The Gipper's greatness

Posted: Jun 09, 2004 12:00 AM

It has been a true blessing over the last few days to hear my Heritage Foundation colleagues Ed Feulner, Ed Meese, Becky Norton Dunlop and Lee Edwards, who all spent many years with President Ronald Reagan, give their personal insights into this great American president, world leader and man among men.

The stories shared by those who knew President Reagan have a common theme: They reveal a man of sterling character, uncompromising conviction, undying courage, immense kindness and unwavering faith in God.

Like millions of people worldwide, I looked to President Reagan for inspiration, vision and leadership. I met him only once ? but in that brief moment as he clasped my hand and looked into my eyes, it seemed as if I were the only person in the crowded East Room of the White House that evening. I was 20 years old, and when I told the president how much the young people of America appreciated his leadership and commitment to conservative values, his response was one of warm gratitude as he held my hand tightly with both of his. I was deeply touched by his humility and genuine appreciation for these words ? words from a nameless face in a sea of faces he saw over the years.

For inspiring insights into the man of President Reagan from those who worked closely with him, you may wish to visit, where the Heritage Foundation has created a comprehensive site about the life and contributions of Reagan. You can access many of President Reagan's brilliant speeches, browse through a timeline of his life and amazing accomplishments, and read through many quotes by and about him.

Several months ago, I wrote a column about many of Reagan's accomplishments. As our nation temporarily puts aside partisan politics and becomes one in mourning, I again offer just a few of the reasons why President Ronald Wilson Reagan will go down in history as one of the world's greatest leaders:

  • It was Ronald Reagan who understood how to revive our spirits, renew our hope, and inspire Americans to feel good about our country and our role in the world.

  • It was Ronald Reagan who declared there is no moral equivalence between our political and social systems and those in communist countries ... and that we ought to stop acting as if there is. That's what ended the Cold War. It led him to call the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire," and to tell Mikhail Gorbachev, "Tear down this wall."

  • It was Ronald Reagan who engaged the Soviets in a defense-spending war he knew they couldn't win. When they realized they couldn't win, the Cold War ended more abruptly than even the always-optimistic president probably expected.

  • It was Ronald Reagan who realized that one day some unstable tyrant will get control of a ballistic missile ? possibly with chemical or biological warheads attached ? and that America better be ready with a missile defense.

  • It was Ronald Reagan who saw the rise of small business and its enormous potential to create jobs and set about making tax and regulatory policies to accommodate these entrepreneurs.

  • It was Ronald Reagan who recognized that lowering taxes is critical to a strong economy.

How far did President Reagan move the ideological goalposts? When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, he proposed tax cuts to jumpstart the slowing economy. The debate in Washington wasn't over whether tax cuts would help the economy. All sides accepted that premise. The argument was over how large the cuts should be.

Thanks, too, to President Reagan, we no longer argue over whether welfare recipients should work or perform public service in exchange for government assistance. We argue over how much they should be required to work.

Missile defense, which opponents derided as a Hollywood fantasy when President Reagan proposed it, is now the law of the land.

Most of us don't have personal stories to share about this great man. But as Americans, we are all living the story of President Reagan's amazing legacy and the many blessings that go with it.

As we gather around our TV sets this week and listen to his friends and former colleagues pay him tribute, and as we then join them in paying tribute when his body is laid to rest, let us renew our own commitment to help make America that "shining city on a hill" that President Reagan always knew it could be.