To do that, I realized that I had to move as close to Reagan as possible. So, like thousands of others, I got in my car on Monday morning and headed to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., to pay homage to President Reagan's coffin. Once there, I began to ask around.
"I'm here because President Reagan was the model American, the American we should all strive to be," a 20-year-old Air Force Academy student told me.
A young black mother brought her son and daughter with her to honor President Reagan. "There were lots of things I disliked about President Reagan, but I respect the office of the president. Reagan did a lot for the military."
A group of three older women emphatically praised President Reagan: "We came to pay our respects to a wonderful president. He uplifted our country. His optimism, belief that people are basically good, his humility -- he was a great man."
The link between all of the mourners was their implicit patriotism, the belief that America is different from the rest of the world and better, too, and the belief that American dominance means world improvement. It's a simple point but a profound one: Each mourner believed in Ronald Reagan because of his representation of and belief in the idea of American exceptionalism.
Patriotism was the essence of Reagan's presidency and his life. It was loss of patriotism that Reagan most feared: "We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom -- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. ... I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit," he said in his 1989 farewell address.
In an America where our morality and the superiority of our way of life are questioned from within, the reaction to President Reagan's passing should renew our hope. Mourners for Reagan are foundations for America's future. May Ronald Reagan unite us in his death as he did in his life: as patriots, dedicated to maintaining a shining city on a hill.
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