Imagine this: a charismatic, anti-establishment Washington foreigner sets his sights on the Oval Office. Despite constant belittlement regarding age, mental stability, and experience, swathes of Republican voters (and later on, all voters) suffocate the polls in support of his message. After winning in an election meant to go to the establishment Democrat, the President completely reshapes the Republican Party and accomplishes more than the past four Presidents combined. While this sounds highly similar to 2016, the year referenced is 1980; when the United States overwhelmingly elected Ronald Wilson Reagan to the White House. Although his opponents chided everything from his appearance to his policies, President Reagan’s classic one-liners and warming smile silenced even his fiercest foes.
On this day, we celebrate and remember the life of one of America’s most treasured individuals. Though he would turn 108 if alive today, “The Gipper” would rather his audience refer to him as enjoying his 69th 39th birthday. Next to Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan absolutely lived the most extravagant life inside and outside of the White House. From his boyhood in Illinois to his military service, his star laced career in Hollywood to the Governorship of California, his Presidency and retirement, and everything else in between, Ronald Reagan lived a life worth following.
Though some debate the positive longevity of his policies, his ideas benefitted this nation to a great extent. Even liberals will credit Reagan for his kind heart and sense of humor that led to a unified America. Just imagine a headline today reading “Tax Cuts passed in Senate, 89-11”. No chance. While the overall political climate seemed tame compared to today’s turmoil, a victory of that proportion still shocked pundits in 1981. His ability to work for a common good far surpassed just the United States Congress. Ronald Reagan’s unique relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev helped accelerate the dissolution of the USSR at impressive speeds. His returned appreciation for Pope John Paul II and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also widened cracks in Russia’s regime.
President Reagan’s innate ability to complete his goals resonated well with those unsettled by his comical demeanor. His largest goal throughout his tenure remained to end communism abroad. His famous “Tear Down This Wall” speech, Gorbachev’s willingness to loosen the grip of communism, the failed Soviet-Afghan war (in which the US-backed the Afghanis), and the “Star Wars” project that Russia perceived as a legitimate threat caused an implosion of the Soviet economy that led to the complete collapse of the USSR on December 25, 1991. Aside from this occurring after his Presidency, his tough take on communism proved fruitful for hundreds of millions of people globally suffering from the hellish ideology. President Reagan also promised to ease the tax burden on American families. He successfully cut taxes not once, but TWICE, over the tenure of his two terms.
When he promised to paint pride back onto our flag, he delivered. The disastrous Vietnam War coupled with the sale of the Panama Canal weakened a sense of pride and trust in the American military. According to AmericanProgress.org, President Reagan strengthened our military to new heights by increasing the military’s budget to a whopping $580 billion. Thanks to this investment into our armed forces, opposing powers such as the Soviet Union suffered fatal blows which in turn led to the dissolution of their “Evil Empire”. President Reagan’s might sparked a sense of fear into rogue nations such as Iran, too. As we all remember, American hostages remained captive in Iran for four hundred forty-four days in what became known as the “Iran-Hostage Crisis”. President Reagan secured the hostages in a non-violent way only minutes after assuming his first term in the White House.
President Reagan not only stunned his allies and enemies while in office but entirely reshaped the Republican Party. His views on social and economic issues remain true to the majority of the modern-day GOP. Hundreds of candidates, local to federal, still employ his name in passionate debate. While some news stations and politicians may slander President Reagan’s good name, the 40th President of the United States will forever rest in the hearts of the American people. Whether referencing the 2011 Gallup poll which ranked him as “America’s Favorite President”, watching his overwhelmingly large state funeral, or just talking to those who lived through the “Reagan Revolution”, a wave of positivity will amount. Reagan believed in the American spirit of free enterprise, strong military, and Christian values. His call to brighten our “shining city upon a hill” motivated millions to clean up our beacon of freedom so it could shine brighter than ever!
To President Ronald Reagan, thank you for all you did. Though you may not join us physically, your image lives within everyone who shares the common creed of America. Happy 108th birthday!
Matt Zupon is the official Facebook Manager for TUC, has reached the Maroon Elite achievement, and works as an editor. He also attends Penn State University. Follow him on Twitter @MattZupon.
Photo courtesy of an employee of The Executive Office of the United States