It’s been 26 years since Ronald Reagan left office. Yet, Reagan and his presidency still loom large.
Reagan’s is the quintessential American story: Born in a small midwest town, he faced hardships early in life, struggled, held true to his values and became a spectacular success.
Inspired by his father’s stumbles and his mother’s deep and abiding faith, he persevered and like many Americans of his time made his way across the nation to the full, open skies, majestic mountains, deep caverns and roaring surf of California. There, he found a great sprint of freedom — the west’s legacy of restlessness, discovery and oversized achievement.
As a rising star in Hollywood, later as a union chief and then as an emerging political leader, he learned as he went along. In the process he mastered all modern media: radio, movies and television. These skill would prove to be key as he developed the talent and experience that would bring the presidency into a new age of communication.
But as much as Ronald Reagan was messenger, he was also a careful and cognizant listener, an avid reader and a lifelong learner. He retained not only a youthful enthusiasm and optimism but a youthful curiosity as well.
Clear goals, organization, daily discipline and applied elbow-grease were the hallmarks of Reagan’s life and all of this is evident at his beloved retreat, Rancho del Cielo, the Ranch in the Heavens.
The books, paintings, tools and artifacts at the ranch all express the essence of the man and his simple, modest, everyday devotion to the small-town American values he treasured.
And he epitomized the fresh sentimentality and adventuresome romance of America as well. He was that rare combination — a dreamer and a doer.
There was never any doubt about Ronald Reagan’s feelings toward America and the American people. He loved America and he believed in its people — all of us,all the time, in all situations.
And his success was really our success. Indeed, he’d be the first one to tell you that you did build that.
He truly felt that the daily accomplishments of what he called “everyday American heroes” made our nation great and led to his success as a leader and he wasn’t at all shy about letting Americans know this.
So, to remember Reagan and revere him is not some mere exercise in nostalgia. Nor is it looking backward.
No, it’s reaffirming our own belief in ourselves once again – it’s recommitting ourselves to the values and attributes that helped us regain American exceptionalism at a time when others felt that such a quest was folly.
And isn’t that an awful lot like the time we’re facing right now?
That’s why Reagan matters today more than ever. That’s why his words, his actions and his life lessons are more important than ever before.
Certainly, if he were here today Reagan would give us a thumb’s up and urge us onward.
He’d point just over the ridge to that shining city on a hill.
It’s still there.
It’s still waiting.
And, as Americans it’s ours to reclaim with faith, hard work and courage.