A Reagan Eulogy
Certain scholars occasionally clamor to tell us that history is made not by the will and courage of particular men and women but rather by nameless tides of humanity and faceless social forces. They are wrong, as they have always been. Those particular men and women do arise and serve as the linchpins of history, pivots that would break were they made of less stern stuff.
Ronald Reagan was such a man. In death even his political and media enemies praise him, yet they mark only the outward appearance while never understanding the heart of the man. They call him “The Great Communicator” and mark his extraordinary optimism. They are right; Reagan did communicate well and was very optimistic, but that is to remark how beautiful a leaf is and ignore the stately tree that grew it.
In his parting Oval Office address, Reagan said: “I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and…they came from the heart of a great nation….” Reagan’s gift was that he saw America clearly, her goodness and greatness that arose from the goodness and greatness of her people, and he taught America to see herself the proper way again. Unlike most politicians, it wasn’t about him; it was about him reminding us who we are.
We often consider optimists to have a skewed, rosy vision of reality. Reagan’s optimism, however, sprang not from illusion but from truth. “Morning in America” did not mean that all problems were gone but that America was still strong and vigorous and “forever young.” America was sick but not dying, despite what the handwringers said; Reagan told us to get up and walk.
And walk we did. Our economy exploded with growth and opportunity, kicking aside the anklebiters who cried “greed!”. We defeated the Soviet Union which collapsed under the weight of its own immorality and the push President Reagan and other heroes gave it. America’s morning led to freedom’s dawn in Eastern Europe, Central America, and the prison state of the Soviet Union. For a time, we recovered our sense of national purpose—he called us an “empire of ideals”—and recalled our own glorious history.
Such times can pass, of course. Once again we have shrunk into timidity, despite far better times. Yet at this moment when our conscience approaches cowardice, Reagan’s words ring out once more.
“But history will ask…Did a nation borne of hope lose hope? Did a people forged by courage find courage wanting?...If history asks such questions, it also answers them…in [its] third century, the American Nation came of age, affirmed its leadership of free men and women serving selflessly a vision of man with God, government for people, and humanity at peace.”
It is still morning in America, and freedom’s dawn still breaks around the world in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. A new morning has dawned for Ronald Reagan, and well may he cherish it. He always said, “America's best days are yet to come.” His “best days” finally have. He did not get to enjoy his golden years because he gave them to us. Thank you, Mr. President.