Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I left the flag out this morning in honor of Ronald Reagan's birthday, He would have been 97 today. I've been reading a bit about him lately and found it inspiring, and I wanted to write something here but haven't the time to go into all the interesting (and funny) anecdotes and quotes there are -they fill whole books! Reagan lived quite a life, and quite a full one at that. Whatever you think of him or his policies, it is impossible to deny the images you get in your head when you think of the man: his optimistic smile, the flag. No one denies that he easily embodied the American spirit. (Can't you just see that glowing smile in your head?)

His first job was as a lifeguard at age fifteen. He would notch a log near the lifeguard stand for every life he saved, and he boasted 77 notches. If there was a notch for every life saved as a result of his undeniable contribution to ending the Cold War, it would be in the millions. If you consider for a moment that many people felt that the Cold War would end only in nuclear annihilation, well, that's one big notch for the Human Race.

If you're my age, Reagan was the man you grew up with on the TV, the man your parents talked about. Back then I knew nothing about him, having paid little attention to the world beyond me. After his presidency, he spoke to a packed house at USC. I was a student at the time and had a campus job working for Media Services. I set up the man's microphone, and was instructed to give him the best one, which we kept in a leather case in a special cabinet. I left before the Gipper took the podium and spoke, and have regretted it ever since.

He had a successful career in Hollywood, as everyone knows, and though he was belittled for it in politics, I believe it was exactly that career experience that prepared him for the presidency. His ability to tell a good story and explain a concept clearly and succinctly came out of his work as an actor, and earned him the nickname "The Great Communicator".

Who knows why someone leaves a lucrative career to enter public service. Evidently, it ruined his first marriage to actress Jane Wyman. They were married in the same little chapel as my own parents, had a child, suffered the loss of their second at birth, and then adopted one. After arguments over Reagan's political ambitions, he and Jane divorced -making him the only president with an ex-wife.

He went on to be the governor of California for eight years and was among the last of the American politicians that saw World War 2 and the Cold War firsthand, (which, in my mind, is the most profound argument in favor of electing McCain) and he was just the man to put it all behind us. A former democrat, he would be branded a "flip-flopper" in today's political climate, but it was he who famously claimed, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me."

In 1964, before he became governor and while he was campaigning for Goldwater, there was The Speech, as it is often referred to. It's the speech that launched his political career, and the words defined him. Read the speech. If you have any questions as to what Reagan would be doing in Iraq or in the war on the Jihadists, here's a quote:

There can be no real peace while one American is dying someplace in the world for the rest of us. We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well, I think it's time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers...

We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now in slavery behind the Iron Curtain, "Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skin, we are willing to make a deal with your slave-masters." Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one!" Let's set the record straight. There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace -and you can have it in the next second: surrender!

Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson in history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face... that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand -the Ultimatum...

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing is worth dying for, when did this begin? Just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots of Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain! Where then, is the road to peace? Well, it's a simple answer after all.

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is a price we will not pay." There is a point beyond which they must not advance! This is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater's "peace through strength!" Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits -not animals." And he said, "there is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty." You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.