When Ronald Reagan was born, his father took one look at him and said, “He looks like a fat little Dutchman. But who knows, he might grow up to be President some day.”
“My mother,” Reagan wrote, “. . . told me that everything in life happened for a purpose. She said all things were part of God’s Plan, even the most disheartening setbacks, and in the end, everything worked out for the best.”
“I was raised to believe that God has a plan for everyone,” said Reagan.
If the Hand of Providence lifted up any American leader of the 20th Century, it lifted up Ronald Wilson Reagan. From the room where he was born over a storefront bank in tiny Tampico, Ill, to the sound stages of Hollywood, to the California statehouse, to the Oval Office, Reagan’s destiny merged with the destiny of the nation he loved–and “everything worked out for the best.”
In the days since Ronald Reagan died, many have asked what made this man great. It was only this: His faith in the values that make America great–and the courage that faith gave him to persevere in America’s cause despite bitter opposition and overwhelming odds.
Faith in America
America was a different country before Reagan became President.
The economy was ailing and the Washington establishment could prescribe the only cure it still knew: more government. While the Soviet Union was advancing on every continent, gaining a foothold even in North America, the United States seemed almost everywhere in retreat–surrendering even the Panama Canal.
President Carter spoke in those days of a nation heading for decline. Then America turned to Ronald Reagan.
Reagan revived the American spirit almost overnight, as if by magic. Yet, it wasn’t really magic; it was his example, it was the witness he gave to the faith in America he learned growing up in Middle America.
In the elegiac mood embracing Reagan’s funeral one could almost forget the unrelenting vitriol Reagan’s liberal opponents (both politicians and journalists) once threw at him. It is worth remembering, however, because it heightens his accomplishments. (When Reagan ran for reelection in 1984, for example, then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill called him “evil.”) Few politicians have weathered the sort of attacks made on Reagan without backing down.
But Reagan did not back down, and voters reelected him with a record 525 electoral votes.
Hearts and Minds
Reagan repaid the confidence America placed in him. In his first year in office, he signed tax cuts that sparked an economic boom that lasted almost two decades. While he did not roll back government as much as he would have liked, he changed the terms of the debate, making conservatism a good word, and liberalism a dirty word. It was on his terms that Republicans won congressional majorities in the 1990s.
Unquestionably, Reagan’s greatest feat was winning the Cold War. Along the way, he fought many political battles. Some were with liberals in Congress to win funding to build up the U.S. military and arm anti-Soviet insurgents. Others were with reluctant allies whom he persuaded to join us in confronting the Evil Empire. But, guided by his faith in freedom, Reagan believed the ultimate battle was for the hearts and minds of the enemy. That is why he went to Berlin and said: “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall.”
Ronald Reagan is dead, but his legacy of faith, hope and freedom is undying. HUMAN EVENTS salutes America’s greatest statesman of the 20th Century.