Ronald Reagan is one of my few earthly heroes. As a kid, I was much more politically precocious than most kids, and Reagan got my attention. I was enthralled by him and what he had to say, and I wished to be able to vote for him. Fortunately, millions of Americans were equally enamored (or at least disgusted by Jimmy Carter) enough to sweep him into the presidency. And for eight years the country had the privilege of his leadership.
What is it about Ronald Reagan that was so appealing to so many people? I really do believe that part of it was the deep dissatisfaction with Carter and his policies and personality. Disastrous foreign policy and economic misery were the hallmarks of the Carter years, and Reagan presented an alternative. Reagan brought a can-do attitude to the table, while Carter’s attitude basically boiled down to, “Things are tough. Deal with it.” Reagan’s optimism and cheer stood in stark contrast to Carter’s dour seriousness.
But it wasn’t just what Reagan wasn’t that made him an attractive candidate. He stood for so much that Americans found to their liking. Reagan’s deep, honest faith in God and in America, his belief in the power of the market to create a strong economy, his confidence in his nation’s leadership on the world stage, and his innate trust in the unique potential of every individual came together to capture the American spirit and lead to the best presidency of my lifetime. And I believe his was among the best presidencies in our history.
So, in conjunction with the thirtieth anniversary of his inauguration (January 20, 1981) and the upcoming hundredth anniversary of his birth (February 6, 1911), I have compiled a list of ten of Ronald Reagan’s defining moments. These aren’t necessarily the top accomplishments or most momentous occasions of his presidency, but I believe they speak to why he was such a successful leader.