Thursday, February 10, 2011

More On Reagan

On Sunday I wrote about Ronald Reagan to commemorate his 100th birthday. Two days later I heard a radio caller describe an encounter he had with him in 1980.

The caller was in college at the time, and like many college students his political views were positioned well to the left of center. He attended a campaign speech that Reagan gave on campus, after which Reagan shook people’s hands. When Reagan reached out to him, he said, “You know, I’m not a Republican,” and the future president responded simply by grinning and saying, “Well, neither was I when I was your age.”

That anecdote captured Reagan’s personality better than anything I could hammer out from my keyboard. He was comfortable in his skin and serene in his confidence that people of good faith would, more often than not, eventually come around to his way of thinking because that is where the realities of life would lead them.

He did not respond to the college kid by repeating the talking points of whatever stump speech he had just given. Instead, knowing that the speech stood on its own merits, he was quick to find common ground with the kid, and to use that common ground to address him as a fellow citizen in good standing.

Reagan did not demean himself or the kid by embarking on a tit-for-tat debate or groveling for a vote. Instead, he made a brief but thought-provoking point and moved on.

One of the things I always admired about Reagan is the ability he had to be partisan without being prickly. He could dismiss liberal ideas without dismissing liberal people, as evidenced by his use of the phrase “our liberal friends” when describing how some people arrive at erroneous conclusions despite having the best intentions.

I feel very blessed that Ronald Reagan was America’s president in my formative years, and that my father talked openly about world affairs and had me watch the news with him, so that I was paying attention during those years. I feel bad for people who came after me, whose experience when it comes to presidents is of people who are much less inspiring and much less worthy of our trust.

The picture at the beginning of this post is one of my favorites, because it, like the story shared by Tuesday’s radio caller, captures the one-of-a-kind personality of our 40th president. In closing, here are some more pictures that do the same.

Feeling triumphant:

On horseback when young (well, middle-aged) and when old:

On horseback (notice a trend?) with Queen Elizabeth II on the grounds of Windsor Castle:

Leaving office in January 1989 to return to private life:

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