Monday is Presidents Day and most will be writing about George Washington or perhaps another president from our history. But I prefer to remember the president that I regard as having been by far the best of our life times. That would of course be the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, who was elected in 1980 and reelected in 1984 by one of the largest landslides in our country's history.
Reagan became known to many when he gave that infamous speech in 1964 endorsing Barry Goldwater for president against Lyndon Johnson. Reagan said, in part, in that speech, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done. “
From very early on as a candidate in 1980, Ronald Reagan showed he was very different from just about all politicians. While campaigning in North Carolina before that state's primary, a voter asked Reagan if he preferred to be right on the issues or get elected president. As most know, it's easy to think one has to compromise principles in an effort to get elected, and that any candidate who is too honest with the voters, and tells the truth too much, stands little chance of being elected. Reagan answer that question, and told the audience, “with your help I'll be both.” Reagan truly believed he could be elected president without compromising his core political principles.
At a time when politicians stumble of each other to race to a microphone or television camera to get attention and take credit for anything, Ronald Reagan was just the opposite, known for saying, “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit.”
When the moderates tried to silence him during a debate in New Hampshire by turning off his microphone, Reagan stood up and uttered those infamous words, “I am paying for this microphone.”
At a time when liberals and moderate preached compromise with the failed ideology of the left, Ronald Reagan knew that, as he said in 1980, “Government is not the solution, government is the problem.” The growth of excessively big government that got in the way of economic progress, Reagan knew, had to be reduced in size in scope to bring back a dynamic and growing private sector economy. It's a shame our current president isn't sufficiently educated enough about the proper role of government in a free society, and an understanding of basic economics, to understand what Ronald Reagan so readily knew and understood.
Reagan got elected and cut taxes and deregulated the economy, and rebuilt the military and allowed the American people to create the most robust economic recovery we have every seen since the Great Depression.
Many will remember the 1980 debate between Reagan and incumbent Jimmy Carter. Few remember what he was droning on about, but Carter was lecturing in his usual style about how we needed so-called “National Health Care,” which Reagan knew was socialized medicine plain and simple, and he very simply responded to Carter by saying, “there you go again.”
While campaigning in 1980 and highlighting the bad economy, Reagan often said, “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”
Many remember the February 1981 assassination attempt, and having been shot in the chest and being taken into George Washington University Hospital, Reagan showed his sense of humor in saying to the doctors before undergoing surgery, “"I hope you are all Republicans.”
President Reagan ran in 1984 for reelection against the liberal former Minnesota senator, and Carter administration Vice President, Walter Mondale. In the debate, Mondale sought to take advantage of Reagan's age, and the president responded by saying, “I will not exploit for political purposes, my opponent's relative youth and inexperience.” It was immediately the most memorable moment of a debate that Reagan had clearly won over Mondale.
Perhaps the finest moment, among many, of the Reagan presidency was when Ronald Reagan spoke at the Berlin Wall just a few years before it would ultimately come crumbling down. Despite all his advisers counseling him against it, and removing it from his speech, when he delivered that speech, Reagan insisted and did speak those words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” President Reagan's policies did lead to victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and that wall did come down. Before the end of the single term of his successor as president, George H.W. Bush, the wall came down and the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
Who could forget one of the most famous open microphone moments, when Reagan joked and said, “I have signed legislation outlawing Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” It was a joke, but the regime in Moscow heard the message loud and clear. That is by far a much better way to send a message to the Soviet leader, than to think of our current president who told the Russian leader to wait until after his reelection, at which time he'll have more “flexibility” from which to sell out American interests.
I think his most brilliant moment of his second terms was his State of the Union address in 1987 when he brought with him copies of the “continuing resolutions” that Congress had passed, gigantic documents several thousands of pages long and made up of two reams of paper, to show the American people just how broken our system of government had become. Just think it's become far worse even than that since. Our current federal government has neither passed nor lived within a budget for the past four years.
President Reagan's sense of humor was unmatched by any other president or politician. One of my personal favorites was in 1988 when he made a very politically incorrect jab at then Democratic nominee for president, liberal Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis. The press had made an issue of fringe candidate and lunatic Lyndon LaRouche alleging that Dukakis had been treated from being mentally unstable. One reporter, at the end of a press conference, asked President Reagan what he thought about LaRouche's allegations against Dukakis. Reagan delivered the perfect response and told the reporter he wouldn't “pick on an invalid.”
Once again showing his humor, Ronald Reagan spoke at the 1992 Republican convention and said he had Democratic nominee Bill Clinton had compared himself to Thomas Jefferson, and Reagan said, “Governor Clinton, I knew Thomas Jefferson, he was a friend of mine, and Governor Clinton, you're no Thomas Jefferson.”
Ronald Reagan was right about the issue and quite profound at the same time. He could be no more relevant today if he was alive and said this again, “We don't have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven't taxed enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.” That remains to true and profound at it applies to our current problems.
Perhaps the most important and profound of many statements Ronald Reagan made was this one: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Ronald Reagan left us on June 5, 2004 at the age of 93 years. His intelligence, wisdom, leadership and everything else he blessed us with over the years will never be forgotten. This writing only scratches the surface of so much that we have to remember from the life and times and presidency of Ronald Reagan. I'm sure many of your have your favorite moments and quotes that didn't make it into this article. Feel free to use the comment section below to add your memories and comments about the greatest president in our lifetimes.
Monday is Presidents Day. Let's also honor the presidency and greatness that was our 40th president, Ronald Reagan.
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