"My family and I would like the world to know that President Ronald Reagan has passed away after ten years of Alzheimer's,
at 93 years of age. We appreciate everyone's prayers over the years." Quoted Nancy Reagan through a press release on June
5, 2004. At 4:09 PM EST, Heaven received a beloved son whose legacy changed the world.
As I entered the house Saturday evening, my wife asked, "Have you heard the news yet, President Reagan died?" I already
knew and I was neither, shocked nor dismayed, just numb. I nodded and answered simply, "Yes." I sat and watched the television
interviews of countless acquaintances, associates, and friends of President Reagan as I silently digested the enormity of
the event. My wife finally said, "You need to write about him. You know you have too."
She was right, of course. President Reagan was my President as he was to so many millions of Americans in whom he had single-handedly
instilled a positive, 'can do' American sensibility. He personified for us the Conservative spirit of firm principles and
core values that was sincere, unselfish, and patriotic.
As a teenager realizing my Conservative nature when President Reagan won the election in 1980, I understood the need for
less government intrusion in our daily lives, lower taxes, a formidable military, free markets, and the need to fight communism,
but I hadn't experienced their importance in my life. Yet ideologically, I knew there was something even more important to
me and I, along with so many others, found it in President Reagan- an adherence to and the advancement of individual liberty.
Advocating liberty saturated every policy that President Reagan championed and that spirit called out to the American people
as an optimism that flourished in a way that made Americans believe in the country and in themselves.
He made freedom and liberty the focal point of his values. In his inaugural address on January 20, 1981 he said, "If we
look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because
here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before.
Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The
price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price." He then finished by saying,
"And, after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans. God bless you, and thank you."
That completely captured his essence and rang true for Americans everywhere. It symbolized a patriotic spirit the nation
as a whole had been lacking for years, especially since the end of the Vietnam War. The country was in Jimmy Carter's self-described
'malaise' and here came Ronald Reagan, his chest out, smiling and he told America, "Government isn't the solution to the problem.
Government is the problem." It was surreal, he was the father in the old black and white television shows, unwavering and
resolute, and he was saying, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps boy and lets go ridin', we have a 'rendezvous with destiny'
in 'that shining city on a hill'."
For the older generation he became a guiding force for hope, a reinvigorated vitality, and a beacon for a more prosperous
future. For the younger generation he promoted acceptance and provided the inspiration for an entrepreneurial spirit that
knew no bounds. For both he demonstrated an optimism that was resplendent, a courage that filled you with pride and a toughness
that showed he meant what he said and he wasn't going to take any mess from anyone.
After being shot during an assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, he told his wife Nancy, "Honey, I forgot to duck."
Then with only twelve days of recuperation he walked unaided from the hospital to his presidential limousine as if nothing
had happened and that sealed the bond we shared with him. President Reagan was our man.
He was vilified in the press by a media that never intended to understand him or how he, as 'the Great Communicator', was
able to connect so indelibly with the American public. He was called a 'hawk' and a 'war monger' for his 'peace through strength'
philosophy that led him to rebuild the military and stand toe to toe with the leaders of the 'evil empire'. In 1987 he told
Mikhail Gorbachev to, Tear down this wall. The media was aghast, but Americans and Soviets alike cheered.
Sergei Grigoryants, a Soviet-era dissident said of Reagan, I think President Reagan was undoubtedly the democratic leader
of the modern world. President Reagan is still beloved in Russia today.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, President Reagan was one of my closest political and dearest personal
friends. He will be missed not only by the nation he served so proudly and so deeply, but also by millions of men and women
who live in freedom today because of the policies he pursued. Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have
won the Cold War politically and he did it without a shot being fired. Whether you liked him or not, that will forever be
People everywhere were saddened when he first spoke of his disease, When the Lord calls me homeI will leave with the greatest
love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future, he wrote in 1994. I know that for America there will always
be a bright dawn ahead.
Today, as that dawn expands on the horizon, President Reagan ascends to his shining city as America mourns its loss, but
this Reaganite can just hear him saying, Ah, Jesus, there you go again.
Lee P Butler