Today would have been Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday.
When I was in my early twenties, growing up amid the missile fields of North Dakota, I used to wonder what was the point of having kids? They’d all wind up dying in a nuclear war anyway – even if I could afford to have any, which given the economy of the Carter years (and, naturally, the first half of Reagan’s first term) seemed unlikely.
Like most shallow lefties (which I was until about 1984), I was terrified of Ronald Reagan when he was elected. “He’s going to send us all off to fight in Saudi Arabia!”, I chanted along with all the other bobbleheads – proving that “the facile meme aimed at the ill-informed” isn’t a post 2000 phenomenon.
But somewhere along the way, between 1980 (when I knew Jimmy Carter was a boob, but I would have gargled Drano rather than vote for Reagan, had I been about five weeks older and able to vote) and 1984, when I furtively punched the butterfly ballot for Reagan but didn’t tell anyone, not even my closest friends, about it (because I didn’t want them to lump me in with “those” conservatives, the Jerry Falwells and the like), I changed my mind. It wasn’t all Reagan, of course – my college English major advisor, Dr. Blake, gave me a great primer on the real principles of conservatism – but also on how Reagan embodied them.
And let’s be honest; Reagan explained those principles, the timeless ones, Hayek and Jefferson, Adams and De Tocqueville, better than anyone that’s had the bully pulpit he’s had to do it from. And he was doing it long before he became President:
And while there were pundits and thinkers who believed the Soviet Union couldn’t last forever, they were both in the minority and, well, pundits and thinkers. Not those who could do something about it.
Reagan did something about it.
And so we, the people who remember and the ones who’ve learned – like the crowd of twentysomethings at the Reagan’s 100th Birthday bash at O’Gara’s on Friday, none of whom could possible have remembered Reagan himself – commemorate the life of the greatest president we’ve seen…
…even as we recognize that he represents a past that needs to guide, not obsess, us today.