Byline: Elizabeth Dole, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
As president, Ronald Reagan issued a National Day of Prayer Proclamation every year of his eight years in the Oval Office and in 1988, he signed into law the designation of the first Thursday in May as the annual observance of the National Day of Prayer. During this, Reagan's centennial year, we should remember what this day meant to one of America's greatest presidents and why he took such pride in officially recognizing its observance.
My first example: Ronald Reagan's belief in the power of prayer.
I can well remember a day during my service as assistant to the president for public liaison when we were alone while waiting for the president to deliver a speech. I said, Mr. President, I just have to ask, you have the weight of the world on your shoulders and yet you're always so gracious, so kind, so thoughtful of others. You're never flustered or frustrated. How in the world do you do it?
He loved to reminisce and he leaned back in his chair and said, Well, Elizabeth, when I was governor of California, it seemed as if every day yet another crisis would be placed on my desk. I had the urge to hand it to someone behind me to help me. One day I realized I was looking in the wrong direction. I looked up instead of back and I'm still looking up. I couldn't go another day in this office if I didn't know I could ask for God's help and it would be given.
That was Ronald Reagan. He was fond of a quote from President Lincoln, where our Civil War president said that oftentimes, he was driven to his knees by the overwhelming conviction that he had nowhere else to go.
One of Reagan's favorite images was George Washington praying at Valley Forge, which Reagan called the most sublime image in American history. "Washington kneeling in the snow "said Reagan,"personified a people who knew it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness; they must also seek help from God, their Father and their Preserver."
My second example of what the National Day of Prayer meant to Ronald Reagan was his belief in religious tolerance and the ecumenical nature of religion in America.
This Protestant president included many devout Roman Catholics among his White House staff, chief foreign-policy advisers …