by Mark Armstrong
Today (June 5th), America lost a great leader, perhaps our greatest President. A man who had the courage to stand by his convictions, and at a time of great pessimism, turned this nation around. Anyone of the age of adulthood by 1980 will recall the crushing depression which clouded the American psyche. The United States had been repeatedly humiliated, not the least by Iranian radicals holding American hostages. Interest rates were completely out of sight, and for those who hadn’t achieved it already, so was the American dream. Ronald Reagan brought optimism back. Initially, with his soaring speeches, he made this nation believe that it could return to prosperity, to a position of benevolent world leadership. Against the better judgment of a skeptical media, the country believed him. He was elected President with a handful of ideas, principles, convictions and the ability to translate them into action. As we grieve with the shock of the finality of his departure, it is appropriate that we reflect on the qualities that made Ronald Reagan great.
Many who knew him well, professionally and personally are going on record with their personal recollections and impressions, their obvious love and respect, illustrating the mettle of a man who left an indelible mark on modern history. The qualities being enumerated are not empty accolades, and anybody old enough to remember knows it. He stood firmly for principles he believed in, and no potential bad press or political fallout could deter him. He was a man with a clear vision and great courage. A man of simplicity, clarity, optimism, consistently pro-American. Ronald Reagan was able to disagree with his rivals and detractors without being disagreeable, and without engendering bitterness in his opponents, as was stated by former President George H. W. Bush.
Richard Allen, former National Security Advisor spoke today on how American policy toward the Soviet Union and communism at large changed under Reagan. After years of pursuing a policy of détente, military parity and the maintenance of a status quo, Reagan instituted a new doctrine. “We win, they lose.” Snobbish Europeans, American intellectuals and the mainstream media cast him as reckless and furthermore, a dunderhead. But he won the Cold War, defeated communism, and brought about and the collapse of the Soviet Union without a shot having ever been fired.
Ronald Reagan’s accomplishments as president are staggering, and they will be enumerated at length by many who worked intimately with him and were otherwise closely associated with those events in the days ahead. But he also set an incredible personal example for us all. This evening, President George W. Bush made a statement in response to President Ronald Reagan’s death. In it, twice, he referred to his belief that Ronald Reagan will be rewarded in the afterlife. He remarked that Reagan “had the confidence that comes with conviction, the strength that comes with character, the grace that comes with humility, and the humor that comes with wisdom.” How beautifully true!
Congressman Henry Hyde said, “A giant left us today…he was a great patriot, a great optimist and one of the greatest presidents in our history. We should thank God for letting us have him as long as we did.”
In the days ahead, we’ll have the pleasure of reliving many of the great moments of his presidency which made history. Many of the stories we’ve heard before, but they’re worth hearing and understanding again. Let’s hope the "X generation," and those too young to remember will pay attention and understand. The qualities Ronald Reagan exuded are in short supply.
A photograph of Mr. Reagan’s Bible, very worn and taped together, showed that he had bracketed and underlined a verse in 2 Chronicles, and written in the margin, “A most wonderful verse for the healing of the nations.” It is Chapter 7, verse 14 and reads, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
It is apparent that Ronald Reagan believed in, and applied principles higher than mere political ideals or negotiating strategies. He actually displayed those principles known as “the fruits of the spirit” and succeeded beyond all expectation. That is something to bear in mind as we are treated to clips, the quotes, and the incredible stories we’ll hear in the days ahead. He succeeded not because he was a great politician, but because he was a thoughtful and good man, and I believe, because he looked to God for guidance and help. As the President said earlier this evening, for Ronald Reagan, “the best is yet to come.” Amen