On Saturday at the DFA/DFW information table at the Democratic State
Convention in Tacoma, Washington, Delegate Joseph Ruth received a
phone call from his brother saying that President Ronald Reagan had
died, and that it was all over the news. That announcement spread
like wildfire, with various reactions throughout the convention. Many
were saddened by the news, some were elated. I have had a similar
assortment and diversity of opinion on the email lists. I would like
to present my own thoughts to the group.
There have been a lot of books about Ronald Reagan, and I have not
read even one of them yet. I was 11 years old when Ronald Reagan won
the presidential election of 1980. I grew up watching his
administration change the face of the country in many ways, some
positive and immediate, some not so positive and long term. But I was
proud to be an American during those years, a position shared by most
people in the country at that time. I didn't know enough about
politics or the long term impacts of what was happening to be able to
decide how to react.
Ronald Reagan was a great leader for our country. Part of what made
him a great leader was that he energized everyone in the country to
work harder to get involved. He was a patriot, he loved the flag, and
he had an eternal optimism about our country and our future. People
from all sides should recognize that we owe a lot to Ronald Reagan.
The fall of the Soviet Union was as much due to the policies of the
Reagan administration as their own failing economic system. But what
I would like to focus on was not the President or his administration,
but the man. Here is a quote from his speech opening the Ronald
Reagan library in California:
"In my eighty years, I prefer to call that the forty-first anniversary
of my thirty ninth birthday, I've seen what men can do for each other
and do to each other, I've seen war and peace, feast and famine,
depression and prosperity, sickness and health. I've seen the depth of
suffering and the peaks of triumph and I know in my heart that man is
good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and that there
is purpose and worth to each and every life."
He was right. Mankind can be 'good', and we should remember how
Ronald Reagan won the election. "A new day has dawned". It dawned in
1980, and his passing marks the end of an era.
What that means is that this is the beginning of a new era!
President Reagan asked a question during his 1980 campaign; "Are you
better off now than you were 4 years ago." Congressman Jim McDermott
mentioned this phrase at a town meeting that he held in April.
According to McDermott, and I wholeheartedly agree with him, this
phrasing of the question empowered the American People to reverse the
course launched by John F. Kennedy in 1960. I have a different
question to ask, one asked by Howard Dean and many others during the
last year and a half.
Are WE better off now than we were 4 years ago?
This is the one of the questions the Democratic Party needs to ask the
people as they decide to support John Kerry for President in the
upcoming election. Are our children learning more now in school, and
are they better prepared to be workers in the evolving world economy?
Is health coverage available to more people, giving us the foundation
of life that lets them pursue liberty and happiness? Is our
relationship with our allies in the world community stronger now than
it was 4 years ago?
The ends do not justify the means. The means lead us to the result.
This is the underlying ideology that we should push forward into the
debate. But we have to stand on the foundations built by all of our
history, and Ronald Reagan was a vital piece of that foundation. He
helped to build the ship, and even though I am still coming to an
understanding of how much work we have to do to turn this ship of
state around to avoid the rocks, I have to thank Ronald Reagan for
helping to build the ship. There is only one more thing to say:
ALL HANDS ON DECK!