An old friend from high school (we were in high school together from 82-86) asked the other day what I thought about Reagan dying, saying “I remember you liked him in high school.” His question struck me in two ways:
1. I hadn’t really given much of my own thought to Reagan’s death since it happened. I’ve just been listening and watching some of the coverage when I can, but not really doing any of my own thinking on everything.
2. I don’t remember specifically liking Reagan in high school. Well, I know I liked him — the family was conservative, after all. But I don’t remember ever being so open about it that a high school friend would know that. My high school memories are not of any political discussions with friends, even though I went to a brainiac prep school where that kind of discussion would’ve been very much part and parcel of the education.
Well, having been prompted to do some thinking on Reagan, of course I remember liking him. The reasons are nothing new. I loved the way he talked to us. He could spin a story like no politician I’d seen in my young life. I loved the message. I remember the day he spoke at Pepperdine — to this day, one of my favorite days of college life. He was out of office by this time, and they showed a 10-15 minute video about him and his presidency, and it had most of us in tears, bawling.
Going back a little further, though, puts the Reagan years into perspective for me. I was too young to know or remember much of anything about Nixon and Ford. Jimmy Carter was the first president I was ever aware of as I grew up. The Iran hostage debacle was pretty much my first ‘real-life’ political memory. I knew I didn’t like Carter because he was weak, and he was depressing.
Then along comes Reagan, with his million-dollar smile and great stories to tell, and a vision of strength and direction and, most importantly, PRIDE and OPTIMISM. He had a cheesy, but honest, faith in America and in Americans. He made me proud to be American. He made me realize and understand that I was fortunate to be living in the greatest country on the planet. He was optimistic. He had a plan, and he stuck to it. He made mistakes; he accepted responsibility for them. He was human. He said things he maybe shouldn’t have said, but he said them because he knew he had to. He dealt from a position of strength. I admired all of that. And now that I’ve been prompted to think back … I still do.