Check out this op-ed in USAToday:
I had the privilege of coming of age during the era of Ronald Reagan. I like to think of him as America’s lifeguard. As a teenager, Ronald Reagan saved 77 lives as a lifeguard on the Rock River, which ran through his hometown of Dixon, Ill. The day he was inaugurated in 1981, a local radio announcer famously declared, “The Rock River flows for you tonight, Mr. President.”
The image of the lifeguard seems to represent what Reagan was to America and to the freedom-loving people of the world. He lifted our country up at a time when we were in the depths of economic, cultural and spiritual malaise. We were told that we must accept that the era of American greatness was over; but with his optimism and common sense, President Reagan held up a mirror to the American soul to remind us of our exceptionalism.
Reagan showed us that despite a deep recession, there could still be morning in America. He could speak to the economic troubles facing ordinary Americans because he understood what it was like to live through a Great Depression where families scraped to get by. And yet, he saw us recover from our Great Depression, and under his leadership we experienced the greatest peacetime economic boom in our history. He could speak to our fears that our years as a superpower were over, because he understood what it was like to see America at war and really fear that we might lose. And yet, he saw us win two world wars, and under his leadership we won the Cold War without firing a single shot. Reagan’s belief in American greatness was rooted in historic fact, not blind optimism. He was a sunny optimist because he knew that our best days are yet to come.
Today, when we hear the worry in the voices of Americans wondering where the jobs will be for our children and grandchildren and wondering if the world will be safe and prosperous in the years to come, we should remember Reagan’s faith in our inherent heroism and greatness. When we see people around the globe looking to the White House for leadership, we should remember Reagan’s steel spine. He understood America’s purpose in this world and what we need to do to secure liberty. As Margaret Thatcher said of him, “He sought to mend America’s wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism.” He sought those things and he succeeded.
This year, as we celebrate the centennial of Reagan’s birth, let’s remember the lifeguard from the Rock River who rescued us with his optimism and common sense. We need more lifeguards like him.