The Gipper resonates 30 years later.
Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM & FM, Friday, Jan. 21, 2011.
Thirty years ago today it was a Tuesday. The weather in Washington, D.C. that day began with overcast but broke out in unusually warm 55-degree sunshine by noon.
With the west front of the Capitol behind him and over a half million people stretched out along the National Mall before him, Ronald Reagan took the oath of office.
Reagan’s first inaugural was the first that I watched closely. I was an ambitious, newly appointed young sales manager for WFAA Radio in Dallas. I was keenly aware of how hard it had been in the previous couple of years to sell advertising. An advertising purchase is, at its core, an exercise in optimism. And with inflation running at more than 10 percent, interest rates near 20 percent, unemployment near eight percent, 52 American embassy personnel held captive by an outlaw regime in Iran for over a year while the U.S. was both helpless and feckless, and chronic shortages of gasoline leading to long lines and rationing; optimism was in short supply.
Thus I listened to President Reagan’s inaugural address with rapt attention. I was young and ambitious and anxious to succeed and I strongly believed that for me to prosper, something had to give. I was looking for the new president to give me a reason to be optimistic.
He did not disappoint.
Here are a couple of my favorite clips from the speech.
“From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people.”
“If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before.”
Reagan’s admirers called him the ‘Great Communicator’ and there is no question that he was good. He was so good that many conservatives persist in looking for a latter-day Reagan, a Gipper reincarnate.
Such yearning misses the point.
Reagan succeeded because of what he believed. Reagan’s administration was by no means perfect. But in the end, despite the Iran-Contra affair, despite being nearly 80 years old when he left office and despite eight years of withering criticism from the media and elite liberals, his belief in the American people, and his resulting desire to keep government out of their way, transcended.
Since Reagan, we’ve had two very charismatic communicators hold the office. The first departed from Reagan principles and got his head handed to him in the first midterm election of his administration. The same thing happened to the second one this past November.
The lesson for conservatives is clear. Charisma is great. Take it when you can get it. But stick to principles.
Principle matters above all else. It’s why we’re still talking about Ronald Reagan 30 years later.
There can never be another Reagan. Reagan came from another era, one that is so foreign to young people of today, they have a hard time believing in the principles Reagan embraced. The same principles that those of us who knew Reagan still do today. We see those principles slipping away from us because the people we now have in Washington have thrown away the concept that we are supposed to be a REPUBLIC that is owned BY THE PEOPLE…not a RULING CLASS! These are principles that Ms.pelosi and harry reid have completely forgotten in their quest for POWER. Maybe not completely forgotten, but just tossed aside as they gain more and more power, power that has lead them to believe that they know what is best for us instead of letting US be the judge of what is best for us. We have seen that in the passing of obamacare and other bills that has been nothing but a total power grab and the taking away of what little freedoms we have left! Reagan saw that WE THE PEOPLE knew what was best for ourselves better than the government. That is why we prospered under Reagan…because Reagan saw that it was not US that was the problem, it was the GOVERNMENT that was the problem! This principle is completely lost on obama and his administration. Until the republicans quit trying to “get along” and stand up for what this Nation stands for, the way Reagan did, we are doomed. Reagan had a way of giving back to the left that left them with no way to dispute what he said. We do not have anyone with that skill today. Reagan KNEW the people because he was one of us, not someone who thought he was above us. Until the republicans start pushing back and not taking the abuse the left is dishing out, until they grow a SPINE and say enough is enough, that the CONSTITUTION matters…until THEN, we can expect nothing more than the downward spiral we are in to keep going! We do not have a Reagan to save us this time!
The picture of Reagan in the western hat is my favorite. I had the priveledge of bringing Michael Reagan to Tyler a couple of years ago and met you at KTBB when he dropped by the radio station. (We gave Gillian Sheridan an award, he and my daughter spoke about adoption at the country club)
I’ve recently read the exploits of Ronald Reagan as the President of the Screen Actor’s Guild and his fight with communism in a book called DUPES (don’t buy it I’ll loan u my copy) – the author was able to find actual Kremlin records of Reagans opposition to the SAG in KGB documents the Library of Congress bought from the Russians at the fall of the USSR. That and contemporary accounts make a fascinating story of one man who single handedly stopped Communist infiltration of the movie industry. This was years before he ran for any office. One man can make a difference.