As a boy I remember him as an actor in war movies and later as a host for introducing popular shows such as the GE Theatre, but he really grabbed my attention when he gave a very special speech in support of Barry Goldwater for President in 1964. His eloquence and upbeat manner in support of Mr. Conservative grabbed my soul. And it was the spark that launched not too long thereafter his entering politics. And he did so with energy and gusto that infected all who heard him speak. He clearly knew how to reach the pulse of America.
After two terms at the helm of the Golden State, "The Gipper" looked at the bigger picture of Washington. Reagan had a vision of what America should be and he knew that, after the Nixon Presidency, the nation needed a leader who projected both hope and promise, not a milquetoast country club Republican like Gerald Ford. Ford was a decent man, but he could put me to sleep with any speech while Reagan brought me and many like me alive. And we knew that if Reagan were the nominee, he would run rings around a weak candidate like Jimmy Carter.
Against all odds, he challenged Ford for the 1976 nomination, one which was projected to be a non-event selection of Ford. And while he was unsuccessful, he came within a whisker of taking the prize and that catapulted him toward 1980 when he not only won the White House, but did so with ease. He just had a way of breaking big things down into words which anyone could understand and he could even take on his biggest opponents while maintaining a captivating smile on his face.
As President, he quickly put America back to work again, interest rates dropped dramatically and ultimately through his direct challenge to the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russians realized they were bankrupting themselves and had to relent. The taking down of the Berlin Wall was a great symbolic touch to what had been accomplished. And much of it was done with his uncanny ability to gain allies who saw things as he did. His relationship with "The Iron Lady," British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was noteworthy as these two devotees of individual freedom and liberty worked so well together to end the Cold War. And that relationship also included close working on life's spiritual side with Pope John Paul II, the former Polish priest who knew first hand how evil Communism is.
Reagan had his detractors on the Left who tried to undercut what he did, and sadly he was duped by Senator Ted Kennedy with the 1986 amnesty bill which gave the amnesty and still left us without adequate border security, but after all, he was human. Any errors he made were overcome by the hope, belief in America's future and the strides he made to pull back from the march toward socialism. He and his good friend Mrs. Thatcher and the Pope all knew that socialism could never provide the utopia it promises once it ran out of other people's money.
So, on this day which would be his one hundred and seventh birthday, I hope all Americans will take a moment and remember this great man with endless energy, abounding hope and total commitment to America, a place he loved dearly. He will always be remembered and even today thinking about him, it makes me smile.