Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Ronald Reagan's 96th

On February 6, 1911, President Reagan was born. Today would have been his 96th birthday. In remembrance TKM highlights some of the items we noted shortly after Pres. Reagan's death on June 4, 2004.

First, the eulogy from the great Iron Lady herself, Baroness Thatcher:

Ronald Reagan carried the American people with him in his great endeavors because there was perfect sympathy between them. He and they loved America and what it stands for--freedom and opportunity for ordinary people. . . . He never succumbed to the embarrassment some people feel about an honest expression of love of country. He was able to say "God Bless America" with equal fervor in public and in private. And so he was able to call confidently upon his fellow countrymen to make sacrifices for America--and to make sacrifices for those who looked to America for hope

and rescue.

With the lever of American patriotism, he lifted up the world. And so today the world--in Prague, in Budapest, in Warsaw, in Sofia, in Bucharest, in Kiev, and in Moscow itself--the world mourns the passing of the Great Liberator and echoes his prayer, "God Bless America."

Soviet dissident and later Israeli minister Natan Sharansky discussed what the reaction was in the gulag the Soviets held him in when he heard about one of Reagan's speeches:

Were there any particular Reagan moments that you can recall being sources of strength or encouragement to you and your colleagues?

I have to laugh. People who take freedom for granted, Ronald Reagan for granted, always ask such questions. Of course! It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell's Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union.

Lech Walesa echoed that sentiment:

When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. This can't be said often enough by people who lived under oppression for half a century, until communism fell in 1989.

Personally, I always liked Mark Steyn's ultimate benediction (not available online) that showed the contrast between Pres. Reagan and his predecessors among Western leaders:

[The '70s] was the era of “détente”, a word barely remembered now, which is just as well, as it reflects poorly on us: the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the free world had decided that the unfree world was not a prison ruled by a murderous ideology that had to be defeated but merely an alternative lifestyle that had to be accommodated. Under cover of “détente”, the Soviets gobbled up more and more real estate across the planet, from Ethiopia to Grenada. Nonetheless, it wasn’t just the usual suspects who subscribed to this grubby evasion – Helmut Schmidt, Pierre Trudeau, Francois Mitterand – but most of the so-called “conservatives”, too – Ted Heath, Giscard d’Estaing, Gerald Ford.

Unlike these men, unlike most other senior Republicans, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet Communism for what it was: a great evil. Millions of Europeans across half a continent from Poland to Bulgaria, Slovenia to Latvia live in freedom today because he acknowledged that simple truth when the rest of the political class was tying itself in knots trying to pretend otherwise. That’s what counts. He brought down the “evil empire”, and all the rest is fine print.

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