Never one to leave much to chance, Winston Churchill remarked, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” And he did. As I read Churchill’s The Second World War (every volume!), getting inside Churchill’s head was fascinating.
It’s now been a little over ten years since another amazing man, Ronald Reagan, died (June 5, 2004). I remember watching the TV coverage after Reagan’s death, and wishing that Reagan had been the prolific writer Churchill was. Reagan, too, had fascinating stories to tell.
It was a bit nauseating to see many of the same media moguls who gave Reagan nothing but trouble when he was in office tripping over themselves to try to honor him at his death. I wonder how historians will one day evaluate his “legacy.” I’m not qualified to do much evaluating myself, and it’s way too soon anyway, but here’s what I think that I think.
Reagan was certainly a “great communicator,” even though he wasn’t in the class of Churchill. Who could be?
I think our greatest president was Abraham Lincoln (though that top slot might well go to first president George Washington). Lincoln was tried by fire, stood the test, and came out as pure gold. Reagan faced severe tests, too, but I think Lincoln’s pre-eminence is clear. The obvious similarity is that both spared no effort to tear down walls that never should have been built.
Evaluating Reagan. Well, we’re still at least decades away from real perspective, but surely he easily makes it into the Top 10 Presidents List and probably into the upper half.
Reagan was a true leader because, like Churchill, he saw what was good in the heart of his nation, and he called his countrymen to embrace that vision for good. Some would say he was naively idealistic about America; we have much more to fear from those who are naively blind to that which has truly been good about a nation that has twice in the last century “saved the world from total barbarism” (Charles Krauthammer’s right on that!).
Churchill was right: England never had a finer hour than when she stood, utterly alone for far too long, against Hitler. Churchill knew that freedom was good and tyranny was evil, and he never hesitated to say so. Reagan also believed in freedom, and he used exactly the right words when he called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” Only an evil system rotten to the core builds walls to keep its own citizens enslaved. Reagan was right: Communism is not just wrong-headed; it is evil, and the right word needed to be used.
I’ve not heard a lot (that I trust) about Reagan’s faith in God, but he was right on target in this belief: Human rights are not rights granted to human beings by the State. Freedom is a gift from the hand of God to every human being created in his image. Any system of government which says otherwise is wrong, evil. God blessed us with a great president who didn’t hesitate to say what is true.
So, ten years later, hats off to “The Gipper”!
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Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.