Conqueror of communism, sworn enemy of statism, leader of unshakable conviction and contagious optimism, Ronald Reagan became one of history?s heroes long before his death. At a time when patriotism was mocked, he exposed the bankruptcy of modern liberalism and proved that true liberty is still a fighting faith. And like all great presidents, he created a yardstick against which future presidents will be measured.
President Reagan was not only congenitally optimistic; he could talk "through the camera" to the American people, making each viewer feel as if it were just the two of them. They were comfortable with him -- and this made them comfortable with his ideas. He had no need for spin doctors to convey what he "really meant." His message of lower taxes, smaller government and a strong U.S. military resonated deeply with the nation.
Indeed, no one since Franklin Roosevelt connected so well with ordinary Americans. In many ways, Reagan did for the 1980s what Roosevelt did for an America struggling with the Great Depression. He took an America suffering from "malaise" and double-digit inflation at home, as well as declining respect and foreign policy embarrassments abroad, and made its citizens believe again in their destiny as the "last best hope of mankind."
Long before voters began pining for "authentic" candidates, President Reagan was the genuine article. What you saw was what you got. Those who say he was scripted -- a former actor in the role of a lifetime -- didn?t know the man.
Consider his famous description of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." Several close advisers warned against using what they considered inflammatory language, but in his view diplomatic euphemisms were allowing a morally and intellectually bankrupt regime to suppress the freedom of millions. History proved Reagan right. As Margaret Thatcher memorably put it, "He won the Cold War without firing a shot."
Although Reagan believed in a strong America, he didn?t expect it to act as the world?s policeman. But he did believe in giving support to people fighting for freedom. "All they need is our support," he said of Nicaragua in 1985. "All they need is proof that we care as much about the fight for freedom 700 miles from our shores as the Soviets care about the fight against freedom 5,000 miles from theirs."