Speakers invoked lessons from Ronald Reagan’s presidency to today’s political climate at a panel discussion Tuesday assessing the lasting relevance of his leadership
“Reagan wouldn’t like the direction our country is headed, he is not behind the redistribution of wealth. Reagan would have lamented our current situation,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R.-Calif.).
The event sponsored by Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and attended by over 50 Capitol Hill interns was entitled “Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator Advancing the Conservative Message in the Era of Obama.”
Held at the Rayburn House Office Building to honor the sixth anniversary of President Reagan’s passing, panelists shared personal experiences they had with the President and offered guidance to young conservatives seeking to restore American greatness.
The YAF panelists included Eric Dezenhall, a White House aide in Reagan’s Office of Personnel and Communications, and Rep. Ed Royce, who represents California’s 40th Congressional District and was a student activist and Director of Youth for Reagan in the 1980’s. Frank Donatelli, Reagan’s White House political director and chairman of the Reagan Ranch Board of Governors, moderated the panel discussion.
Donatelli’s opening remarks addressed the unique role individual freedom plays in an American society where great people are enabled to make a difference. He emphasized that there is still much to be learned from Reagan who has “retained a continual relevance in the world today, 20 years after he left the White House and indeed 30 years after he was first elected President of the United States.”
Currently serving as the CEO of a crisis management firm, Dezenhall shared personal anecdotes of his years working in the Reagan White House along with his current perspective from the standpoint of a business owner. He said while “Republicans seem against too much,” there is something to be said for standing by principles and suggested the Republican Party return to its core focus of limited government and advancing individual liberty.
Rep. Royce said he is confident change will occur in Washington and is optimistic for future generations. The California congressman illustrated his beliefs by pointing out Reagan’s trust in grassroots movements.
“Reagan would always say, ‘When they feel the heat, they will see the light in Washington,’” Royce said. “You have got to turn up the heat, and that means using town hall meetings to say, ‘What are you going to do about he deficit in this country?’”
In the closing Q&A, Dezenhall commented that Reagan’s strong leadership blended with his charismatic charm was a rare gift, a combination that cannot be copied. He referenced the failed attempt of Richard Nixon to appear ‘Kennedyesque’ by strolling down the beach dressed in a suit and wingtips. Rep. Royce said that while the Republican Party is in need of Ronald Reagan’s guiding lessons now more than ever, there are young conservative leaders such as Rep. Paul Ryan who are preparing for the opportunity to take the helm.