Mitch Berg has his annual tribute to Ronald Reagan on what would have been his 97th birthday.
He also points to one of the best pieces of political oratory in the 20th Century, and a moment that changed the world:
There are only a couple pieces of oratory that truly get to me. This is one of them. I can’t hear Reagan say “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” without a wave of pride. We hear about the “audacity of hope”—but would any contemporary politician do something so audacious as to buck the entire foreign policy establishment and challenge a superpower with such boldness? Would any politician today have the courage to do what Reagan did? The optimism to believe that freedom would prevail despite all the analysts’ view that the Iron Curtain would be around for decades to come? That one phrase destroyed an empire.
While every Republican candidate keeps invoking the mantle of Reagan, the legend of Reagan shouldn’t overshadow the man himself. The legacy of Ronald Reagan was about more than a laundry list of issues and positions—if it were, Reagan would have been another technocrat with a moderately successful administration. Instead, Reagan was a transformational President not because of his position on the issues—although those are important—but because he stood up for American values in a time when it was not politically expedient to do so. We went from “Whip Inflation Now” and “malaise” to “morning in America” because Reagan recaptured an essential vision of this country.
Reagan’s vision is what should live on. He stood for a strong national defense, opposition to the expansion of government and American values. We as conservatives may quibble over the issues, but we agree on those key principles. Reagan the man would probably not have lived up to Reagan the legend—he compromised just like any politician and made some key mistakes in his term. What we can learn from Reagan is that the key to success is to believe in this country. Not just the party, not just an ideology, but to believe in the limitless potential of all the American people.
While we constantly hear the name of Reagan invoked, it would be nice if we’d hear more of his vision in our party and in our nation.