If I had a son, he’d look like this. He’d be studious and hard working. He would be well-versed in what it means to be a citizen of the United States. He would not grow up to be a statist.
Ronald Reagan was born in 1911 above a general store. He worked his way through college, worked part of the time as a lifeguard who saved 77 people by his own count. In school, he played football and starred in school plays.
After graduation, he became a radio sports announcer. A screen test in 1937 won him a contract in Hollywood. During the next two decades he appeared in 53 films. Eventually, he was the President of the Screen Actor’s Guild and later the Governor of California.
And if his way with a joke came from anywhere, it came from his father Jack, an Irishman whose taste for strong drink was matched only by his talent for storytelling.
“So in the language of my forefathers,” he said, switching to an Irish brogue, ‘I’ll have another drink of that fine Irish whiskey.'”
Mr. Reagan was a handsome young man with a silken voice, he drifted into radio, then films. He played radio announcers in his first couple of movies, projecting a breezy affability audiences liked.
He began as a liberal Democrat and became a conservative Republican. He was not to be underestimated as his opponent, Jimmy Carter, discovered –
“Governor Reagan, again typically, is against such a proposal,” said incumbent Jimmy Carter in a 1980 presidential debate.
“There you go again,” replied the eventual winner of that race.
Even people who were opposed to his politics found him charming. He won people over instead of dividing them. He was a inveterate story teller. He loved to tell stories about middle America that ended in a political message like the following –
“Former Congressman Prentiss Walker dropped in on a farm and introduced himself as a Republican candidate. And as he tells it, the farmer’s eyes lit up, and then he said, ‘Wait ’til I get my wife. We’ve never seen a Republican before.’ And a few minutes later he was back with his wife, and they asked Prentiss if he wouldn’t give them a speech.
“Well, he looked around for a kind of a podium, something to stand on, and then the only thing available was a pile of that stuff that the late Mrs. Truman said it had taken her 35 years to get Harry to call ‘fertilizer.’ So, he stepped up on that and made his speech.
And apparently he won them over. And they told him it was the first time they’d ever heard a Republican. And he says, ‘That’s okay. That’s the first time I’ve ever given a speech from a Democratic platform.'”
Ronald Reagan loved to joke and he was a hit with the press. During one off the record meeting with the press corps when he was President, he said –
“Now I’ve been told that this is all off the record and that the cameras are all off, is that right? I was told that, because I’ve been waiting for years to do this, he said and put his thumbs in ears and wiggled his fingers.”
We need a Ronald Reagan now.