Confidence and Optimism

Tributes to Ronald Reagan occupied much of this past weekend on what would have been the 100th birthday of the 40th President.

It’s always interesting to observe that the longer a 20th century president has been out of office, the more glowing the tributes.  While many such tributes seem forced, such is not the case with Reagan.

Ronald Reagan was many things to many people. Former Senator Alan Simpson called Reagan “rare and real…a man of passion, no façade.”

England’s Margaret Thatcher believed Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot. “We have one beacon to guide us that Ronald Reagan never had. We have his example.”

Journalist Lou Canon wrote that Reagan “tempered conviction with compromise.” Senator John McCain remarked that the former president had an “unshakable faith” in America.

In a message aimed squarely at the new Congress, former Chief-of-Staff James Baker said of his former boss, “Ronald Reagan was a master at reaching across the aisle for solutions to our nation’s problems. We must re-learn that as citizens of a democracy, it is okay to voice our disagreements, but at the end of the day we have to come together to solve problems rather than cynically rely on them for partisan advantage.

“Today,” Baker said, “we again face stormy seas that are not dissimilar from those of 30 years ago. Once more the alarmists are sounding their apocalyptic cries. Well, 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan rejected predictions of America’s decline. ‘Not on my watch,’ he responded. And we must likewise reject the gloomy forecast today.

In an op-ed in USA Today, President Obama declared that “Ronald Wilson Reagan was a believer. As a husband, a father, an entertainer, a governor and a president, he recognized that each of us has the power — as individuals and as a nation — to shape our own destiny. He had faith in the American promise; in the importance of reaffirming values like hard work and personal responsibility; and in his own unique ability to inspire others to greatness.

“President Reagan recognized the American people’s hunger for accountability and change — putting our nation on a bold new path toward both. And although he knew that conflicts between parties and political adversaries were inevitable, he also knew that they would never be strong enough to break the ties that bind us together. He understood that while we may see the world differently and hold different opinions about what’s best for our country, the fact remains that we are all patriots who put the welfare of our fellow citizens above all else.

“It was a philosophy that President Reagan took to heart — famously saying that he and Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill, with whom he sparred constantly, could be friends after 6 o’clock. It’s what led him to compromise on issues as contentious as Social Security and tax cuts. And it’s what allowed him to work with leaders of all political persuasions to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and security around the world, including reducing nuclear weapons and imagining a world, ultimately, without nuclear weapons.

“But perhaps even more important than any single accomplishment was the sense of confidence and optimism President Reagan never failed to communicate to the American people. It was a spirit that transcended the most heated political arguments, and one that called each of us to believe that tomorrow will be better than today.

“At a time when our nation was going through an extremely difficult period, with economic hardship at home and very real threats beyond our borders, it was this positive outlook, this sense of pride, that the American people needed more than anything.

“When the future looked darkest and the way ahead seemed uncertain, President Reagan understood both the hardships we faced and the hopes we held for the future. He understood that it is always ‘Morning in America.’ That was his gift, and we remain forever grateful.”

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