Anaheim, California is a city of more than 330,000 people, the 10th largest in California, and known the world over as the home of Disneyland. On Friday July 1 it also becomes the home of Ronald Reagan Park.
Mayor Tom Tait was the force behind the dedication of the park to the 40th president. Tait was elected mayor of the city last year, having previously served nearly a decade on the city council beginning in 1995. Tait is widely admired across the region as a successful businessman, a leader in the not-for-profit community, and the husband of Julie and dad to four great kids.
Tait’s a sunny optimist, a believer in the ability of California to come back, and insistent on local government as servant of the people. He stresses that the city works for the people who live there and the employers and employees of the private sector who thrive there, and campaigned on making sure that everyone knew the local government was there to assist the private sector and encourage the citizenry in its projects and lives, not to be a dominant force in the day-to-day affairs of the people.
Tait is thus one of Reagan’s heirs, one of the young men and women in the years of Reagan who are now in the prime of their public and business careers, whose lives were deeply shaped by a president who, though he last served in the office almost a quarter century ago, remains not merely a happy memory but a vibrant force in their lives.
Reagan had many ties to Anaheim, including as co-host of ABC’s live broadcast of the opening of Disneyland in 1955. He campaigned there frequently in his years in politics, and like every other Republican leader of any stature, attended fundraising dinner and rally after fundraising dinner and rally at the Anaheim Convention Center. Having a park in his memory is altogether a fitting thing for Anaheim.
But the real genius behind Tait’s move to have the park dedicated now, in the early summer of 2011, is because the times are so similar to those of 1979, when Reagan was making his way towards his epic landslide win in the presidential battle of November 1980.
The country was in a bad place in 1979, with the economy stagnant, inflation rising and interest rates soaring. “Stagflation” was the term birthed by the years of Jimmy Carter.
Abroad Cuban soldiers spread out across Africa, our strongest ally in the oil-rich world of the Middle East, Iran, was in the throes of the bloody revolution that toppled the Shah and saw the rise of Khomeini. The Soviets were a vast and dangerous empire, in the midst of preparations for its late December invasion of Afghanistan.