No president has been as effective at comforting a nation in turmoil as Ronald Reagan.
His speech to a grieving America in 1986 will always be remembered.
“We will never forget them,” President Reagan said in the Oval Office of the White House in a televised address to the nation about the Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts who lost their lives, “nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”
Many years before Reagan settled in at the White House he aggressively delivered a message of real, authentic hope as America was reeling. As Reagan accepted his party’s nomination for president in 1980 he pledged a brighter future.
“I will not stand by and watch this great country destroy itself under mediocre leadership that drifts from one crisis to the next, eroding our national will and purpose,” Reagan said. “The time is now, my fellow Americans, to recapture our destiny, to take it into our own hands.”
Craig Shirley, author of “Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America” said, “In a way, the malaise in the country had been going on for 17 years going back to the assassination of JFK in November of 1963. We’d had one president cut down by an assassin’s bullet, one president resigned because he had contempt for the constitution, a failed presidency in Lyndon Johnson, the first time America had ever lost a war, and then you had the cultural decline of the 1970s.”
Ed Meese, Reagan’s campaign manager said, “One of his (Reagan’s) objectives was to revive the can-do spirit of the American people.”
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who served on Reagan’s press team, said “Ordinary Americans were treated as buffoons and criminals. He talked about heroism being a trait of ordinary people who are meeting their challenges and the challenges of the country.”
It worked. Reagan demolished the incumbent Jimmy Carter in a landslide in the 1980 election.
Fast forward to now. President Trump said recently, “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. America will again and soon be open for business. This is going away. We’re going to win the battle.”
Many found it downright incredulous that President Trump could be so optimistic when he said he wants to get “people back to work” by Easter Sunday.
“Easter is a very special day for me. Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full—you know the churches aren’t allowed to have much of a congregation there. And most of them, I watched on Sunday online—and it was terrific, by the way—but online is never going to be like being there. So I think Easter Sunday and you’ll have packed churches all over our country—I think it will be a beautiful time. And it’s just about the timeline that I think is right.”
Needless to say President Trump’s strategy was immediately blasted by the mainstream media. Not surprising CNN found a willing individual to rip away. Dr. Dena Grayson, a medical researcher and Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Florida in 2016 told the network, “You can’t spin death.”
Am I suggesting the quality of President Trump’s cheerleading matches that of Ronald Reagan’s? Of course not. President Trump could successfully end the coronavirus by the time you finish reading this and still be skinned alive. And yet, when all of America has been shut down by the likes of WI Governor Tony Evers and so many others, essentially crippling businesses and our economy, our president remains optimistic with a strong faith in the nation he leads.
Times are significantly different today than they were during Reagan’s eight years in office. Even Reagan’s skeptics, and he had plenty, still marveled at his uncanny ability to skillfully communicate to Americans, no matter the dilemma at hand. Today, the country is more hateful, spurred by a much more hateful news media that has lost all sense of objectivity.
Honesty and transparency are demanded and expected of any leader. However an excess of gloom and doom, especially now, can inflict more damage to the American psyche that is already backed up and leaning on the ropes.
The United States will see its way out of this and rebound in a big way. That is what most Americans want, unless their sheer hatred has engulfed them to a sorry point of no return, desperately clinging to thoughts of a Biden victory in November
Maybe President Trump will never be totally Reaganesque. But don’t stop now Mr. President.