August 2004 – Who is the first president you remember and what do you remember about him? Do you have good feelings or bad ones? I was talking to my Today’s Issues co-host Marvin Sanders and he said Harry Truman. That would have been the ’50s and black and white TV.
For me, it was Richard Nixon and nightly coverage of the Vietnam war on television, as I was born in 1963. I remember coming into my friend’s house and seeing his momma cry the day President Nixon resigned on national television. Then there were Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. And after that in 1980, a man named Ronald Reagan, former governor of California, was elected by the American people and from the moment he took office – with the freeing of the hostages in Iran – the world began to change for the better.
Mr. Reagan was the first President I ever had an opportunity to vote for.
It’s funny how these video clips and photographs we have seen of the Reagan years take me back to some younger days and joyous times in my life. I graduated from high school in 1981, married in 1984, finished at Mississippi State in 1986, and my first child was born in 1987. Those were all Reagan years. So not only is my affinity for President Reagan linked by my conservative politics but also by plenty of wonderful memories from that period of life.
Pardon the self-indulgence here. But then again, it is my column. And I would guess that many of you in your late 30s and early 40s feel the same way.
There are several reasons why I loved President Reagan and have missed seeing and hearing him these last 10 years. One reason was the respect and dignity he brought to the presidency. This is a man who would not take his jacket off in the Oval Office because of the reverence he had for the place. Another reason I loved President Reagan, was that he invited my dad to the White House in 1983.
In my mind, Mr. Reagan was best known for four things.
1. He was a staunch anti-communist and strong on national defense.
2. He was a great friend of business and Wall Street.
3. He had a great sense of humor and a positive outlook about America, both of which were contagious.
4. He very much believed in God, the sanctity of each human life and traditional moral values.
In fact, I believe Mr. Reagan’s positive attitude and friendly demeanor were a direct result of his faith in God and his personal adherence to a Christian code of conduct. Let me share some quotes and comments that reflect what I mean.
“Our Nation’s motto, In God We Trust‚ was not chosen lightly. It reflects a basic recognition that there is a divine authority in the universe to which this nation owes homage.” (3/19/81)
“We can’t have it both ways. We can’t expect God to protect us in a crisis and just leave Him over there on the shelf in our day-to-day living.” (9/9/82)
“To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and every-day life, may I just say: The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of the country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.” (3/15/82)
“I have been one who believes that abortion is the taking of a human life. The fact that they could not resolve the issue of when life begins was a finding in and of itself. If we don’t know (when life begins), then shouldn’t we morally opt on the side of life?” (1/19/82)
“I know now what I’m about to say will be very controversial, but I also believe that God’s greatest gift is human life and that we have a sacred duty to protect the innocent human life of an unborn child.” (9/9/82)
“I also believe this blessed land was set apart in a very special way, a country created by men and women who came here not in search of gold, but in search of God.” (2/4/82)
“America needs God more than God needs America. If we ever forget that we are ‘One nation under God,’ then we will be a nation gone under.” (8/23/84)
This may sound corny, but when Ronald Reagan was laid to rest in California in June, a piece of my life went with him.