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Ronald Reagan’s Words … Echo

Posted on Wednesday, January 24, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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30 Comments
official portrait of Ronald Reagan

As a very young person, ages 21, 22, and 23, life swept me along, always a matter of wonder where next my feet walked – and for a time, they walked and I worked in the White House of Ronald Reagan. His words, optimism, and humor, echo.

Serious in temperament, he could also be suddenly humorous, as if his Irish elfin or wild and whimsical side had to get out, had to be shared, gift of a lift.

Reagan was so much himself, so sure of who he was, where he had been, what he had seen, learned, felt and what it meant he owed the rest of us, that his bearing, his very being were fluid, in perfect sync, at ease in the world, troubled as it was.

Where does that level of confidence, inner peace, and outer optimism come from? Given its realness, how is it cultivated, and where do you go to harvest that attitude? I wondered that recently, thinking back, and so relooked his words.

Funny, remarkable, and heartening are some of his earliest musings, about baseball, America, the limitless possibilities for anyone, if they will just work hard, have faith in themselves, keep getting up when knocked down, and never give in.

Here was the son of an alcoholic father, a father more absent than present, always down on his luck, never able to really make it, on whom the young Reagan looked with empathy, love, and unbroken hope, even when all around him was broken, except his consistent, demur, deeply faithful, and forgiving mother.

In his high school yearbook, as if foreseeing what lay ahead or perhaps just wishing it so – his quote: “Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.”

As a high school and college lifeguard on a treacherous river, he is credited with saving 77 lives, just part of his job, which he did like everything else with heart.

Nearly 40 years later, having been a sportscaster, actor who played the good guy (except once), married, divorced, remarried, father of four (one adopted), former head of Hollywood’s screen actors’ guild, already fiercely anti-communist, he was asked to give a speech. He did, and called it “A Time for Choosing.”

The year was 1964, and with surety he said: “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”

The words, in our present state of dismay, dissolution, and political disrepair, buffeted by China, Iran, and from within, echo. They have a certain timelessness.

Well, summoned to the task, we – We, The People – did rise. We resolved to win internally and externally, put inner and outer wars to rest, men on the moon, wind in our own sails, and after being twice a governor, Reagan in the White House.

Again, in 1985, he spoke to us, often and with conviction, but specifically in that year’s State of the Union, after decisively winning 49 of 50 states and reelection.

He reminded us what we know or knew, yet often forget. “Anything is possible in America if we have faith, the will, and the heart. History is asking us one again to be a force for good in the world. Let us begin in unity, with justice and love.”

More than words, this was Reagan’s life credo, how he thought, felt, and behaved. He was saying, without saying it, you can too, we all can, and sometimes we must.

Over the next four years, Reagan did all he could for freedom, opening the private sector, helping businesses come to life, expand and add tens of millions of jobs.

After cutting federal taxes by one-fourth, driving inflation and interest down, and rebuilding America’s national defense, he brought the Soviets to their knees.

Having dared to call their oppressive, unfree, expansionist, communist government evil, he helped decisively end its run, and freed 300 million under its yoke. He envisioned that outcome, worked for it, and lived to watch it happen.

In 1992, I sat with him for the last time. He was crisp, focused and cheerful, unhurried. I thanked him for many things, not least ending the Soviets’ run, offering young people like me – at that time – a vision and how to make it real.

He was modest, as usual, funny and still full of optimism. Even then, his words echoed. At the 1988 convention, he had spoken plainly, once again – and almost echoed the 1964 speech, although few likely made the connection. Still, he did.

“When our children turn the pages of our lives, I hope they’ll see that we had a vision to pass forward a nation as nearly perfect as we could, when there’s decency, tolerance, generosity, honesty, courage, common sense, fairness and piety.”

He continued, earnestly confessing to the nation he loved, his faith: “This is my vision, and I’m grateful to God for blessing me with a good life and a long one …”

In 1991, he added: “I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there’s purpose and worth to each and every life.”

And before his last gift, handwritten in 1994, confession that his last battle would be with Alzheimer’s, he spoke with resolve in 1992: “America’s best days are yet to come. Our proudest moment are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.”

Reagan knew that life, from start to finish, can be hard – and perhaps for reasons that elude us, should be hard. Thus, do we earn our way to heaven.

But he also had a profound, unshakable faith in life, in each of us, and in America. We too need that. So, on this day and on many others, I am glad his words echo.

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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PaulE
PaulE
28 days ago

Very nice article RBC. Reagan always struck me as someone who viewed life as something to be lived to the fullest, despite whatever obstacles were thrown at him along the way. A fighter, not a quitter for what he believed in despite the circumstances. Something that is shared by most self-made successful people in life. Someone who was always optimistic of the future, because he understood life is what we make of it ourselves. Not what we simply settle for, because something is hard to do or won’t be viewed by the crowd as the so-called standard right choice to go along to get along. Your article seems to reinforce that was his perspective. Again, very nice article.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
27 days ago

It really does feel like 1979 all over again but this time around its the Biden Malaise not Carter. I don’t know if Trump can be “another Reagan” but hopefully he can be the best TRUMP he can be!

Robert Hellam
Robert Hellam
28 days ago

I love Mr. Charles’s essays. But he hit a wrong note when he talked about how “we earn our way to heaven.” That is an un-Christian idea.

Joel
Joel
27 days ago

It’s interesting to read comments in any forum. It is also interesting that in looking for fault in a phrase or a few words how you may miss the the whole point. The article was pleasing read to me and I thank you for pointing out the fine man President Reagan was. I miss the days when we had a positive forward looking administration who cared for all Americans. It wasn’t that long ago. It just shows how fast our freedoms and future can be compromised. May God Bless America!

Gil
Gil
27 days ago

Loved Reagan, loved his policies and optimism. Also loved this article from Robert Charles, although disagree with him on “Thus, do we earn our way to heaven.”
Salvation can’t be earned or bought. It is a “free gift from God, through faith and not of ourselves…..so that no man can boast.” So when we accept his Son, Jesus into our hearts and follow him, we are saved. It comes by a confession of faith and a change of heart. The glory goes to Him.

Morbious
Morbious
27 days ago

‘Life is one grand , sweet song, so lets start the music’. Remember this was in the depths of the depression, but he saw only opportunity. Just finished a truly inspiring book, ‘The Boys in the Boat’, about kids coming of age in Reagans time. The book is a reminder, perhaps unintentionally, that looking to the past will only bring frustration. If Reagan were alive, im sure he’d suggest getting to work pulling our own weight, rather than lamenting the passage of a golden age.

John Riley
John Riley
27 days ago

Reagan played the role of a lifetime. When a discission was to be made he did not make it as Ronald Reagan but as what would The President of The United States do. We need more of that kind of President.

Duluth Tom
Duluth Tom
27 days ago

I wish Mr Trump would study President Reagan’s style and try to emulate it. We so need another RR to lift up this country. I do remember when he was shot, many college students cheered. So, even back then, our colleges were full of liberal idiots. Presidents are judged by history, not while serving. Reagan was one of the greatest.

David Millikan
David Millikan
27 days ago

Excellent article. Yes, History is asking us once again to be a force for good in the world.
Vote President Trump.

Debra Phelan
Debra Phelan
27 days ago

I also worked in the Reagan White House, and I was also very young. It brought back great memories. Yes – this is definitely Ronald Reagan. I miss him more as the years go on. Great article!

Max
Max
27 days ago

RBC, another great article. Pres. Reagan was a great fighter, he knew what to do, asked for and comsidered all advice before making a decision. A GREAT President. The mold was broken after him. Pres. Trump comes next as like Pres. Reagan neither followed the “POLI-TICK” mold as is now in DC.

John Shipway
John Shipway
27 days ago

Never forget the horrid failing that probably sent Reagan to Hades. It was Reagan one must recall that is the godfather of “forgiving” illegal aliens allowing millions of law breaking burdens on society to fill our ghettos and expand our tax rates.
There are some good, even great things Reagan accomplished but his actions regarding illegal aliens………well,what can one expect from a Hollyweird elitist millionaire?

johnh
johnh
27 days ago

I pray every day that another Ronald Reagan becomes our POTUS in the future. Reagan was a class act that was for all Americans & not just his party. We need a POTUS that can unite America again or the future is not good!

Laura Bentz
Laura Bentz
27 days ago

I loved his speeches and agree with all he said EXCEPT “man is basically good.” No, he’s basically EVIL as the Bible teaches. (See our politicians of today as examples.) And you don’t earn heaven. It’s a free gift when you accept Jesus Christ. You earn heavenly REWARDS… not heaven itself. Only Jesus Christ when he comes back can fix the world’s problems. Until then, things will only get worse.

Amma
Amma
27 days ago

President Reagan loved to tell stories. Here’s a short one that I particularly like.
Mr. Reagan had just purchased a new gun, and was sitting on his couch examining it when he heard a ruckus outside his open window. Looking out, there was a man trying to kidnap a woman, who was screaming for help. Mr. Reagan raised that unloaded gun, and yelled at the man to let the woman go! One look at the firearm sent the would-be kidnapper running, and the woman was saved.
That story has encouraged me many times. There are times I don’t “have it all together” – but what I do have will be enough.

marty
marty
26 days ago

Loved RWR, our Best recent president, he replaced our worst president (until now) Carter was a nice guy in over his head, double digit inflation and interest rates,gas lines and malaise all around. Jimma should be smiling now because he’s moved up to 3rd worst with O’Bumbler and O’Biden (BHO’s 3rd term) ! Reagan fixed our economy with Dems dragging behind and getting re-elected in ’84 with 49 states. 20+ years of Prosperity up through “Slick Willy’s” peccadillos to give G.W. Bush 9/11. Reagan hated commies and tried to keep them out of our hemisphere and earned the hatred of the Dems. Trump could learn from RWR even though Dems already hate him,no love lost here , as long as they don’t release another plague on us, to remove the “existential threat to democracy” they claim TRUMP is !!

It happens you know.
It happens you know.
27 days ago

The echo might be the rats getting into his grave.

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