Friday, June 11, 2004

Reaganoptics: How He Gave the City Light to See

It has been said of President Ronald Reagan that his timing was impeccable. Perhaps above all other qualities, this one in particular--his death--carved his status as the Great Communicator. Yet never in his life was his timing more perfect and his message more clear than it was in his death. Reagan loved few things more than his country, and it is fitting that providence gave him the opportunity to send such a poignant message at this moment. This nation stands in the center of a remarkable confluence of events that have combined to fix our attention on the sacrifice that gives birth to freedom.

It is true, as it has been said so often, that Reagan was a kind and courteous man, and we need to be more kind and courteous. He was a decent man who loved his wife faithfully, and it takes little imagination to perceive how such character is in short supply. But let there be no mistake. The message of Ronald Reagan’s memory that is absolutely inescapable today is that freedom and democracy advance only through courage and sacrifice, never by conciliation and appeasement.

Sunday we were reminded that four thousand American lives lost on the shores of France was the price our nation paid in just one day for the European appeasement of a German madman. Every day we are reminded that three thousand American lives lost on our home shore is the price we pay for the lack of courage we demonstrated in failing to deal with the terrorist threat that fired its warning shots in the 1990’s. Starkly contrasted with these reminders is the great light of freedom that is shining now in places where it was unthinkable twenty years ago.

If there is an era in the history of this planet in which the groundswell of freedom was more powerful than in the era influenced by the Reagan presidency, historians have failed abysmally to leave record of that era for us. Grenada, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Afghanistan, Poland, Austria, the former East Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, the Baltic States, a whole basketful of former Soviet “Republics” and Russia itself owe their present freedom from totalitarian regimes to Ronald Reagan more than to any other human being.

It has been truly laughable to see the video clips from the 1980’s with elected officials criticizing Reagan’s aggressive responses to the evils of communism and Lybian terrorism. I know that the lesson of history to many who are reading this letter is as unclear as it was to these men twenty years ago. But those of us who “get it” need to take personal responsibility to make sure that the lesson is remembered. Ronald Reagan believed that our nation is a city on a hill. What he didn’t tell us was that he was the man who created the spark that lit the lamp that served as the shining beacon of light for that city. Now that he is gone, our time must come.