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.”
9. Charm and Likeability: President Reagan was a charming man who knew how to entertain and genuinely liked other people; he enjoyed being with people, and they knew it. People around him reciprocated the feeling.
10. Courage and Convictions: President Reagan showed his courage and convictions early on in his acting career. He fought the communists for control of the Screen Actors union. During his presidency, he showed the same courage of his convictions as he stood up to his opponents in the State Department, as well as standing strong before the Soviet threats.
President Reagan was a highly effective president, even though he came to the presidency in times that were just as uncertain as today — unemployment was high, and both inflation and interest rates were soaring into the stratosphere. Yet, under his leadership, the nation faced those problems with positive, consistent policies and decisions. As a result, problems became opportunities — the striking air traffic controllers were fired, and the flight industry thrived; unemployment fell here at home, as did the Berlin Wall in Germany. Those Reagan traits were invaluable in those difficult times, and they are desperately needed in these uncertain days of unprecedented debt and deficit crises that threaten the economic stability and even the existence of America.