He also brought new perspectives to old problems. Take welfare. A full decade before Congress passed the most sweeping reform of government-sponsored charity, Reagan was laying the groundwork by pointing out that welfare -- in FDR?s words, "a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit" -- should be measured not in terms of how much welfare recipients get, but "by how many of its recipients become independent of welfare."
I first saw Ronald Reagan close up in 1973 when he testified on welfare reform before the Senate Finance Committee, displaying his rare talent for expressing conservative ideas that Americans found so compelling. In November 1978, my friend Richard Allen, Reagan?s director of foreign policy research, asked me to arrange a meeting between the candidate and journalists in London. Bill Deedes, then-editor of the Daily Telegraph, complained to me beforehand about coming to a breakfast meeting -- "a barbaric American custom" -- with this man who used to be governor of California. He left telling me it was one of the most interesting, fruitful and positive meetings he had ever attended on either side of the Atlantic.
But perhaps the most memorable moment of my personal encounters with President Reagan occurred on Oct. 3, 1983, at The Heritage Foundation?s 10th anniversary dinner in Washington, D.C. My wife, Linda, stood next to the president on the dais. He was so moved by the color guard?s presentation of the colors and the Navy Band?s playing of the national anthem that he leaned over to Linda and whispered, "That was so moving, it makes me want to clap. Too bad no one else is." She replied, "Mr. President, I?ll bet if you did, everyone else would join in." He did, and within a second 1,400 people were on their feet applauding.
In Ronald Reagan?s two terms as president, he gave America a transfusion of his own optimism and hope. He enkindled a sense of the possible, rescuing America from defeatism and much of the world from tyranny. He restored our confidence in the presidency itself, proving that Jefferson?s "splendid misery" could be simply splendid. And -- not coincidentally -- he helped create a safer, freer world. For that, his nation will be eternally grateful.
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