Ronald Reagan spoke plainly, intuitively reflecting the sentiments and sensibilities of his fellow Americans. I worked in his first-term White House, never forget his guileless heart, extraordinary intuition, fidelity to principle, and life lessons. He knew what he believed, had the courage to say so. We need more of that courage today.
At the core, Reagan was about preserving individual freedoms, crediting America’s balance between maximum freedom and equal opportunity for our success. While he recognized the need to regulate excess, lift those who fell, he never confused government with God.
Our success he credited to People – each individual enlivened with limitless possibilities if we dared take risks, stand up, speak up, work hard, keep faith in the past and future.
Of course, part of this was limiting government, allowing for risk-taking, the clash of ideas, trial and error, investment and mistake, failure and recovery, reflection and correction.
He believed in free speech, freedom of religion, free markets, and freedom to keep and bear arms. He knew our greatness came chiefly from an individual, family, and local decisions. He had lived through the Depression, WWII, Cold War, seen Communism’s utter failure.
Reagan did more than talk. He led, educated by example. Son of an alcoholic father, he risked all, earned money for college (while saving 77 lives in four years as a riverside lifeguard), radio, actor, bought his parents a home, led the Screen Actors’ Guild, spoke against Communism.
Originally an FDR Democrat, he found his party left him, turned into “fellow travelers,” indulging socialist ideas, expanding government, raising taxes, overspending, anti-business, tried to pack the Supreme Court, failed to confront Communism within. He became a Republican.
But saying that is not saying enough. He did not become an “establishment Republican.” He took a page from Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, and William Buckley. He changed the party.
Bluntly, persuasively, and with sensitivity, he spoke the truth – and converted others. He talked about limiting government, balancing budgets, restoring solvency, assuring inter-generational continuity, the sanctity of life. He stripped Communism of legitimacy, laid bare its repression.
Books were written about how he would never become president, yet he did. And as promised, he cut federal taxes, created 18 million new jobs, pulled us out of recession, inspired a boom.
How? Speaking truth, acting on it, taking risks, encouraging all Americans to do the same, and to remember that their history, fighting for liberty, taking risks, moral compass, small government.
Instead of halting energy production, he ended windfall energy taxes, lowered federal income taxes, slashed estate taxes, simplified our tax code, and brought many Democrats to his views.
He then called out the Soviets, delegitimizing their government, made clear America would not be complicit in moral relativism, human rights suppression, Communist lies. Bold stuff.
Critics said this was war, would create lasting damage, too bold, a huge misstep in foreign policy. Reagan never blinked. He knew that what is always is, what is not cannot be disguised as what is. In other words, Communism always fails – and he said so.
The irony is that when the truth is pursued with relentless energy – at a town meeting, school board, legislative hearing, or on the world stage – it sticks, turns heads, gets support, defines the future.
In Reagan’s time, that meant the rebirth of enthusiasm for the possible, wild dreams of individual achievement, a robust economy, end of the Soviet Union. Truth is powerful stuff.
In a strange way, it also created friends from potential enemies, forged a kind of unbreakable alloy, rare in politics. Reagan brought over rivals like Tip O’Neil and even Mikhail Gorbachev.
Reagan was a Polaris, North Star – unchanging in attitude, fixed point, the brightest star in the constellation, reliable. You could set your compass, navigate by him, trust his friendship, twinkle in his eyes.
If you doubt me – and in this time, some will – take five minutes, and just click on Ronald Ragan’s tribute to his archrival in American politics, former Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil (D-MA). You will laugh, cry, and see why – this is the paradigm we are missing. Start at point 4 minutes, 30 seconds, and just enjoy the goodness this man radiates. President Reagan’s Remarks at a Dinner for Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill on March 17, 1986.
And where does Reagan’s example – a proud part of our past – lead us today? That is the question of the hour. That is what is missing in our national dialogue. The answer is – back to the truth.
We must know what we believe, know why we believe it, know that peace, patience, and persuasion work – if we have the courage to speak up, stand up, take risks, and defend the truth.
Specifically, we know the truths Reagan taught remain true: Free speech, freedom of worship, rights preserved by our Bill of Rights, opposing socialism, keeping government limited.
In Reagan’s Farewell Address, he reminded us of our better selves, what is possible if we keep the faith, appreciate the beauty, grandeur, and foundational nature of our nation and freedoms.
Reflecting, he said: “I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited,” and “there’s a clear cause and effect here …neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.” And all liberties contract without belief.
For all the time that has passed, his words still ring true. In these polarized times, we can draw power from Reagan’s life lessons. They apply. We are made stronger by such courage. He was.
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.Donate Now
Thank you so much for sharing life lessons in so many of your articles. It has made a huge difference for the better in my life.
ALAS how the world has changed since Ronald Reagan was alive !!! AMERICANS KNEW WHERE HE STOOD AND HE WAS HONEST !!!
Two of our best presidents were Reagan and Trump. That seem a little odd when neither one was a politician. But if we think about the Founding Fathers, they were not politicians either. They were Approximately 55 men who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights and then served 1 or 2 terms before going back to their previous job on their farms. But they were all patriots who dearly loved this nation and it’s citizens.
Today we have hundreds of elected “officials” who use 100s of paralegals to write partisan bills to suit only their parties agenda. And most stay in office (making millions illegally) until they are 80 years old or so. We need term limits and a 50% reduction in their pay.
Things should be as of old — Reps and Senators should not be paid at all. They should live off what they already have from their normal jobs. Now we have seen what happens when Congress created salaries for themselves thus “Poli-ticks”.
BIPARTISANSHIP IS DEAD ! KILLED BY DIRTY DEMS !!!!)
Voting creates term limits if it’s a legal election
Thanks for this article on Reagan. He was the best President since JFK in 1960. I always felt Ronald Reagan was for Americans & that his ego did not come in to play. He treated people with respect and did not use bully tactics on them. He was the greatest POTUS yet. Wish that someone even half as good would run for office.
JFK is overrated in the extreme by you and others. He abandoned the Cubans who tried to bring Castro down and he bears responsibility for over 60 years of horror and tyranny over and torture of the Cuban people. And countless murders of innocent Cubans.
He sold America down the river at the Cuban Missile crisis with Russia.
And he slept around and exploited women hideously.
Trump is certainly a close second to Reagan in all of the good he accomplished for this country despite all of the subterfuge and lying against him. I hope he runs again and wins.
The absolute best “feel good” times in this country was when Reagan was in the White House.
If Ronald Reagan were alive (today) he would probably collapse!
I got to meet President Reagan, what a great man, He served his Country very well, if they every do another Mount Rushmore, he would be my pick, I never meet a warmer, kinder man. he and Nancy were the most graces people and Truely appreciated the people who came out to meet him just prior to being elected the first time. My picture hangs proudly in the entrance to our home.
Presidents Reagan and Trump should be cloned, it would beat the Zombie that some call the President now.
Having lived through the Reagan years I can attest to the statesmanship of the man represented in your article. Thanks for work Mr.Charles. I enjoyed the your recount of the days when elected officials were statesmen and not just self-serving politicians. Would that we had a “Ronnie”, or two, today.
Reagan AND Trump have 1 thing in common: neither one were career liars, err, politicians like Jackass Joe! . . . And both will go down in history as two of our “greatest” Presidents!
In all fairness, he is incapable of making decisions, and his handlers should be ashamed of themselves, as his wife should be for using this man in such a way. Whoever voted him into office should be ashamed as well. How could they not tell he has a form of dementia! Just sad for us all.
He knows what he’s doing. He’s been this way his entire political life
Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.
Nothing else even needs to be said…
Now that we’re allowing the left in this country to pull down statues of the Founding Fathers, in a bid to re-write history which is so typical in all socialist countries, I have to wonder how long before the chants begin for the removal of all references to Ronald Reagan start. You know the longer we tolerate and seek to appease the socialists in this country, the farther they will push to ultimately purge any and all references to anyone not considered a champion of Marxism. There is no doubt that Reagan would be profoundly ashamed of what this country has become in recent years with the now open advocacy for socialism in this country.
You’re right — as Reagan said in 1984, “I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.” He would be very displeased with how immigration has become so weaponized by the Right.
Um, I think you mean Left, not Right. And the issue is not immigration; it is illegal immigration. When a government encourages an influx of people in violation of the laws of the nation and rewards those who come for violating those laws, it is an illegitimate government in that it no longer acts on behalf of those who elected it and whom they are sworn to represent. Those who claim that all immigration should be in accordance with the duly enacted laws of the nation are not the ones weaponizing the issue: rather, it is those who ignore the law and who claim that those against legal immigration are against ALL immigration. That latter statement is not only nonsense: it is a lie. I myself am currently an immigrant in the midst of the legal process. I have diligently and successfully negotiated the process to this point, becoming a legal permanent resident. And in just 2 more years I can (and will) apply for full citizenship.
Reagan kept his part of the deal with Tip O’Neil and granted what was supposed to be a one-time amnesty for illegal aliens already residing in the United States. However, the Democrats controlling Congress completely disregarded their commitment to enact the promised legislation to tighten up both United States immigration policy and enact additional measures to prevent the possibility of another repeat of another future illegal alien crisis.
Remember, Reagan admitted years later that he made a grave error in judgement by NOT insisting that the amnesty and passage of promised Democrat legislation and funding for additional southern border security was not enacted simultaneously. That he should have never relied on Tip O’Neil to keep his word.
Oh, Promise, Renege, Lie about making the promise – from a democrat?
Hold a press conference! Fool me twice – shame on ME (and we’re Way past twice).
So it was just a “deal”? He didn’t actually believe in amnesty? Even though he said he did? I’m trying to understand – was he a straight shooter or an underhanded manipulator?
Reagan believed in a one time amnesty in exchange for Tip O’Neil’s commitment to pass congressional legislation to tighten up immigration laws and enhance border security. All so another illegal alien amnesty would never be needed again. The Democrats never delivered on their part of the bargain.
I’m sure you understand all this just fine. You may not actually be old enough to remember any of this or maybe you weren’t even born yet, but there are numerous historical references available on the subject. Of course you’re not actually interested in the truth. You just visit this site from time to time to play your little games.
Not trying to play any games; just curious how it would play if Joe Biden tried to offer a one-time blanket amnesty in exchange for increased border security. Would Republicans be cool with that?
The fact is, Reagan was too far to the left on a lot of issues to be a moderate Democrat in 2021, let alone a Republican. I’m surprised he gets so much love.
He needs to send the millions back that he left in
ANYONE who is in favor of allowing illegal ALIENS to stay and live in the United States is unfit to be here. And listen up you little troll, the LEFT is all about tearing down America and rewarding criminals.
I’m just quoting Reagan’s actual words. Sounds like you have a pretty big problem with him.
That’s where Nick comes in