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Relentless Belief – Ronald Reagan

Posted on Monday, April 22, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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Ronald Reagan makes a dapper picture with a boutonniere in his lapel. The occasion was Reagan`s address before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations on St. Patrick`s Day, March 17, 1980. At the time, the former movie actor and two-term California governor was running for the Republican Party nomination for president.

Ronald Reagan used to tell stories. Some were about lowering taxes, others pride in our rights, a few about campaigning – as a conservative Republican – in Democratic areas. What Reagan personified, just the way he lived his life, abided by truth, delivered light, was about relentless belief.

One favorite story was the day he was campaigning in rural America – I have forgotten where he was, but the boondocks; might have been West Texas, northern Maine, or Lake Champlain.

In any event, he knocked on the door, and an elderly gentleman opened it. Having a little fun, when the old man asked who he was, Reagan decided to try humor.

He said, well, I think you know me, or you might, but my initials are “RR.”  When the older voter seemed not to have any idea, Reagan added, “You might know me from the old Westerns, some of the movies, since I was once a movie actor.”  The older gentleman scratched his head, and then suddenly, his eyes lit up.

Excitedly, he shouted to his wife who was elsewhere in the house, “Martha, Martha, you’ve gotta come, you won’t believe who’s at our front door!” He caught his breath, then said, “It’s Roy Rogers!”

Well, for those who do not know, Roy Rogers was another – and far more famous – Hollywood actor from the old Westerns and one who could probably lasso voters faster than Reagan. He was the champion at rodeo. Reagan’s point: You have to knock on doors, let people get to know you, and be relentless if you believe.

On another occasion, Reagan found himself deep in Democrat territory. He knew his basic message, “Strong defense, smaller government, lower taxes, and a good moral compass” should resonate everywhere, but was really deep in what we might, today, call Blue Country.

Finding no one at the front door, he heard noises out in the barn, so went that way. Finding a farmer, he said he wondered if he could share a few ideas. The farmer was cleaning stalls, but said, “Don’t see why not.”

So, to see over the stall, Reagan climbed onto a pile of what, as the farmer noted, “Bess Truman spent years trying to get Harry to call fertilizer,” and explained what he believed and why.

The farmer listened intently, leaning on his shovel, and when Reagan was done, he said, “Well, that’s mighty interesting … I must say, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard what Republicans believe.”

Reagan, not missing a beat, thanked him, and said, “Well, I must say, that’s the first time I’ve ever delivered Republican views from a Democrat platform,” and they both laughed that one up. Harry Truman might have too, especially today.

The main point was, if you believe in what you believe, have come to it through life experience, maybe some hard thinking, and can explain it with conviction, then do that, and do it anywhere, everywhere there is an opening – if you think someone might listen, and then later vote.

Reagan did that without hesitation, often with such humor, goodwill, and respect for others that he gradually turned the entire country, wholly realigned Blue Collar America, those in the trades, and everyone who worked for a living – and won 49 of 50 states in 1984, a shock to the other side.

So surefooted and congenial, so sure of the truth he spoke and the goodness of that truth for everyone, left, right, up, down, black, white, rural, urban – that he once got Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neal, another Irish American, to tell his staff: “You all need to start watching out for me, because he’s getting to me …” Not really I suppose, but Tip’s humor, and a nod to Reagan.

If you believe in something firmly, raising money for MS or cancer, enthusing others to work on a big project, a principle, a right, the rights of others, some abiding truth – then speak that truth. That was what Reagan did, and never stopped doing. He was relentlessly cheerful, focused, and centered.

The interesting part of that attitude, in war or at peace, in politics or business, in building buy-in for a mission, community idea, fixing a problem, getting ahead of one, is that turning into the wind like that, taking on the critics with a smile, talking facts and action, can be persuasive, even infectious.

Reagan had it and gave it away, shared his convictions near and far, no hesitance, no arrogance, no doubt, no worry, and hopeful all the while that others would benefit from what he knew, making those core ideas work for them too, and then – in an act of rippling charity – give them away.

So, here we are, in another testing time. Reagan’s example does stand before us, and it is – in its own way – as powerful as the Founders’ lives, Abe Lincoln’s, Theodore Roosevelt’s, Harry Truman’s, and JFK’s. He reminds us to step up, step forward with courage, assume you can win, then do it.

So maybe one day, when you are talking with others, you can say “Hey, the initials R.B. mean something to me,” and challenge a guess. Richard Burton? Ray Bradbury? Raymund Burr? No, just Relentless Belief – personified by RR, Ronald Reagan. His is a legacy to keep, his and Roy’s!

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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John Riley
John Riley
1 month ago

The man played his greatest role while in the White House. He made decisions and took action not as what would Ronald Regan do, not as what would a democrat do, not as what would a republican do, but as what would The President of The United States of America do.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
1 month ago

Ah, simpler times when all we worried about was nuclear proliferation, high $1.00/gallon gas prices, and paraquat in the weed and the major ideological difference between a Democrat and a Republican was defense and welfare spending.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
1 month ago

Ronald Reagan could always convey a genuine feeling about whatever the topic, because that is what he was – genuine .And it registered in an important way with many people. He and Nancy were respectable , carried themselves in a respectable manner and set a good example with their light. Their light was something that easily inspired, something commendable. The United States of America is better off having President Ronald Reagan make needed improvements that added to the character of the Nation. This is a very good article RBC – that bit about the Roy Rogers was humorous ! In the spirit of Faith ,Family and Freedom – this bit of history is appreciated.

Max
Max
1 month ago

RBC, great story from our past with truth and humor. I do miss those days. By the way, ff we were to meet and you tried to introduce yourself with just your initials of RBC, I think I would be able to guess who you were. Of course, since I have seen your photos, guessing would not be hard. Have a great day.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

Greatest President of my lifetime. I sure miss Ronaldus Magnus.

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 month ago

Regan would be today exactly in the same place as Trump A dangerous specie from which public must be protected for it’s own good

An older blonde women laughing in the kitchen with a grey haired man.
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