Defense & National Security

Red Sky Over the Reagan

Capt. Bill Goodwin stood on the deck of America’s newest aircraft carrier last Friday addressing reporters. “Quite frankly,” he said, “there’s not a better name for an aircraft carrier than Ronald Reagan.”

The motto of the carrier?proclaimed on a banner hung across a ramp leading from dock to ship?is a phrase Reagan crafted into the strategy that won the Cold War: “Peace Through Strength.”

The day after his press conference, Goodwin would become the first commander of the newly commissioned U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. But this day, he welcomed visitors to the ship, most notably Nancy Reagan. HUMAN EVENTS Chairman Tom Phillips, energy industry analyst Fred Potter and I encountered the former First Lady on board, and Tom and I were photographed with her.

We were at the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Station for the July 12 commissioning ceremony with a group organized by the Young America’s Foundation. Many longtime Reaganites came along. These included former Reagan Atty. Gen. Ed Meese; former Reagan White House political director Frank Donatelli; former Reagan domestic policy advisor and Collegiate Network President T. Kenneth Cribb; former Reagan Interior Department official and Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Becky Norton Dunlop (now vice president of the Heritage Foundation); former Reagan and Bush administration official and Virginia Board of Education President Michelle Easton (now president of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute); former Reagan Education Department advisor and Young America’s Foundation President Ron Robinson; and former Reagan campaigner and State Department official Floyd Brown, who currently serves as executive director of the Young America’s Foundation division that operates Rancho del Cielo, President Reagan’s ranch near Santa Barbara.

The commissioning attracted a crowd of 15,000. At the appointed moment, Mrs. Reagan, the ship’s official sponsor, stepped to the podium and said the traditional words, “Man the ship and bring her to life.” On cue, hundreds of sailors in dress whites sprinted from lines they had formed on the pier to stations on the ship.

Vice President Dick Cheney, the featured speaker, echoed a theme struck by some of the naval officers who spoke. “The Navy we have today,” he said, “is in many ways a monument to the vision and conviction of Ronald Reagan.”

The Young America’s Foundation held a dinner in Norfolk that night attended by President Reagan’s son, Mike, a HUMAN EVENTS contributing editor, and several close friends and associates of the former President. Among these were former National Security Advisor Bill Clark, former Energy Secretary John Herrington and former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Clark toasted the President he had served; Mike Reagan and Ed Meese gave personal reminiscences. Mike said that after his father lost the 1976 Republican nomination he asked him what was the thing he would most like to have done as President. Reagan told his son it would have been to tell the Soviets, “Nyet,” when they demanded unilateral concessions in arms negotiations. Mike said his father later fulfilled that wish when he met Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik, Iceland, and Gorbachev demanded that the U.S. abandon the Strategic Defensive Initiative.

Reagan’s “nyet” at that summit led swiftly to victory in the Cold War.

On the eve of the commissioning, guests at a black-tie dinner sponsored by the Navy League in a tent along the harbor marveled at a stunning sunset that backlit the Reagan with streaming rays of orange and red. It recalled the sailors’ adage: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” Sure enough, the next day dawned brilliantly?a fitting symbol of Ronald Reagan’s sunny optimism, and the future that lies ahead for the country he steered so well through troubled seas.


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