Reagan was the president who believed in us

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 16, 2004

In reflecting on the passing of President Ronald Reagan, I began to read again some of his great speeches and came across something I had not noticed before.

In his farewell address Reagan said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

Not in the Oval Office or in Congress did he see movements beginning, not in the ivory tower habitats of intellectuals or the jaded and cynical offices of American media, but in the homes of everyday Americans.

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This was so Reagan.

When confronted with obstacles to his vision for America, Reagan went over and around them and went directly to the people of America. Reagan had a tremendous faith in the common sense and common decency of the majority of Americans.

In many respects, he sat down to dinner with us and convinced us of his ideas because he knew that if the Reagan Revolution were going to take root, it would be around the family table.

In this simple observation lies the secret of his success. Reagan did not concern himself with what the media and intellectual elites thought of him or his ideas; he did not let political opponents or the naysayers in his own party discourage him from pursuing what he clearly believed was “America’s rendezvous with destiny.”

To succeed in pulling America out of the military, economic and spiritual malaise of the ’60s and ’70s he knew he would have to inspire the American people as a whole to believe that America’s best days were still ahead.

Reagan was determined to restore America’s self-confidence and strength in the face of the extraordinarily difficult problems that faced the nation by returning to core values and principles that most politicians of that era had long abandoned.

He constantly reminded us of these principles and appealed to us to help him restore America’s greatness so that together we could preserve for future generations “the last best hope of man on Earth.”

Reagan met a need; he soothed a deep aching in the American soul for someone the people could trust, for someone that could relate to them, but also for a leader that would not cower before our enemies.

America desperately needed someone it could respect and in Reagan those needs were met.

Reagan was not a perfect man, not by a long shot.

But he was the perfect man for that time and place in American history.

In his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention, Reagan called on the people of America to help him renew the American compact and return to the core values so important to the founding of this nation.

Reagan said, “I ask you not simply to ‘trust me,’ but to trust your values – our values – and to hold me responsible for living up to them.”

He called for a renewal of the American spirit that he said knew no bounds, the spirit that he had seen all over America that was “…ready to blaze into life if you and I are willing to do what has to be done.”

Reagan’s vision for American renewal was not to use government to channel the energies of the American people, but to unleash them.

And that he did … and together we changed the world.

In these days of remembrance, gather your children and grandchildren around the dinner table and tell them about the Reagan Revolution.

Tell them about those dark days in America when it seemed we had lost our strength and our courage.

And tell them how a seemingly ordinary man rose from a humble upbringing to restore our faith in America and in ourselves.

Help them to see things with the moral clarity that Reagan had; tell them that our choices are not between left and right, but between right and wrong, between good and evil.

We must be diligent in this because it is up to those of us of the Reagan Generation to teach those that follow us the principles under-girding faith, family and freedom that Reagan brought back to America.

And it is up to us to tell our children that not only can one man make a difference, one man can start a revolution that can change the world.

Tell your children and grandchildren that though he has taken his leave of this earth, the revolution he inspired must continue through us, and as it does, America’s sun will always be rising.

Do this around the family table because that is not only where “…great change in America begins,” that is where it will be sustained.

Do this because, who knows, the next Reagan may be sitting at your table tonight.