Much of the discussion over the past week about President Reagan has revolved around broad and general aspects of his presidency such as his influence on the end of the cold war and the impact his policies had on creating the longest economic boom in this nation's history. These things can be debated endlessly and most likely will for the next century, but what can't be debated is President Reagan's influence on me. I have put off posting my feeling on the death of President Reagan not because of ambiguity, but because I had not yet formed the words that best articulate how a man whom I never met, who was 65 years my elder had impacted my life.
I have always been a person who has followed the news religiously. I remember the first space Shuttle flight, I remember the general feeling of discount during the Carter administration, I remember when Walter Cronkite retired( not a sad day) and I remember when Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected President
I remember, even as a very young boy, how the election had changed the general feeling of those who surrounded me. The nation was uplifted under the leadership of this man.
Through all the congressional battles and media bias against Reagan, one event forever solidified Reagan's place in my heart, the Challenger disaster. I was one of the young school children who followed that mission closely. Our class wrote to Christa McAuliffe(the school teacher) and the whole event had peaked our curiosity of the space program. When the disaster occurred we were devastated. It was these words by President Reagan that comforted us:
"And I want to say something to the school children of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.
I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. "
These words were important because he was comforting me while teaching a valuable lesson in life. He concluded with words that left a lasting mark on me for the rest of my life:
"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."
Even in disaster, President Reagan was the champion of freedom and the fundamental principles that tie all Americans together. His commitment to Freedom and defiance in a time a tragedy would influence me for years to come.
I have never been a supporter of President Nixon's Ultra-Realists policies nor do I find the republicans of the early 20th century, with the exception of Teddy Roosevelt, particularly compelling. Be it my affinity for the writings John Locke or Thomas Hobbs or my belief in free market solutions to problems, President Reagan shaped my ideological beliefs even before I knew what ideological beliefs were. If you ever find yourself saying "A rising tide lifts all ships" while not knowing where it comes from, you can identify.
President Reagan fought valiantly for the beliefs he held dear. He influenced a Generation of people with his political philosophy that was rooted in that of the Founding Fathers and taught the nation that America was Great and, despite our flaws, we represent all that the world should aspire to achieve. I was not alive during the Vietnam War, nor was I alive for Watergate so my political beliefs are not rooted in the cynicism of the 60's and 70's but rather the optimism of the 80's, the optimism Reagan brought back to this country. The values that Reagan instilled in people like myself created a generation of people who believe that freedom is a right bestowed upon us by our creator and that when freedom exists, conflict can be avoided, but the nation should never deny its status as a "shining city on a hill" and avoid conflict especially when Freedom and democracy is challenged.
Through all the cultural shifts that have occurred in the past 20 years, if half of my generation was influenced by President Reagan's message as I was, it will continue to be morning in America for generations to come.
"In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea; With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free; While God is marching on"
-Battle Hymn of the Republic