Ninety-eight years ago, Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in the small town of Tampico, Illinois. After a career in Hollywood, he would become the governor of California and then the fortieth president of the United States of America. Scholars and partisans will continue to argue about his legacy, but that is not the purpose of this post. I wish to celebrate the man whom I, not having a grandfather myself, identified as the grandfatherly figure in my life. Perhaps it was his photograph on the wall at the front of my elementary school class, or perhaps it was seeing him on television and hearing his comforting voice that resounded with humility and strength that made me think of him so. Having right wing parents probably helped, too. I have noted how objectionable I find the cultic euphoria over Barack Obama, though I somewhat understand the emotional power of a governing figurehead due to my own experience growing up under the steady watch of President Reagan.
I was fortunate to be in Washington when Reagan died. I visited the Capitol to see his body lie in state under the dome; I walked around the casket around six o’clock in the morning when the rotunda was full but silent. Americans might be republicans, but we rather casually exhibit our regal impulses. In the Capitol and in the memorial events throughout the city, it felt as though our beloved and aged king had died. I confess that I teared up; in some childish but nonetheless sincere way, I felt as if the uniformed soldiers standing guard around the casket were honoring our departed paterfamilias rather than a mere politician. He was a very special man.
In honor of the President’s birthday, I am linking various videos. The first set is of President Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech to the National Association of Evangelicals (unfortunately in sound only). It still shocks me that an American president would or could make such arguments.
Here is an excerpt of Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech at the Republican Convention during the Goldwater campaign.
Here is the famous “age issue” moment in the Reagan - Mondale debate.
You may listen to President Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech in Berlin.
Lastly, here is President Reagan’s farewell address.
Ronald Reagan, memory eternal!