While we won’t be doing the traditional Reagan’s Birthday family dinner tonight, there’ll be jelly beans for all at work today. It’s Reagan’s Birthday!
Today would be the 101st birthday of the greatest president of my lifetime, so far.
It’s hard, and a little humbling, to admit that I was a flaming liberal who deeply feared (as deeply as a bobble headed 17 year old can do anything) Reagan when he was elected.
I was about a month too young to vote in 1980, and had I been that month older I’d have voted for…well, not Jimmy Carter. I knew he was a disaster, as liberal as I was. I’d have voted for John Anderson, probably. Reagan, I just knew,was going to lead us to war in Saudi Arabia over oil, and end up getting us all nuked!
The media said so!
And it was over the next four years that Reagan, his example, his style and his leadership – along with some acerbic coaching from my college professor, Dr. James Blake, who may have been the only English professor in the past century to convert students to conservatism – converted me. It seemed like a gradual thing back then, and I suppose it was, although four years is nothing.
And in 1984, while I didn’t tell my parents – my mom would likely have disowned me – I pulled the lever for Reagan. And have, like so many other conservatives, kept him before me as an example of how conservatism should work.
There are examples in Reagan’s story for conservatives to remember today. Reagan was a coalition-builder; he built “big tents”, not by offering something to everyone, but by convincing others that his way was the right way. He started with a vision, and focused like a laser beam, delegating everything that didn’t lead to achieving that vision. He shook off the negative with a wry quip, and kept his focus.
He never once used the term RINO. He issued his eleventh commandment; focus on the 70% of things you agree on, rather than bashing them for the 30% you don’t.
I strongly recommend reading “Ronald Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary President“, by Dinesh D’Souza; it captured, more than anything I’ve ever read, the essence of Reagan. It’s worth climbing mountains to find.
In trying to explain Reagan to people who weren’t there, it’s hard to know where to start. The economy was in the crapper? And under Reagan, it came roaring back? That’s a good place to start, naturally; kids today can identify what what us kids from 1980 faced.
In terms of the world, though? Our kids grew up in a world with threats – terrorists who’d lop of Americans a few, or once a few thousand, at a time. But it was nothing like the Armageddon that seemed to lurk around the corner in 1980. Both of my kids were born after the fall of the USSR. And so this speech – one of the pivotal ones in western civilization…:
…doesn’t mean much.
I turn to this story, with its Tolkein-ish overtones, to try to explain what it was Reagan, and we all, faced. It’s a story with overtones today – only our Jaruzelski was an organizer, not a soldier.
And so conservative Americans, and tens of millions of Eastern Europeans, and I all join together in celebrating the birthday of the best American president of the past 100 years, and one of the five best in history.