Five years ago today, Ronald Reagan’s long goodbye came to an end. The former president who lifted the disheartened American people to their feet and brought the Soviet Union to its knees exited the darkness of a decade-long fight with Alzheimer’s in a perfect picture show ending – with his leading lady by his side.
This week, Nancy Reagan was greeted in the Capitol Rotunda by a cheering, standing-room only crowd on hand for the ceremonial unveiling of a bronze statue of her husband. Two of the Reagan’s closest advisors, Ed Meese and James Baker, were there. Henry Kissinger was there. They were all there: old warriors of the Reagan revolution and young conservatives who never had the privilege of living in a country when character was king.
This week also marks the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landing. On the windswept shores of Omaha beach the sixth day of June, 225 brave young men of the greatest generation stormed the cliffs and began the drive to liberate Paris, and ultimately Berlin, from the dread grip of Nazi terror. Atop those same cliffs 40 years later, President Reagan delivered one of his most memorable speeches.
As a Republican Congressman from California, I’ve drawn strength from the example of President Reagan. I’ve learned what it means to stand for principle in the face of incredible opposition, to follow your instincts instead of the polls.
It is, to borrow a phrase from our first Republican president, altogether fitting and proper that these three events coincide: the anniversary of D-Day, a bipartisan tribute to Ronald Reagan, and the fifth year that we’ve been without him.
There are those in the Republican Party who say that we need to get beyond Reagan, that we need to stop looking back to his leadership and start looking forward. That’s like saying we should stop thinking about D-Day. There’s something permanent, however, about America’s past. Something powerful about our history.
We are the people with the courage and compassion to liberate the oppressed. We are the people with the strength to stand unflinching against the evil empire. We are the men and women whose law-making happens in the light of Abraham Lincoln’s immortal gaze – whose President wakes up every morning under the watchful eye of Thomas Jefferson.
Every American should be proud that the world has looked to us as a beacon of freedom, that our strength has been used to bring liberty and not tyranny. We should be proud that the smile of providence has given us leaders – like Ronald Reagan – who look to the Constitution for guidance in dealing with international conflict or domestic crisis.
President Reagan ended his D-Day speech by calling upon us to “make a vow to our dead . . . by our actions that we understand what they died for.” Perhaps today’s conservatives should make a vow of our own to President Reagan:
Strengthened by his courage, heartened by his valor, and borne by his memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which he lived.
Congressman Issa represents California's 49th congressional district and serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.