Saturday, February 06, 2010

99 Years of Ronald Reagan

One year from today we will be celebrating the centenary of the birth of President Ronald Reagan.  It will also be Super Bowl Sunday, which should make for a lot of peanuts and beer, nachos and chicken wings -- as well as, one would hope, Jelly Belly multicolored and multi-flavored jelly beans.

Few people are waiting to begin the celebrations.  Around the country there are already stirrings of tribute to mark today, Ronald Reagan's 99th birthday.

In California, state Senator George Runner has introduced a bill that would make "Ronald Reagan Day" an official state holiday. In Nevada, there is a proposal to rename a mountain -- as yet undesignated -- "Mount Reagan."  In Iowa, a museum is showing two of Reagan's World War II-era movies.  In Illinois, Michael Reagan is speaking at his father's alma mater, Eureka College.  And offers a slideshow of photographs from significant events during Reagan's life and presidency.

In an article in today's Los Angeles Times, Richard Simon writes about some of the ideas planned for the 100th anniversary of Reagan's birth in 2011:
Events are planned across the country: A Reagan-themed float will grace Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena during the Rose Parade on Jan. 1. His boyhood home of Dixon, Ill., has commissioned an original piece of music -- the "Reagan Suite" -- to honor him. A program at Eureka College, from which Reagan graduated, will reflect on his Midwestern roots. Warner Bros. has been contacted about a possible event looking at the former president's Hollywood years. An effort is even underway to name a mountain in Nevada after him.

And events abroad are likely. A statue of Reagan will be unveiled in London, for example.
Over the last five years, I have posted a number of reflections on the life and legacy of Ronald Reagan, the earliest being a recollection of a speech he gave in Arlington, Virginia, in support of the three Republicans who were seeking the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General in 1985. One short quotation remains salient:
...we must never forget that our very freedom is based on this fact: that this nation is a federation of sovereign States, and they must never be reduced to administrative districts of the Federal Government, as some in Washington would have us do.
Apparently the Senate of Virginia agrees, at least insofar as the freedom of individuals to choose not to buy health insurance policies goes.

My next post on Ronald Reagan came one year after his death, which took place on June 5, 2004, coincidentally the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day. On that occasion, I quoted at length from "The Speech," also known as "A Time for Choosing," which, in one form or another, Reagan delivered countless times in the 1950s and '60s, but most famously just before the 1964 election in a television broadcast in support of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. One nugget from that speech:
I think the government has legitimate functions. But I also think our greatest threat today comes from government’s involvement in things that are not government’s proper province. And in those things government has a magnificent record of failure.
Later that year, in December 2005, I had an opportunity (my first of two) to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, and I photoblogged my experience there.

Two years ago today, I posted video that I took on my second visit to the Reagan Library (in July 2007) to mark President Reagan's 97th birthday.

Last year I wished my readers a "Happy Reagan Day" with excerpts of the then-future President's widely quoted 1975 interview with Reason magazine, in which he said:
If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.
Last June, commemorating the 65th anniversary of D-Day, I quoted Reagan's address that he delivered in France in 1984, with the famous tag line:
These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.
A few days later, people in the United States and Central and Eastern Europe were taking note of another Reagan-centered anniversary: His speech at the Brandenburg Gate, in which he challenged Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall!" That blog post includes the text of the key passage and also has video of the speech.

Ninety-nine years of Ronald Reagan: what a remarkable near-century, what a remarkable man.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President, and thank you.

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