By Olson, Theodore B. | The American Spectator, July/August 2004 | Go to article overview


Olson, Theodore B., The American Spectator

RONALD REAGAN HAS FINALLY BEEN FREED FROM THE DARK and lonely silent shroud that had imprisoned his spirit and silenced his voice for over ten years. What a perversely cruel purgatory for such a gregarious and brilliantly communicative man.

We now grieve for him, for his extraordinarily lovely, loyal, and courageous love, Nancy, and for ourselves. But we may now also sing-lift our voices in praise and thanks for the gifts that this gentle, humble, gracious giant bestowed upon America and the tens of millions of people on this planet who now live in freedom because Ronald Reagan heard their pleas and became their voices. We could not eulogize him while he was alive, but we may now give words to long pent-up emotions, relive memories, and express gratitude for the liberty, prosperity, and confidence that he returned to and preserved for us during his lifetime.

Ronald Reagan possessed a fundamental and unshakable faith that God had truly blessed America. His very existence seems to have proven his point and vindicated his conviction.

Much has been made of Ronald Reagan's modest beginnings in the heartland of small town middle America in Tampico, Illinois, and his journey west to California. What, after all, could possibly be more American than the family into which he was born, his education in a tiny Midwestern college, summertime work as a lifeguard, describing unseen baseball games to radio audiences, migration westward to an acting career in Hollywood, leadership of a trade union, and a lifelong love of horses and open spaces?

Yet his career in Hollywood and his Hollywood-like life story, his humility, his easy congeniality, and his modesty seemed to camouflage his powerful underlying talents, and to confuse and confound his adversaries for nearly his entire life. How could they take seriously someone whose profession was fantasy, whose skill was uttering words crafted by others?

The sophisticated leaders of our country and in the rest of the world, the graduates of the elite universities, and the movers and shakers of the powerful media persistently dismissed Ronald Reagan as a B movie actor, an amateur cowboy, a simple-minded buffoon, and a puppet who bounced and swayed while others pulled barely concealed strings. The collective scorn, disbelief, and condescension expressed in the media and by the politically savvy incumbents in Washington when he dared to seek and then win the presidency was nearly universal. How utterly wrong these presumably smart and educated people repeatedly proved themselves to be.

What they simply could not see was that behind the twinkle in Ronald Reagan's eyes, beneath that warm and sunny exterior, under that anecdotal wit and modest, self-effacing humility, was a man of enormous skills, unshakable convictions, brilliant instincts, and truly formidable talents.

THE DELUGE OF COMMENTARY and sentiment unleashed by Ronald Reagan's death will be washing over us for months and years. And we will be learning new details, fresh surprises, and heretofore hidden revelations in the time ahead of us. Each new piece of the mosaic has seemed to make him larger and more remarkable. But, what we know now is that virtually every person alive today is indebted in some way to Ronald Reagan.

The greatest of these debts, of course, is Ronald Reagan's inestimable contribution to peace and liberty. Not just the end of the Cold War; that is only part of the story. But to the ultimate and complete disintegration of the Soviet Communist empire. No thoughtful person would say that he did it alone, but it is no exaggeration to say that there is no single human being, living or dead, who had more to do with making it happen. And, had any other person served as president of the United States during 1981-1988, one shudders to think of where events may have taken us or where we might be today.

We lived in a world in 1980 of frightening and growing Soviet power and expansion, competing nuclear arsenals capable of destroying life on this planet within minutes, children taught to huddle with fright beneath their school desks during air raid drills, a culture of bomb shelters and mushroom clouds, the specter of nuclear winters, and a nearly overpowering world-wide political sentiment to buy peace or yield in Chamberlain-like increments to Soviet terror. …

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