Reagan’s patriotism wasn’t an act


O beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

‘America the Beautiful’

As I passed the Columbiana County Fairgrounds Saturday night, I wondered why the new, huge flag was at half-mast. I hadn’t read the daily paper nor listened to the news all day, so I didn’t know who had died. A retired fair board member, perhaps?

Then, Sunday morning, the television airwaves were filled with the news of former president Ronald Reagan’s death. I watched, then I started reading, filled anew with admiration for a president who re-energized Americans’ pride and patriotism at a time when we needed it most.

Economists and those with philosophical differences will forever debate Reaganomics and Reagan’s impact on the federal budget deficit. Today, I don’t care about that. Today, I care about a man who was unabashedly proud to be an American. A man who talked about the moral superiority of this country’s freedoms – freedoms that refugees continue to seek today.

And in his famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, June 12, 1987, Reagan voiced that commitment:

“We believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace.”

I agree with Edwin Meese III, former U.S. attorney general and Ronald Reagan counselor, who said this of Reagan in 2002: “He restored the spirit of the American people.”

His face may have been enlarged on the silver screen, but his upbringing was rooted in middle America. He learned religious faith from his mother, respect toward others, the importance of public service and of neighbors helping each other.

“I never meant to go into politics,” Reagan said in his 1989 farewell address. “It wasn’t my intention when I was young.

“But I was raised to believe you had to pay your way for the blessings bestowed on you. I was happy with my career in the entertainment world, but I ultimately went into politics because I wanted to protect something precious.”

That something precious was the foundation of free enterprise, democracy, and freedom.

But that foundation, that patriotism, was also the subject of his farewell speech warning, which is something of a tradition in farewell speeches.

“… one of the things I’m proudest of in the past eight years: the resurgence of national pride that I called the new patriotism. This national feeling is good, but it won’t count for much, and it won’t last unless it’s grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge. … We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.”

I wonder today whether our children recognize the gift they’ve been given by being born in this country. Have we failed to teach them, as Reagan observed?

Reagan’s farewell included his trademark optimism:

“… because we’re a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours.”

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