The Gipper is dead. It’s a sad day in the golden age of America that he so fervently believed in. One of my heroes, arguably one of the better presidents to ever grace the oval office, is gone and I can’t help but be sad.
When people find out I’m a registered Republican I’m usually met with a lot of disbelief. Most people who know me well enough to know many of my core beliefs do not believe that I am one and they think I’m pulling their leg. In truth, I’m not the type of Republican that our party represents today. I became politically aware during the Carter/Reagan years and I still identify myself most strongly with the convictions and the beliefs of Reagan.
When I identify myself as a Republican, I’m more accurately a “Reagan Republican” because I believe in America, I believe in freedom, I believe in patriotism and I believe that hard times call for hard choices. I cannot stomach the policies of today’s Republican party though, who seem hell bent on taking away personal freedoms, centralizing and aggregating power and protecting their own self-interests over everything else while shrouding themselves in false patriotism and false morality.
Ronald Reagan was the type of Republican that made me proud to be one also. Yes, Reagan made some bad decisions and I don’t pretend to think everything he did was golden. However, in the balance of things, the good he did in my mind far outweighs the bad . Unlike the Republicans of today who go out of their way to embarrass me or make me ashamed, the Gipper hewed to an ideology of sincerity, compassion, dignity and respect. He was ironwilled in his convictions, yet oh so human in his connections with his fellow man. Reagan was one of the most popular presidents of our time. He’s ranked right up there in the top 10 or 15 presidents ever, depending on which survey you read. That’s pretty impressive, considering the amount of contention around the man and how many people claim to hate him. For the most part, even the people that disagreed with his politics respected him. With his passing, a lot of dignity has gone out of the political scene and we’re poorer for it.
I once got into a discussion, almost an argument, with my Political Science professor over Reagan once. I made the casual offhand remark that Reagan wrote a lot of his own speeches. Professor Wright pounced on me, telling me I was wrong, and basically insinuating that I was crazy for even thinking such a thing let alone stating it. He did not believe me, even when I mentioned a book of his speeches I have called “In His Own Hand” and went on to poke fun at my expense a few times.
Well, much is being made today in the news (both television and print) about Reagan and his prolific speechwriting. Many people have mentioned how he wrote many of his own speeches, how he was a masterful writer and a prolific letter writer. Stories are being circulated about him throwing out or changing speeches at the last minute. I’d like to take a minute here to simply say to my professor, “Hah! In your face!” I hope he’s watching some of these news shows and thinking to himself “Man, I owe Gary an apology” but in reality I doubt if he is. I don’t think I’m quite that memorable.
Many people are aware that the Gipper was known as “The Great Communicator” but they also think he got this nickname just from his talent for public speaking. His ability to be at ease while speaking to millions of people was legendary, but his ability to write clearly and concisely about his thoughts are nothing short of phenomenal. The book of speeches that I have is a fascinating read because you can clearly see how his thoughts developed about policies. The book is basically just a collection of photocopied speeches and essays he wrote, replete with crossouts, corrections and rewordings. Anyone who understands and appreciates the subtle differences in phrasing and word choices can go through and see how words do in fact mean things and can appreciate the true beauty and artistry that can exist in our language when wielded by a master.
President Reagan has left on his next journey. His long sunset is over, but I’d like to think he left behind an America worthy of his legacy. I’d like to see someone in office, be they Democrat or Republican, worthy of inheriting his vision of a “morning in America.” We need a good old fashioned dose of optimism and belief in ourselves, we need the sunny days he so fervently believed in. Mr. President, I’m hoping you’ll look down on us from time to time and put in a good word with the big guy. We’re counting on you.
Goodbye, Mr. President, and thank you.