Friday, February 04, 2011

Ronald Reagan's Centenary

You'd probably have to live under a rock to be unaware that this coming Sunday marks the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan.

The former president was born on February 6, 1911, and the centenary celebration began on his birthday last year.

An outgrowth of the Reagan Legacy Project (which gave us, for instance, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington) and of the regular programs of the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, the 100th-year commemoration will continue for as long as people have good things to say about President Reagan.

So expect it to last for a long time.

Americans of all political stripes are offering their memories and gratitude for the life and career of President Reagan.  I'll offer two examples here.

Today Governor Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation that designates February 6, 2011, as "Ronald Reagan Day" in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Here's the text:
WHEREAS, President Ronald Wilson Reagan served with honor and distinction for two terms as the 40th President of the United States of America; winning reelection in 1984 with nearly 60% of the vote and carrying 49 states; and

WHEREAS, in 1981, when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated President, he faced a disillusioned nation shackled by rampant inflation and high unemployment; and

WHEREAS, during Mr. Reagan’s presidency he worked in a bipartisan manner to enact his bold agenda of restoring accountability and common sense to government which led to unprecedented economic expansion and new opportunities for millions of Americans; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Reagan’s commitment to an active social policy agenda for the nation’s children helped lower crime and drug use in our neighborhoods; and

WHEREAS, President Reagan’s commitment to our armed forces contributed to the restoration of pride in America, her values and those cherished by the free world, and prepared America’s Armed Forces to meet 21st Century challenges; and

WHEREAS, President Reagan’s vision of “peace through strength” led to the end of the Cold War and the ultimate demise of the Soviet Union, guaranteeing basic human rights for hundreds of millions of people around the world; and

WHEREAS, Ronald Reagan’s inherent love of this country, faith in our people and confidence in freedom, renewed the confidence and vitality of our great nation; and

WHEREAS, February 6, 2011 will be the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth and the seventh since his passing;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert F. McDonnell, do hereby recognize February 6th, 2011, as RONALD REAGAN DAY in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.
Log Cabin Republicans have also got into the act.

In a news release dated today, the primarily-but-not-exclusively-gay GOP group (a Kinsey 5?) said:
“Log Cabin Republicans join conservatives at home and abroad in remembering President Ronald Reagan’s powerful legacy as a champion of freedom,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director, R. Clarke Cooper. “As we embark on the 112th Congress and Republicans seek to continue the success of the 2010 election, it is our hope that the GOP will recall Reagan’s wisdom in calling for a big tent Republican Party. As he said, ‘my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy.’ President Reagan was able to craft a broad coalition of support around the fundamental principles of smaller government, a confident foreign policy, and an optimistic faith in American individualism. Today’s Republican leaders would be wise to follow in Ronald Reagan’s footsteps by ignoring calls for ideological purity tests that Reagan himself couldn’t pass and instead uniting around Reagan’s core principles, including that inclusion wins.”

Log Cabin Republicans traces its connection to Ronald Reagan to the 1978 Briggs Initiative, a California ballot initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in the state’s public schools. In order to combat this initiative, a group of gay Republicans reached out to then-former governor Ronald Reagan, asking him to oppose the ban. Reagan joined with Log Cabin Republicans, arguing that the ban was “not needed to protect our children” and that if it passed, “innocent lives could be ruined.” The Briggs Initiative ultimately failed.
(About this time last year, I posted video from CPAC in which Craig Shirley talked about the Briggs Initiative and how Reagan's action was motivated by his libertarian impulses as well as his fundamental sense of fairness and humanitarianism.)

For those who want to learn more, there are dozens of books about Reagan, his presidency, and his legacy.  For those with less time than they'd like, the Washington Times today published a 14-page special section that, perhaps presciently, includes a full-page ad for Senator Rand Paul's new book about the Tea Party movement.

I suggest that, if you do nothing else to celebrate Ronald Reagan this Sunday, at least raise a glass in a toast between the commercials during the Super Bowl -- unless you prefer to wait until the special zombie episode of Glee.
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