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Monday, June 07, 2004

Thanks From a Grateful Country
I've been waiting for Peggy Noonan to write about President Reagan and, thankfully, it wasn't a long wait. I don't know what to say about him that could be better said than Peggy. But I'll say this, he was a man who saw right and wrong clearly, who knew what he had to do, and did it (as far as he was able). He didn't waver, he didn't go wobbly, he stood on his principles through it all. And he combined those great qualities with good ones - faith in God, love for all men, humor, warmth, faithfulness.

Here's Peggy:
This was a life with size. It had heft, and meaning. And I am thinking of what Stephen Vincent Benet, a writer whom he quoted, wrote on the death of his friend Scott Fitzgerald. "You can take off your hats now, gentlemen, and I think perhaps you'd better."

He volunteered for action in World War II, was turned away by doctors who told him with eyesight like his he'd probably shoot his own officer and miss. But they let him join behind the lines and he served at "Fort Roach" in Los Angeles, where he made training and information films.

He studied communism, read Marx, read the Founders and the conservative philosophers from Burke to Burnham. He began to tug right. The Democratic Party and his industry continued to turn left. There was a parting.

[After losing the Republican nomination to Ford in 1976] He told his weeping volunteers not to become cynical but to take the experience as inspiration. He promised he wouldn't go home and sit in a rocking chair. He quoted an old warrior: "I will lie me down and bleed awhile / And then I will rise and fight again." Four years later, he won the presidency from Jimmy Carter after a mean-spirited onslaught in which he was painted as racist, a man who knew nothing, a militarist. He won another landslide.

Ronald Reagan told the truth to a world made weary by lies.

What an era his was. What a life he lived. He changed history for the better and was modest about it. He didn't bray about his accomplishments but saw them as the work of the American people. He did not see himself as entitled, never demanded respect, preferred talking to hotel doormen rather than State Department functionaries because he thought the doormen brighter and more interesting. When I pressed him once, a few years out of the presidency, to say what he thought the meaning of his presidency was, he answered, reluctantly, that it might be fairly said that he "advanced the boundaries of freedom in a world more at peace with itself." And so he did. And what could be bigger than that?

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