Monday, June 07, 2004
Welcome home, Mr. President.
On The Gipper:
The long goodbye of Ronald Wilson Reagan (affectionately dubbed Ronaldus Magnus by the Maha Rushie) ended on Saturday, June 5, 2004. He died after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease at the age of 93. America has lost a truly great leader.
Reagan was the first president I really paid attention to. I was a very young boy when he took office in 1981. The years leading up to his acension ot the Presidency were dark times in America. The economy was in the sewer, having bypassed the toliet all together. Iranian Islamic Nutcases were holding hostages in Tehran. Jimmy Carter was completely inept - complaining of a malaise that had taken over America's collective conciousness.
Enter Ronald Reagan. Former actor, head of the Screen Actor's Guild, Governor of the State of California. He was swept into office in an electoral landslide that had Carter conceding defeat even before the polls closed on the West Coast. Reagan had a simple campaign slogan:
It's morning again in America.
And people, the people who really matter in the country, believed it.
Reagan was a bold leader. He confronted the Soviet empire on every front. He was not interested in finding middle ground with the Evil Empire. He was committed to its defeat. At the historic summit in Rekyavik, Iceland, he met with the General Secretary of the Communist Party, one Mikhail S. Gorbachev. It was the height of the Cold War. Many people, at home and abroad, feared the might of the Soviet Empire. These detractors believed submission, appeasment, and negotiation were the only ways to avert conflict and war with the Soviets.
Reagan sat across the table from Gorbachev. Much was on the table - intermediate range ballistic missles (nuclear) were set to be negotiated away. All Reagan had to do was scrap the Strategic Defense Initiative - Star Wars as it was dubbed by a viscerally critical media.
Reagan told Gorbachev to go pound sand. Well, maybe not in those words, but that was the gist of the conversation. In the end it proved to be the undoing of the Soviet Miltary Machine. The media, of course, was furious. Reagan didn't care.
His forcefullness of will was evident in Berlin as well. His famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate contained the phrase that would become one of the hallmarks of his presidency:
Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
Two years later, the East Germans did just that.
I guess you could say I grew up during the Reagan administration. He had a way of connecting with people in a manner unmatched by his predecessors, or successors. In no other time was this shown than in the aftermath of the Challeger explosion. I was one of the schoolchildren he spoke to on that cold night in January 1986. He comforted a nation with the words:
We shall never forget them, nor the last time we saw them as they slipped the surly bonds of earth...and touched the face of God.
Ronaldus Magnus endured much. An alcholholic father, a failed marriage, a failed presidential run, an assasination attempt, and finally a decade's long struggle with a crippling disease that robbed himself and his country of a truly great mind.
Through it all he weathered each storm with grace and dignity. He is mourned by supporters and detractors alike - a true testament to the strength of his character.
He has been called many things by many people. I will quote just one of them as a final tribute to the man who truly defined presidential leadership.
Ronald Reagan is the man who won the war.
Rest in peace Ronnie.
Well done, thou good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of thy lord. - Matthew 5:21
Here endeth the lesson.