I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Ronald Reagan. I was just eleven years old when John Hinckley shot him. I saw the assassination attempt on tv and was horrified by it. I felt helpless and couldn't believe that such a thing could happen. I was too young to know about JFK, RFK and MLK - political assassination was new to me.
I wrote my president a letter letting him know that he was in my prayers. I sent my silly little letter to the White House, and felt better, even though I figured he would never see it.
To my surprise, two months later I received a card in the mail, and the return address was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It was just a little white card, embossed with the presidential seal, thanking me for my concern and well wishes. There was no personal signature, of course, but all the same, it meant a lot to an impressionable young girl worried about her president. Ever after, I have felt a connection to and deep affection for our 40th president. The card is long since gone, a casualty of a nomadic childhood, but the affection remains.
Reagan was the first president to survive an assassination attempt. He came to believe that God has spared his life so that he could fulfill a greater purpose. Many believe that purpose was fulfilled when the Iron Curtain fell in 1989 and the "Evil Empire" was destroyed, due in great part to pressure from Reagan's administration.
Unlike the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he believed that America truly was a force for good in the world, and that our strength would help keep the peace:
Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.
Love him or hate him, it is hard to deny that he improved this country's place in the world. His ideology of peace through strength was forged in a youth that saw not one but two world wars. He saw himself as the leader of the free world and, as such, performed his duties with dignity and humility. He was known for his wit, and even after all these years, his words still reflect his wisdom in how the world works.
Time Magazine, in it's "Ronald Reagan at 100" special edition, calls Reagan the
"mythic embodiment of all that was best about America, at a time when Americans perhaps needed it most,"It could be argued that he is just as needed today as he was then.
One hundred years ago today, a great man was born. He left this world in 2004, but his legacy will remain:
Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done. We finished the race; we kept them free; we kept the faith.