On this, the 104th birthday of Ronald Reagan, Rep. John Knotwell pays tribute to his favorite president.
“Hey, Dad, who’s that?”
“Well, Son, that’s Ronald Reagan. He’s the president of the United States.”
This exchange between my dad and me occurred nearly 30 years ago. I don’t remember what speech was being given or what the topic was. What I do remember is how I felt at the time. I felt proud that we had a President, I felt proud that this was the man leading our country. Maya Angelou said it best: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When Reagan entered his presidency the country was in the midst of economic recession. Unemployment was 7.6 percent in 1981 and would trend upward to nearly 10 percent by 1983. He fought with a divided congress for both of his terms in office on the important issues of the day. The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. His presidency was tarnished by the Iran-Contra affair. He failed to get some of his top priorities accomplished in office.
But Reagan also presided over one of the longest peacetime economic expansions in history. He stood toe-to-toe with Communism and is credited with spurring the collapse of the Soviet Union. He reinvigorated the image of the U.S. military. But, more than anything, he inspired a nation to believe in itself again.
Reagan has been nicknamed the “Great Communicator” for his ability to persuade the general public to his cause and for reminding us that we were the “shining city on a hill” imagined so long ago by John Winthrop.
It is easy to look in the rear view mirror and see the flaws in a person’s presidency. No doubt history will be replete with the flaws of Ronald Reagan and of those that came before and after him. On balance, however, Reagan’s presidency will stand the test of time and I believe we will look upon it as one of recovery, of accomplishment and of genuine hope.
Ronald Reagan deserves the credit for inspiring a nation, and for igniting a spark of pride and patriotism in the young son of a Navy-man that would one day represent a small corner of Utah.
Happy Birthday Ronnie!