Skip to comments.Ronald Reagan: The American Spirit
Posted on 06/10/2004 8:56:05 AM PDT by MadIvan
On January 20th, 1981, Ronald Reagan, after being sworn in as the 40th President of the United States, looked out over the Mall and addressed the nation. He told us that the challenges of our day required:
"Our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with Gods help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And, after all, why shouldnt we believe that? We are Americans."
I remember the celebrations that evening like they happened yesterday. It was a bitterly cold evening. As our nation celebrated a new beginning, it was as if the cold January winds swept away a nations doubts and fears and replaced them with a renewed American spirit.
Ronald Reagan was a unique American leader who understood the greatness and the goodness of America. He knew who he was and what he believed. Over the last century, no American President was as well grounded as Ronald Reagan. He had faith and confidence in the people of America, and that trust was reciprocated.
As much as anyone who came before or after him, Ronald Reagan possessed an innate understanding of the significance of the American presidency. Ronald and Nancy Reagan set the gold-standard for grace, dignity and class in the White House. Reagan understood the weight and consequences of his office beyond the borders of the United States. The world looked to him as a standard bearer of freedom. Reagan also understood the importance of the presidency to young people. The responsibility of being a role model to a nations youth rested easily on his shoulders.
Ronald Reagan is known as the great communicator. While he certainly was one of the best communicators ever to hold the presidency, he was far more than just a talented communicator. Reagan was a thinker and a writer. He was constantly writing beautiful letters and his speeches in long-hand. Today, these speeches and letters are national treasures. Reagan thought deeply about the great issues of his time without getting drug down into the underbrush of detail and trivia. He was not a superfluous man. Our nation was guided by his clarity of purpose, understanding of the purpose of power and the limitations of government.
Since Reagan left the American political stage, we have missed his imagination and creativity. Since his days of sitting in a radio studio doing play-by-play broadcasts for baseball games from news wire service copy, Reagan had a genuineness that served him well. He was a masterful story-teller. In todays age of processed politics and politicians, Reagans candor and humor are sorely lacking.
Ronald Reagan was a child of humble beginnings who never forgot the little guy. He believed every American had something special to contribute. Reagan let people know that each thread of the American fabric mattered.
In late September of 1980, I was working as an adviser on the Reagan-Bush campaign. One evening, I was part of a group invited to an estate near Middleburg, Virginia where then-Governor and Nancy Reagan were staying. They wanted to thank us for the work we had done for the campaign with a wonderful dinner. As the evening was ending, an aide to Governor Reagan asked me to remain after the dinner because Governor Reagan wanted to speak with me. I was taken into the house where Governor Reagan was staying. He sat down next to me and told me he wanted to talk about Vietnam. He wanted to know about my experience and what I thought about the war. That was the kind of man he was. He wanted to understand things. He wanted to know things and he wanted to make the world better than it was.
Though his individual accomplishments are great, Ronald Reagan will be remembered for something far greater than the sum of his individual accomplishments; he will be remembered for renewing the American spirit. He was a true American original. We will never see one like him again.
Over the last decade as we struggled to meet the challenges of our time, Ronald Reagan slipped away from us. He now belongs to the warmth of eternity and the pages of history. However, he has not left us to meet our challenges alone. The lessons of his leadership and the strength of his spirit, that swept across our country on a cold day in January twenty-four years ago, guide us still today.
RONALD W. REAGAN! This name was at the absolute center of every major world event for eight years. The once unknown radio announcer from Dixon, Illinois became the leader of the free world. In a few years he led America from one success to another, reinforcing its status as a world power. The newspapers of the entire world first mocked him, then found ever new ways to libel him. According to his enemies, Ronald W. Reagan was a true devil, the embodiment of all evil.
The more one knew him, the more one had to love and honor him. Our children and children's children will envy us because we were fellow workers and fighters of this greatest and best American.
Ronald Reagan was more than just a great man, he was a good man. A truly, truly good man. Such a rare thing to find in politics, as power tends to twist and corrupt most formerly decent men. But, Reagan stayed the course, stayed true to himself, his Creator, his country and countrymen. His motives never needed to be second-guessed. He could always be counted on to be firmly in freedom's corner.
He really was the embodiment of the American spirit. At a time when we'd forgotten what we looked like, along came Reagan to serve as a great and shining mirror. His body has died, but his spirit lives on. It lives on in us. And, thanks to Ronald Reagan, the American spirit now even lives in places like Grenada, Eastern Europe, and Russia. We will sorely miss him, but perhaps God missed him too, and that's why He called him home.
I will be paying my last respects to this great (and good) man tonight. Since, I'm fortunate enough to live in Northern Virginia, I'll be leaving for D.C around sunset and will stand in line all night in the rain if I have to for a chance to say farewell to this President who I can honestly say that I loved. It's something I just have to do. I can't stay away.
MadIvan, I know how much you loved him too, and that it must pain you to be an ocean away. Is there anything you want me to do or say on your behalf while I'm there? I'll be more than happy to oblige.
It's great to see you posting again, even though the circumstances that brought you back are so sad. I'm glad you're here. It's been a sorrowful week, and your renewed presence on FR has lifted my spirits and brought some comfort. Count me among the many FReepers who welcome you back. You were sorely missed, too.
I would appreciate it if there is a book of condolence, that if you could write my name in it for me.
Best Regards, Ivan
OK, it's as good as done. If there is a book of condolence, your name will be in it. Should I write something like "Ivan from the UK"? You can Freepmail me with what you want exactly, and I'll send you a photo of your name being written in the book (if I'm allowed to take a picture of it).
My thanks. :)
Best Regards, Ivan
Best Regards, Kellyliz
Yes, there was a condolence book area on the way out of the Capital Building, and at 6:30 AM on Friday, I signed your name in the book exactly the way you requested: "Ivan from London, UK and Freerepublic.com".
We arrived in D.C. around 11:00 PM on Thursday, and got in line to pay our last respects to President Reagan at 11:30 PM on the dot. We finally entered the Rotunda after a 7 hour wait. (Fortunately, it didn't rain.) I'm a jogger and in fit shape, but by the time the sun came up, I was staggering I was so exhausted. A number of people, over a hundred easily, were so tired they just laid down on the grass and fell asleep right there in line. The later it got, the more people we had to step over or around. The line didn't really stop that much or for very long, so in a sense it was a slow continuous 7 hour march. I can't imagine what it must have been like to do that during the heat of the day (and all those people who did have my utmost respect).
All types of people from all over the country were there. The guy behind us was an older man who'd flown in from New Orleans. The guys in front of us were a couple of "Young Conservatives"/ college students. There were several members of the US military in line wearing their dress uniforms. At one point we passed a series of news vans. We kept passing van after van with no one saying a word, until we passed the Fox News van, then people started pointing and exclaiming, "Look it's Fox News!" Around 3:30 AM some reporter came up and asked how long we'd been waiting in line, when people answered with "4 hours", the guy looked at us like we were all crazy. (Hmmm... must've been from CNN.)
The Park Service workers gave us a bottle of water every couple hours. There were police everywhere, and they were very friendly and helpful. I guess we were their kind of crowd: orderly, respectful, well-behaved... not averse to bathing. The later it got, the more people started doing things like singing to keep awake. We heard "God Bless America", and a large group ahead of us kept singing "Happy Birthday" to someone. Nobody sang "Kumbaya", though. hehehe.
The reason we went when we did was to avoid the heat of the day, because I didn't want to be forced to wear casual clothing. I wore my nicest black dress with a small American flag pin on the lapel. (I'm so glad, I had the foresight to carry my heels in a bag and wear Reeboks while waiting in line. I doubt I would've made it if I hadn't.) At sunrise, I looked back, and saw that the line was still very long with people standing where we'd been hours ago. I know they must've had to turn people away.
For some reason, around 5:00 AM, even we were told by the Park Service people that we might not make it to the front of the line in time to be allowed into the Rotunda. In a weird way, I didn't care. As badly as I wanted to pay last respects, I also wanted so many people to show up that there was no way the throng could possibly be accommodated. (So, it was only fair to be content with the prospect that one of those unaccommodated people might end up being me.)
We went through a couple of security checkpoints. One quickie "peek in the bag I was carrying" checkpoint before entering the grounds of the Capital Building, then the "metal detectors and everything" checkpoint. They took my lighter away from me and checked to make sure my cell phone was turned off, then they let me pass. I'd already switched my shoes, and was almost as wobbly as a little girl wearing mom's high heels for the first time (I was that tired), but being so close also gave me a second-wind. There was a tiny shrine next to the last security checkpoint with a photo of President Reagan where a few people had left bouquets of flowers (one of the items on the "Forbidden to bring into the Rotunda" list.)
We walked up some ramps to get to the balcony. There were a handful of police officers up there. One of them was holding a cool looking short-barreled shotgun and watching the street below. Near the foot of the stairs to the Rotunda, I realized how close I was to actually being there and started getting nervous. The people around me, who'd all been chattering away less than 10 minutes ago, were now silent and somber. No one said a word as we ascended the stairs. I looked at my watch; it was 6:24 AM. Then, I entered the Rotunda.
I can't really explain everything I thought and felt. A rapid stream of memories (flashes of various images of President Reagan talking, smiling, debating... remembering the sound of his voice when he laughed... and other memories too, memories of the way things were...) I felt a little lost, sad, and serene all at once... awed, grateful, hopeful, then heartbroken, then at peace. Since, I don't allow myself to cry in public, I had quite the battle with the lump in my throat. The Rotunda was very quiet, except for the sound of people's feet and an attendant's softened voice instructing us to keep moving. I turned, took one last look, whispered "goodbye", then left. On the way out I received a card.
There was a tent on the street next to the stairs I'd just descended with condolence books. There was a very short line and about eight or so books out with people signing them. I signed your name, then signed mine.
Wow, this has got to be the longest post I've ever made. I just wanted you to get the feel of what it was like to be there, hence the detailed account. I'll shut up now.