Jun 132004

Ronald ReaganA chapter of 2004 has now closed. At the end of year, during all the perspectives, certainly the funeral for former President Reagan (1911-2004) will be one of the most noted items, and for several good reasons.

For one thing, Americans nowadays so rarely come together for anything, that we need events like this big public funeral to take just a short time to quite our lives just a little, and hopefully dampen the political rhetoric some. I have to admire the Reagan family for being willing to share this most personal moment in such a public way. That has to be a very difficult thing.

As was typical of anything that involved Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, it came off with a lot of class. Perhaps that’s one of the things that has made Ronald Reagan so appealing from an historical perspective.

Let’s face it, the U.S. really was no longer a proud nation when Reagan came into office in 1981. We were still licking our wounds from Vietnam and coming from the unrest and consternation of the 1960’s.

I need to preface all these comments with the disclaimer that I can’t find much in Ronald Reagan’s policies that I can agree with, but I do have respect for him as one of the last of an unfortunately dying breed. He was a “regal” person. He knew how to wear the office. What I mean by that is, he found that mix of being almost princely, while still being able to touch and communicate with the common people. He made sure the office was always seen in the best possible light. As noted above, he was a class act.

Reagan's Funeral ProcessionHe really did treat political opponents with respect, and this seems to be the end of the time when people could disagree on political issues, but be friends after the offices closed.

I am convinced that Ronald Reagan was genuine in his patriotism. I think he really did believe in America and its people and the ideals of our founding fathers. And at a time when patriotism was unfashionable, he was unashamedly patriotic. I admire that. I think Reagan genuinely meant it when he said, “Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.”

I also believe that, even though I can’t agree with most of his positions and policies, he truly believed in them, and believed they were the best course for the country. I think he really did try to do his best, and failed only when other people with less noble motives were involved. Even then, Reagan didn’t do too badly at owning up to the situation and taking responsibility, as in the Iran-Contra Scandal.

Ronald and NancyClearly, he and Nancy Reagan were as completely in love as two people can be. She protected and cared for him in many ways. We laughed at some of the ways. Our cynicism lead us to just not believe it sometimes, but at the end of the day, she stuck it out to a very bitter and sad end, and then shared her husband with us all once again.

Reagan did help end communism as a major threat, and he did help restore some belief in the high ideals of America. So, as they say today, I give him “props.”

He was, in his heart, a good and decent man, who really did try to do his best. As Lady Margaret Thatcher said in her tribute, “Ronald Reagan knew his own mind. He had firm principles — and, I believe, right ones. He expounded them clearly, he acted upon them decisively.”

So what, if anything, will cause him to be viewed by history as “great?”

I don’t think I’m ready to see his face carved on Mount Rushmore. Believe it or not though, I’m not convinced that his face should be on a piece of U.S. currency. Reagan left the country with record deficits. He ignored the growing AIDS crisis in the U.S. and the world, and supply-side economics just didn’t work.

There is no doubt the Iran-Contra scandal is a major blot on the Reagan Presidency. It was a serious issue, and the Teflon President got basically a free ride on that.

World leaders attend the Reagan funeral.Ronald Reagan’s policies did help bring an end to the Cold War and Soviet Communism. His policies and rhetoric were instrumental in the bringing down of the Berlin Wall. Of that, there is no doubt. Eulogies by Brain Mulroney and Margaret Thatcher are indications of his broad influence on the world. Just think about how remarkable the scene of former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev standing in the U.S. Capital Rotunda to pay respects. Indeed, a remarkable statement.

And while not happy about it, he did wake up the Republican Party and bring them and their ideals to the fore. In the past, the Republicans had to typically try to play “me too” behind the Democrats.

Now I’m a Democrat, so make no mistake, I do not think there is anything good for the country in having the Republicans in power, but one of the most important jobs of the President is to be the leader of his/her party. Reagan did that as no one had before, and he certainly got the Republican agenda front and center. So, even if you don’t agree with that agenda, you have to give him credit for fulfilling his obligation to his party.

Reagan Leaves the National CaptialReagan’s legacy will live on well beyond him, and again, that’s part of the job of a great leader…like it or not.

So, as I’ve reflected on Reagan during this week of mourning and services, I’ve come to the conclusion that he was a good and decent man who left a legacy, and had a strong and positive impact on the World. A man who may well be the last of his kind, and all things considered, we may be worse off without people who live and believe as he did, than with the type of leaders we have today.

I extend my sympathy to Mrs. Reagan and his children and the rest of their family.

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