Sunday, January 21, 2007

The people's President

Hailed as one of the greatest and kindest President Americans have had, the legacy and memories of Ronald Reagan live on as he lived his life in submission to God and love for people.

From The White House Biographies and Wikipedia:

He was born Ronald Wilson Reagan on February 6, 1911. He attended high school in nearby Dixon and then worked his way through Eureka College. There, he studied economics and sociology, played on the football team, and acted in school plays. Upon graduation, he became a radio sports announcer. A screen test in 1937 won him a contract in Hollywood. During the next two decades he appeared in 53 films.

As president of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan became embroiled in disputes over the issue of Communism in the film industry; his political views shifted from liberal to conservative. He toured the country as a television host, becoming a spokesman for conservatism. In 1966 he was elected Governor of California by a margin of a million votes; he was re-elected in 1970.

On January 20, 1981, Reagan took office. Only 69 days later he was shot by a would-be assassin, but quickly recovered and returned to duty. His grace and wit during the dangerous incident caused his popularity to soar.

Reagan had an easy-going but deep Christian faith. Reagan's mother, an active Protestant, taught Reagan lasting values at an early age, such as a strong sense of personal responsibility and Christian tolerance for other people. Reagan recalled in his autobiography An American Life that "my mother always taught us: 'Treat thy neighbor as you would want your neighbor to treat you,' and 'Judge everyone by how they act, not what they are.'" He was appalled when he witnessed discrimination and was taught repeatedly that racism and was one of the worst sins possible. "My parents constantly drummed into me the importance of judging people as individuals", Reagan recalled.

By the time he became president, Reagan held a few simple but firm convictions about God and life, and he believed that living by these basic principles would solve many personal and society problems. Reagan warmly looked back to his childhood in Dixon where "you prayed side by side with your neighbors, and if things were going wrong for them, you prayed for them - and knew they'd pray for you if things went wrong for you", he wrote in An American Life. "Every individual is unique, but we all want freedom and liberty, peace, love and security, a good home, and a chance to worship God in our own way; we all want the chance to get ahead and make our children's lives better than our own."

Reagan formed his general policies around these views and then left the details to others to handle. Reagan believed that his presidency had a higher meaning to be treated as a temporary gift of responsibility. As president, Reagan spoke to numerous Christian groups and naturally attracted voters with traditional values. However, his son Ron Reagan said at his father's memorial service that he did not blatantly "wear his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage".

Numerous people reflected in their memoirs that President Ronald Reagan was personally one of the kindest men they had ever met. Even his political enemies found it hard to hate him, since he was so sincere and charming.

Reagan's burial site is inscribed with words that President Reagan said at the opening of his presidential library:
I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there’s purpose and worth to each and every life."

Top left:
From the trailer for Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938), one of Reagan's earliest films.

Ronald Reagan on the cover of Time as "Man of the Year", 1980.

Bottom right:
Vice President Bush, and President Ronald Reagan and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev in New York City in 1988

Bottom most centre:
Speaking in front of the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987 Ronald Reagan challenged reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to go further with his reforms and "tear down this wall"

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