On February 6, 1911, the 40th President of the United States was born. After a career in Hollywood and another in California politics, Ronald Reagan was waxing poetic as he took the highest office in the land in 1981. I was busy learning my multiplication tables and the musical stylings of the flutophone while in the third grade.
Ronald Reagan was the President during much of my childhood. I looked at the office with awe and wonder, and to even a child, this particular President seemed special. Perhaps it was his warm look, and grandfatherly voice that caught my attention, but he also seemed to capture the attention of the grown-ups. When the President was giving a televised speech, we would stop what we were doing and see what he had to tell us. And what he had to tell us was always spoken with such elegance, even if I didn’t understand everything he was talking about.
Some things I understood right away. I remember him talking about Star Wars and thinking that I liked that movie, too. As I grew older and understood more, I remember his speech asking Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. I was in high school when the space shuttle evaporated before our eyes, and I’ll never forget his touching words that seemed to usher the fallen astronauts to their eternity.
One year my parents let me skip school for the day to see President Reagan give a speech down the street from my father’s office in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He was to speak on the steps of city hall before two giant brass doors that the city had polished up to a shine. Even though I was just a kid, Dad let me go down into the crowd on my own. I scurried through the legs of the adults standing there and found my spot right down front where I took some pictures on my little camera. To this day, that is the only time I have seen a standing President in person, and what an amazing experience for a wide-eyed kid from Jersey.
Years later, when I moved to California, my parents, my sister and I were able to meet President Reagan. At that point it had been made public that he was suffering from the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease, but I saw a news report that said he was still going to his office in Los Angeles every day where he would meet with people. My sister was about to turn 16 having been born the year he first took office. After some correspondence with his staff in which her birthday was mentioned, we were able to visit him in his office in early 1998. The ravages of his infliction were evident that day, but it is a day I will forever hold dear. It was the day I was able to thank him.
I don’t particularly enjoy engaging in political debate. You have your beliefs, I have mine and we deal with them at the polls. Today debate rages amongst the politically minded about his contributions to our country, and yet whenever there is an election, it seems as though candidates from all sides wish to have the association of Ronald Reagan placed upon them. That in and of itself speaks volumes of his legacy, a legacy that began 100 years ago today.