[SET: ITALICS] Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversari

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 16, 2004

That was the Ronald Wilson Reagan the world remembers.

The ability to inspire America to its greatest level. The drive to paint America red, white and blue. The dedication to pull this nation into its role as the world’s only superpower.

Ronald Reagan embodied for us the Great American Spirit. He restored our faith in the nation and he gave us the courage to surge ahead. Under “the Gipper’s” leadership, our nation healed its wounds and united.

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In the end, he had fulfilled the campaign promise made in 1980 when he was running against then-President Jimmy Carter: the “Reagan Revolution” was a success. He had restored “the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism.”

His was a rags-to-riches story. His father had been an alcoholic shoe salesman. Reagan wasn’t bashful about his Illinois roots, and in many ways was the typical all-American boy. He played football at in high school then worked his way through college and, armed with a degree in sociology and economics, became a radio sports announcer. In 1937, he garnered a Hollywood film contract, spending the next 20 years making 53 movies.

It was against this backdrop, Mr. Reagan would abandon any liberal leanings he might have. As president of the Screen Actors Guild, he became a staunch anti-communist. He offered the litmus test: “How do you tell a communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”

Mr. Reagan’s legacy was finally fulfilled when the “wall” if communism fell with the crumbling of the Soviet Union. For however great that achievement, his social and economic reforms in this nation left a legacy far more important to the nation.

A powerful force on Capitol Hill, in 1986 he marshaled an overhaul of the income tax code that eliminated many exemptions but also exempted millions of low-income Americans. The nation, at the end of the Reagan Era, had enjoyed its longest recorded period of peacetime prosperity without recession or depression. Reaganomics, had been applied and had proven successful.

For all his successes, Mr. Reagan had entered the White House with very few specifics, very few ideas. The ones he had – they were big. They were inspiring. They were accomplished.

[SET: ITALICS] 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.

Thank you, Mr. Reagan, for propelling us to greatness.