We lost President Ronald Reagan ten years ago but still remember him with fondness and admiration. We loved him because he first loved us and our nation. He loved freedom and knew its importance to the world. He brought greatness back to our nation because he embodied “classical virtues.”
Lee Edwards, Ph.D., a Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought in the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies at The Heritage Foundation, explained some of those values.
Courage: “When he was shot on March 30, 1981, President Reagan seemed to spend most of his time reassuring everyone that he was not seriously hurt, although the bullet had stopped only one inch from his heart and the doctors were very concerned about his substantial blood loss. As he was wheeled into the operating room, he noted the long faces of his three top aides – James Baker, Ed Meese, and Michael Deaver – standing in the hall and asked, `Who’s minding the store?’ When a distraught Nancy Reagan made her way to him, he lightly said, `Honey, I forgot to duck.’ …
“It also takes courage to challenge an enemy like the Soviet Union when the stakes are high. There was vehement Soviet opposition to his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), but the President did not budge. At the Reykjavik summit, when both sides were very close to a far-ranging agreement on nuclear weapons, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev pressed hard for laboratory testing only of SDI. Reagan refused. His steadfast commitment to SDI convinced the Kremlin that it could not win, or afford, a continuing arms race and led to an end of the Cold War at the bargaining table and not on the battlefield.”
President Reagan also showed courage when he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The Berlin Wall fell soon afterwards.
Prudence: “Rather than dispatching American combat troops to trouble spots, Reagan assisted pro-freedom anti-Communist forces in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, and Cambodia. National security analyst Peter Schweizer estimates that the cash-strapped Soviets spent $8 billion a year on counterinsurgency operations against U.S.-backed guerrillas….
“At home, Reagan practiced the politics of prudence by relying upon his `70 percent rule’: If he could get 70 percent of what he wanted in the face of opposition, he would take his chances on coming back and getting the other 30 percent later….”
Justice: “Although it was not politically correct, President Reagan steadfastly defended the rights of every American – from the moment of conception to that of natural death. For him the sanctity of life was not a slogan but a fundamental principle to be honored….”
Wisdom: “President Reagan had the ability to foresee what others could not. In the early 1980s, liberal intellectuals such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and John K. Galbraith were lauding the economic accomplishments of the Soviet Union. At the same time, Reagan told the British Parliament that a `global campaign for freedom’ would prevail over the forces of tyranny and that `the Soviet Union itself is not immune to this reality.’ By the end of the decade, as he predicted, Marxism-Leninism was dumped on the ash heap of history.
“In late 1981 and all of 1982, when his tax cuts had not yet kicked in and the U.S. economy still lagged, President Reagan reassured his worried aides and counseled them to stay the course. He had faith in the American people…. In the closing days of 1982, America began the longest peacetime economic expansion in U.S. history up to that time, creating 17 million new jobs during the Reagan years.
“Ronald Reagan’s trust in the people and his love of freedom were rooted in two documents – the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution…. Reiterating the central role of the American Revolution, the President said: `Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words, “We the people.”’ …”
Classical Virtues: “The President reassured the men and women of the `Reagan Revolution’ that they had made a difference. They had made America – that `shining city on a hill’ – stronger and freer and had left her in good hands. The city never shone brighter than when it was led by Ronald Reagan, who exemplified the virtues of courage, prudence, justice, and wisdom.”
I could add several other virtues and principles embodied by President Ronald Reagan: Faith: He had faith that God was in control and that he – the most powerful man in the world – was an instrument in God’s hands. Cheerfulness: He had a sunny disposition that dispelled any gloom and doom around and made people feel hopeful again. Leadership: He was a leader, and he looked and acted the part. Faithfulness: He was faithful to his beloved wife Nancy. No one could doubt the love he felt for her.
Ronald Reagan took office after the disastrous term of Jimmy Carter. He offered the nation “hope and change” without using the words as a slogan, and he brought both hope and change to the nation and the world. Our world was a much better place because Ronald Reagan was the President of the United States.