The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Man of Love

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." -Ronald Reagan

Though I don't remember this exact quote being stated at this weekend's "Advancing Freedom" seminar, it was definitely a theme that ran throughout the whole event; this idea that it's time for our generation to take the baton and run with it.

I learned so much this weekend; about a man, about a dream; about his love for America; his passion for the people who make up the country he cared so deeply for. He didn't apologize or try to completely level the playing field; he knew that what we had was in fact special and that it was worth preserving. His pride for his nation was shown for everyone to see, but was done with such humility that it didn't exude hubris.

Perhaps his love for those close to him best exemplified for me his ability to extend that same passion to America; because, to him, the United States was made up of a million people who could have easily sat down with him for a drink at his wicker chair table outside his ranch house.

When we visited his ranch in Santa Barbara, his life came alive right before my eyes. We saw the hitching post, where he and Nancy would tie up their horses for dinner. The giant bell that hung outside the front door was there as a call to Ronald that dinner was ready; a dinner that usually consisted of his favorite--macaroni and cheese.

Our tour guide recounted a time when, upon becoming President-elect, one of his Secret Service men tried to help Nancy off of her horse. Reagan carefully made his way over and said, "Sir, the honor and the privilege of getting this lady off of her horse is completely mine." The man immediately stepped aside and from that moment on everyone watched as he helped her down and kissed her-- sometimes overdoing it to the embarrassment of the spectators around.

Their house was quaint and personal; a fence made of telephone poles lined the long drive, and we were told that Reagan built this with his own two hands. My roommate, a farm girl herself, was in awe that he could do this because of the hard work and time it would take to accomplish. But most of the projects and landscaping at the ranch were done by Reagan himself; and the love he had for his ranch was evident as you beheld its beauty. It goes without saying that the President who received the most gifts in history unwrapped several chainsaws.

As we toured the house, you began the introduction to the man who spent many hours within its walls. From the Montgomery Ward catalog lying on the table to remind him of his childhood dream to be the sports manager there to the Freedom bell that served as his shower head, it became clear that this was a man that you couldn't help but like. You'd think being the President of the United States would have afforded him the biggest bed you could imagine, but the Reagans were just fine with their two twin-sized beds tied together and a footstool on the end of his side for extra leg room.

The stories that humored me most revealed his wit and his down-to-earth demeanor. Like the time he shot numerous times at a bird, scaring the Secret Service people to death. When they tried to take away his guns, he kept hiding them. "Is this the last one?" they would ask and Nancy would be behind him shaking her head fervently. The story goes that he was continually pulling guns out of every pocket!

To get back at peeping photographers that were perched atop one of the mountains above the ranch, he faked a heart attack. During a Jeep interview with Barbara Walters he was said to drive through rough terrain every time she asked a tough question. Stories like this were numerous and our guide, who did a pretty good impression of his voice, had us in stitches most of the time.

The speakers were great, and I took extensive notes on their lectures. While I will type them up later, I wanted my blog to be about what was the center of it all for me. Being quite the romantic, I loved the anecdotes that told of Reagan as a man, as a father, as a loving husband-- for it is this glimpse that provides the window for me to get to know the rest of him.

His famous line, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" is only part of his very historical speech; what many people may not have known is that after several attempts at an agreement, the other leaders came back to him with what Reagan had written and been rejected on many times before and presented it as their own. Swallowing his pride, Reagan adhered to the agreement, giving credit to someone else in order to gain the better result. As his son Michael told this story, he began to get choked up at his father's humility and desire to do what was right for the country as a whole.

We may not have an actual physical structure standing as division between us today, but as Americans, we have ideological walls rising daily; in our universities, in our communities, in our nation; but let us not lose sight of the man who sought to break down those barriers and advance freedom.

It is time to stop trying to be like everyone else; to make everything "politically correct" and apologize for enacting policies that match what we believe in as a nation. Reagan taught us that there is truth; that there is a right way; and that we should be the lighthouse that the world looks to for that truth.

But they won't be able to see until we tear down the walls of fear, lukewarmness, and apathy.

America is our Nancy; and like Reagan's life example, each individual must have the mindset that the honor and the privilege of getting America off of this path is exclusively theirs.


Blogger Cole said...

Sounds like a wonderful weekend and thanks for the interesting glimpses into Reagan's life. You managed to intrigue someone who's not really into politics so... well done :)

July 19, 2010 at 11:44 AM  

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