Today would be President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. I voted for him in the first election after I turned 18. As a kid, I remember the dark days under President Carter. I was young then, but I knew the country was in a bad way and that everyone was struggling. Who could forget the Iranian Hostages?
When President Reagan was elected, it seemed like hope returned. Optimism about the future was one of his strong points. As history always does, his weak points have also been revealed, and now we are presented with a balancing act. I guess it’s the same for all of us, but done in a public way with public leaders. Many years from now, I think Ronald Reagan will be remembered as a good president. I personally believe this to be the case because of one remarkable event that I had the privilege to witness.
My friends and I had decided to make the trip down to the Capital during the public viewing of President Reagan’s casket. We had to wait in long lines, were searched a couple of times, and it took forever to make it into the building.
Just as we made it into the Rotunda, we noticed some movement at all of the perimeter doors. We knew something was up, but we weren’t sure what was going on. All the doors were closed and men in suits stood in front of each. Was it the President? Who was coming? All together, there might have been 100 or so of us watching to see.
Then we saw. It was Mikhail Gorbachev. We could tell because of the famous birthmark on his forehead. In silence and only about twenty feet away, we watched him go up and touch his adversary’s flag-draped casket. Instantly, I knew I was seeing something that had never been done before, and more than likely will never occur again.
Seeing history unfold before your eyes is an amazing thing. In the span of two minutes, it was over. Gorbachev left and the doors were re-opened. We were all struck by what we had seen. Why were we the one’s who got to witness such an event?
The world is a different place today. We don’t talk so much about evil empires as we do about high unemployment and healthcare. These are difficult days, but we’ve faced them before. Reagan’s optimism and spirit was born out of the Depression and World War II. He saw a future, and it was full of hope. Not so much a hope in the government, but, far more importantly, hope in ourselves. To me, that is why he will be remembered as a good president.
I know in my heart that man is good.
That what is right will always eventually triumph.
And that there’s purpose and worth for every life.