In his farewell address in January of 1989, Ronald Reagan described America in the eloquent and beautiful way only he could. In this, he reminded us of the imagery of the U.S. that has stood the test of time. “A Shining City Upon A Hill.” This quote, originally from John Winthrop when describing his visions of America and its future significance in the world, encapsulated the feelings of true Americans. It even revealed to many that they harbored deep wells of emotion for this great Nation which they had never previously recognized.
Ronald Reagan did not create these feelings. He did not simply play upon our emotions with his skills as an actor and make us believe in a fairy tale. Instead, like Glenda in “The Wizard of Oz” explaining to Dorothy that the power to return home was there with her all along, President Reagan demonstrated to us that we did have a nation in which we could believe. Pride and love of country were instilled in all of us. We were, each individual, suddenly and acutely aware of the stature, magnanimity, and greatness our beloved America held and offered to the world.
When an American stops and observes, they still can see this awesome depth of national character. They see people risking everything, their lives, the security of their homes, many times even the very survival of themselves and their families, to come and live a life of freedom, joy, and hope that only the U.S. can give.
Tuesday, we elected a new president. It was stated by a few that this was the end of the Reagan era and the beginning of a new one. This new era, if the short history of this new president-elect can be any type of guide, would be completely divergent from the previous. President-elect Obama holds that America is broken and in need of repair. This, in fact, is the very reasoning he lists as the cause of Ronald Reagan’s popularity. He has stated that Reagan in some manner took advantage of or capitalized upon the discontent of Americans. True, there was discontentment and anger in 1980. The anger was centralized and rightly aimed at the Carter administration. This does not, however, paint an accurate picture of the reasons America so loved, and continues to reflect pridefully at, President Reagan. It is also not the reason people even now, nearly 30 years after he was first elected, rate him as not only the best president of our time, but 2nd only to Abraham Lincoln in our nation’s history. It’s not what Reagan stood against or saw wrong, but what he stood for and saw as good, right, and blessed by God.
Ronald Reagan understood that being a leader is not seeing what’s wrong and vowing to change it. It’s finding what is right and expounding upon it. We would not raise a child simply by correcting their errors and punishing them when they make a mistake. We do that only when absolutely necessary. What we do, instinctively, is tell them what is right. We praise them when they succeed. Similarly, Reagan saw past the despair and international brow beating of the United States.
He saw a nation who wanted to give to the world. He saw the true Spirit of America. He did not say that America was broken, as it was not. He pointed us out to each other and to the world. In 1973, in the beginning stages of his rise to national prominence, he said, “…the one thing we must be on guard against is thinking that…the system has failed. The system has not failed. Some human beings have failed the system.” Time and again he showed with great emotion the love of his nation and its people. Ronald Reagan did not lead by getting us to believe that we were the cause of the problems and he was the solution. He showed us the opposite. We were the solution.
A true leadership role also requires not governing by the ever-changing whim of individuals, but by knowing what is right and never compromising these principles. Reagan raised the ire of many, both locally and internationally. However, the people of the United States always knew that he loved his country. They saw his belief that this country was wonderful, and knew his only goal was to extend its grandeur.
So to all, I say the Reagan era is not over. This country will weather the new administration with barely a scratch. Our values will not be forgotten or overlooked. We will find another leader who espouses our own heartfelt feelings towards this, our greatest nation in the world. Then will we reemerge strong, with conviction, and unflappable.