Friday, January 20, 2006

Remembering The Inauguration And Lasting Legacy Of Ronald Wilson Reagan

***This post bumped to top, ala Captain Ed. Originally posted January 18, 2006***

I was sent an invitation by Mike’s America last week, asking for my participation in a 25th Anniversary commemoration of the 1st Inaugural of President Ronald Wilson Reagan on January 20, 2006. I am truly honored to have been asked to be a part of this commemoration, and will do my best in the space below to do this great man justice.

As many of my regular readers know, I consider Ronald Reagan to have not only been the greatest president of the 20th Century, but also one of the greatest Americans to have ever lived. I’m sure there are those who would disagree with this assessment, but if you will indulge me for a moment, I will explain the reasons I believe this to be so.

The disagreement usually comes down to an argument between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald W. Reagan as to which was the greatest president of the 20th Century. I like to believe the answer is found by analyzing the questions each president asked.

Roosevelt asked, “What can the government do to lead the American people through this crisis?” Reagan asked, “What can the American people accomplish in the absence of government intervention?”

While a popular answer to the question is that each was the right man at the right time, I sometimes find myself wondering: How would history have changed had each president served the other’s terms in office? Would the American people have had the will to pull out of the Great Depression had Reagan placed the responsibility of recovery on their shoulders instead of the WPA programs of Roosevelt? Would Roosevelt have been successful using additional government spending in the 80’s to get America back on track?

In this hypothetical exercise, assuming a draw on national security, I believe Reagan wins hands down.

With all due respect to Roosevelt, I don’t believe his solution would have had the same effect in the 80’s as it did in the 30’s. The federal government was already so large and the taxes rates so punitive, that adding to it would have exacerbated the problem. On the other hand, I believe Reagan’s solution would have worked equally well in either era because it recognized that the true greatness of America is found not within her government, but within her people. Reagan knew if he removed the obstacles, the American people would respond.

Reagan’s goal was not to redefine government, but to make it more closely resemble its original definition and return it to its rightful owners,the American people:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

The words of his 1st Inaugural Address on January 20, 1981 demonstrate his belief in the power of the American people:

The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we've had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we've been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price…

We hear much of special interest groups. Well, our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we're sick -- professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truckdrivers. They are, in short, ``We the people,'' this breed called Americans…

So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed…

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…

We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we're in a time when there are not heroes, they just don't know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter, and they're on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They're individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet, but deep. Their values sustain our national life.

Reagan’s vision for America began at noon January 20, 1981 on the West Side of the
U. S. Capitol. I think it is very fitting that his Inauguration was the first to occur here, because to me it symbolized a new beginning, or as Reagan himself would later call it; "Morning in America".

He has become affectionately known as “The Great Communicator”, but I also like to think of him as “The Great Motivator”. He took a nation that had lost faith in itself, dusted it off, injected a little optimism, then stood back and watched the train gather steam and roll steadily down the tracks.

On the 25th Anniversary of the 1st Inauguration of President Ronald Wilson Reagan, my hope is that all Americans will pause for a moment to remember the man who reminded us that the people are the reason America is, and always will be, the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

I know I will.

Thanks to: Stop the ACLU Weekend Open Trackback

Technorati talk bubble
Locations of visitors to this page