech" that he made on March 8, 1983:
"At the same time, however, they must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles and standards. We will never give away our freedom. We will never abandon our belief in God. And we will never stop searching for a genuine peace.
But if history teaches anything, it teaches that simpleminded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly. It means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom."
And ofcourse Reagan's famous words: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
If only the democrats of today could see the great wisdom and truth of these words. As you can see by these quotes George W. Bush is truly Reagan's "Conservative Son". W carries Reagan's torch for freedom and he does it well. W isn't the "great communicator" like Reagan but he has the same heart and ideas which are making this world safer and freer.
And speaking of W it is fitting to conclude my series on Reagan with a quote from him. This is a little of what W had to say about Reagan: "Some achievements fade with the years. Ronald Reagan's achievements grow larger with the passing of time." Amen and Amen!!
"When Character Was King" by Peggy Noonan
"Evil Empire Speech"