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Remembering Reagan Twenty Years Later January 19, 2009

Posted by Daniel Downs in American history, Barak Obama, conservative.
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On January 20th, the nation’s attention will be focused on the historic inauguration of the first African-American president of the United States. But the inauguration of president-elect Obama will occur on an anniversary date that conservatives across America should take note of … the 20th anniversary of the end of the Reagan Administration.

This is clearly an historic moment for the nation. The election of an African-American as president is a significant milestone toward achieving Martin Luther King’s vision of a nation that truly does not judge any individual by the color of his or her skin. I believe President Reagan would have been proud of this moment.

At the same time, I do not believe President Reagan would be proud of the direction that our new president hopes to take our nation. Reagan would tirelessly oppose many of the initiatives that the Obama Administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress will attempt to impose upon us. But Reagan would also speak out against the Republican Party’s abandonment of the conservative principles which defined him as a president … the wasteful spending, the earmarks and the government bailouts. The Republicans are not blameless in regard to the crisis our nation now faces.

Two decades after the Reagan Administration, it may seem to some that the principles which guided him are irrelevant to the problems currently facing the nation. Millions of American citizens, especially those under age forty, know little about the conservative principles that guided President Reagan. In fact, people under age forty have never had an opportunity to vote for a presidential candidate who intelligently and persuasively articulated the conservative values and principles that defined Ronald Reagan.

Reagan was committed to rock solid conservative values and was unabashedly proud of this country. Reagan believed in the American people and in the example we should set for the rest of the world. He believed that all Americans are heirs to the blessings of liberty which give us the freedom to be and do what we want with our lives without the interference of an overreaching, overbearing government.

In a 1976 radio address, Reagan quoted Ferdinand Mount in the July 5th edition of the London Daily Mail. Mr. Mount wrote, “What the world needs now is more Americans. The United States is the first nation on earth deliberately dedicated to letting people choose what they want and giving them a chance to get it. For all its terrible faults, in one sense America still is the last, best hope of mankind, because it spells out so vividly the kind of happiness which most people actually want, regardless of what they are told they ought to want. We criticize, copy, patronize, idolize, insult, but we never doubt that the U.S. has a unique position in the history of human hopes. For it is the only nation founded solely on a moral dream. A part of our own [Britain’s] future is tied up in it and the greatest of all the gifts the Americans have given us is hope.”

Confronted with an economic crisis of historic proportion and the prospect of a regime that could expand the power of government beyond anything our forebears ever imagined, it is in these uncertain times that the people of America are most in need of courageous, principled leaders who can inspire hope.

In her eulogy of President Reagan in June 2004, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, reminded us that Reagan loved America and he loved what it stands for “… freedom and opportunity for ordinary people.” Reagan, who thought of himself as an ordinary man, did not believe most ordinary American people want to give up the freedom to succeed or fail on their own in return for a government that promises to take care of them.

As Thatcher said, “Ronald Reagan knew his own mind. He had firm principles and, I believe, right ones. He expounded them clearly. He acted upon them decisively. When the world threw problems at the White House, he was not baffled or disorientated or overwhelmed. He knew almost instinctively what to do.”

That is because Reagan knew what he believed at the core of his being. Reagan’s ideas were developed through years of studying and applying the principles that made America great. And he knew one subject best of all – the American people. Reagan was a leader who believed in us, in our ability to solve problems and achieve goals, and in our basic character. He believed the American people could meet any challenge and overcome any obstacle.

Reagan’s vision for the renewal of America was to use government to unleash the energies of the American people. When he was sworn into office in 1981, Ronald Reagan met the great need in America for someone the people could trust, who would be guided by principles that would never be abandoned. Two decades later, that is exactly kind of leadership America desperately needs.

By Gary Palmer

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

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