Today marks the birthday of Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th president of the United States of America.
Reagan became president when the United States was in a period of great stress, just after the tenure of Jimmy Carter. Inflation and interest rates were in double digits and unemployment was close to 7%, taxes were at an all time high, America’s foreign policy and international prestige were reeling from the Iranian hostage crisis, severe cutbacks in defense and successful Soviet penetration all over the world.
Worse than that, Americans seemed to have lost confidence in themselves and in the country’s greatness.
Reagan squared his shoulders, rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He cut government, cut taxes, and oversaw the creation of 16 million new jobs and economic growth at 3.5 % per year. He rebuilt America’s military. He was unafraid to call the Soviet Union an evil empire, or to challenge them directly so that their evil empire crumpled into the dust of history.
He left America safer, stronger and wealthier than it was when he came, which is the most you can ask of a president. In simple terms, he was a singularly decent man who honored both himself and the nation he served.
He gave us confidence in ourselves again, reminded us of who we are and that we are a country singularly blessed by G-d’s providence. He inspired us as a nation. And he did it with grace, charm, wit and style, and with a sunny optimism that reached out to the best in us.
If ever a president deserved a national holiday to honor him, President Reagan does.
He was by no means perfect, as he would doubtless be the first to say. But in Ronald Reagan, we have an example of what real leadership is, an example especially needed today.