Former President Ronald Reagan’s centennial is just around the corner--February 6, the date of this year’s Super Bowl Sunday. It is appropriate to review some of the reasons for his greatness. Here are ten keys to his effectiveness, in no particular order.
1. Optimism: During his presidency, some grew irritated at his unfailing optimism and his tendency to look on the bright side of life. Now, many of those same people realize that such optimism, even in the midst of crisis and depressing circumstances, is an essential element of leadership.
2. Inspiration and Hope: Reagan had the gift of being able to inspire the nation and give its people hope when all around him were signs that things were not going well. Great leaders are able to transcend the moment to see the future, not in clichés, empty promises or utopian dreams, but in the context of the miracle that is America. Reagan never forgot the promise of this nation, nor the spirit that drives it people.
3. Faith: President Reagan’s own faith, though not worn on his sleeve, was obvious, and he understood both the reality of evil’s opposition to faith and the good will toward others that faith requires of its adherents.
4. Power: Reagan also understood the necessity for national strength — power, if you will — and a strong defense in containing evil dictators and those who want to destroy anything good, including the liberty and freedom of others.
5. Intelligence and Common Sense: Because he was a former actor, his critics dismissed him as a lightweight. However, after his death his family released an astonishing collection of notes in his own handwriting. Those private notes, about his reading and his thoughts regarding whatever was going on at the time, reveal a man who understood history and, perhaps more importantly, understood human nature.
6. Humor and Storytelling: While he took his job seriously, President Reagan did not take himself seriously. In fact, he loved to tell a good joke and found humor even after an attempted assassination almost took his life. He also enjoyed telling stories and could charm even his opponents in social situations.
7. Hands On: Those who worked most closely with the president recount his involvement on a daily basis in decision-making. He brought the heft of the presidency into discussions, as well as his unique ability to get to the heart of a problem and react decisively.
8. Principles: Those who knew him best knew that Ronald Reagan would not “go wobbly.” He had a consistent conservative focus, what Margaret Thatcher described as a man who was “not for turning.”