February 6, 2012

Ronald Reagan Made a Lasting Impact on America

Today would be Ronald Reagan's 101st birthday if he were still alive!  I wanted to share my admiration for him today to celebrate.  

Ron was born in a small Illinois town to very ordinary people.  He grew up believing in God and the goodness of people.  Although it was unusual for the era, Ron didn't think that people of other races were different, so he treated them the same.  When still a boy in the segregated 1920's, he overheard some African American's being denied a place to stay at a local Inn.  He invited them home, where his mother fed them and allowed them to stay the night as their guests, even serving them breakfast the next morning.  Ron grew up and got a job as a lifeguard, counting 77 rescues as tick-marks on an old wooden paddle.  

Ron excelled in sports and as a leader, becoming a member of the football team, the captain of the swim team and the Class president of Eureka College in Illinois.  He also loved storytelling and acting.  And he followed Politics.  His idol was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

When he graduated from Eureka College with a degree in Economics and Sociology, he auditioned for several jobs as a radio announcer.  He was offered a job at the University of Iowa to broadcast their football games live.  He did such a good job of giving the blow-by-blow descriptions of the plays that he was hired by the Chicago Cubs to broadcast their games live.  While in Los Angeles for a game, he took a screen test and was hired by Warner Brothers as an Actor.  He began his career, hoping to be a movie star.

Within 2 years, he had appeared in 19 movies, although it took a few more for him to become recognized for any acting talent.  Just as he was becoming a star, after completing a movie called "Kings Row," World War 2 broke out.  He enlisted, but because of near-sightedness, he was assigned to make training movies for the troops who were deployed out in the field. 
He had always been involved in politics, but more so after the war ended.  He began to support candidates and make patriotic speeches in their behalf.  He made such a stirring speech for Barry Goldwater, a conservative Presidential candidate, that it's still discussed today.  His speech, titled "Time for Choosing," is full of Ron's personal beliefs in America and hope for its future.  Many hailed this speech as the one that launched Ron's own political career.
Ron ran for Governor of California in 1967 and won.  He served as Governor for several years, then set his sights on the Presidency of the United States.  After unsuccessfully running in 1976, he won in 1980.  Just as he was giving his acceptance speech, American hostages were released after over a year of captivity, beginning his first term as President a great start.  

I loved how he made us feel great about our future as Americans and his belief in individual heroes.  In his first State of the Union address (Jan 26, 1982) he described the challenges the nation was facing, the things he was doing to help fix them and everyday heroes.  He described how an ordinary citizen saved a passenger of a downed airplane, then said, "And then there are countless quiet, everyday heroes of American life; parents who sacrifice long and hard so their children will know a better life than they've known; church and civic volunteers who help to feed, clothe, nurse and teach the needy; millions who've made our nation, and our nation's destiny, so very special; unsung heroes who may not have realized their own dreams themselves but then who reinvest those dreams in their children.  Don't let anyone tell that America's best days are behind her, that the American spirit has been vanquished. We've seen it triumph too often in our lives to stop believing in it now."  I love that optimism!

Similarly, on the anniversary of D-day (the turning point of World War 2) in 1984, Ron said, "You all knew that some things are worth dying for.  One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man."  It was clear that he loved America and he would do anything to preserve it and prosper it.  

Ron served 2 terms, or 8 years as President of the United States of America.  While President, he accomplished some really great things.  Most important is that he was instrumental in getting the Soviet Union and East Germany to tear down the Berlin wall imprisoning their own citizens in Communism.  Previous Presidents had tried for years and failed to accomplish this.   To do this, Ron built up American's armaments and threatened to use them against the countries involved.  Then he started negotiating with the Leaders of the Soviet Union and East Germany.  He begged them to tear down the wall.  Later, he said, "When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat."  Perhaps he was drawing on his degree in Sociology in how he handled this threat.  I remember when the wall came down.  It was amazing.  I never thought it would happen in my lifetime.  I remember fasting with the body of the Church for it.  Ron was instrumental in making it happen, with God's help!  

The other big thing that Ron did was to apply a new approach to the American economy which became known as "Reaganomics."  His degree in Economics was coming into play.  He lowered taxes, with the idea that business would use the extra money to hire more workers, produce more and then be more successful, eventually paying more taxes because they were more profitable.  It worked!  America, which had been in a serious recession, rebounded and prospered.  When he left public office, he said, "I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you."

Now Ron is remembered by Scholars as the President that made the greatest contributions to America since Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ron's personal hero!  Ron was just an ordinary kid from an unremarkable family, but he believed in God and had an optimistic view of America.  People laughed at the idea of a movie star being President of the United States.  But he did a wonderful job as such.  He made me proud to be an American.  

He once said, "My philosophy of life is that if we make up our mind what we are going to make of our lives, then work hard toward that goal, we never lose - somehow we win out."  He proved that by making something great out of his ordinary life.  We can do the same. 

To learn more about Ronald Reagan, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Reagan and How to Raise an American by Myrna Blyth and Chriss Winston. 
Read the First State of the Union Address January 26, 1982 at http://www.juntosociety.com/hist_speeches/rr1sou.html
For many more great quotes, some of them really funny, see http://history1900s.about.com/od/ronaldreagan/a/Reagan-Quotes.htm

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