Recalling the Legacy of a Leader: President Ronald Reagan
November 23, 2003
Over the years, from that of our childhood days to the present, we have read stories and events about inspiring people and their great successes and worthy contributions. Of some of those who have inspired us we may clip their pictures or quotes from their writings or from their speeches. We may refer to them in our causal conversation with others. These so-called role models may be famous athletes, leaders or historical figures, favorite teachers, a family member or neighbors down the road. All in all, one's selected role models may not be a role model to others but that is a matter of one's choice. And that is what is so great about our society. We can pick and choose those qualities, which we admire, respect and value. And, so it is with your columnists. The conversation between the two of us and with others often leads us to a discussion of Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States. What is it about Reagan that one looks to as a role model, worthy to be recognized and discussed? In short, we often think of Reagan as "a statesman." As Joseph Alsop once observed about the presidency: "Rule I, at any rate in America, is that you have to be a good politician in order to get the chance to be a great statesman." And so, concerning Ronald Reagan as President and as a statesman, we share from our perspective.
Ronald Reagan was an optimist in politics and a natural leader. He genuinely believed in his ideals and in the worth and dignity of people. Perhaps two of his greatest attributes as President were that of a natural emotional intelligence and his prudent use of the moral authority of the office of the presidency. Reagan, by his nature, had a vision and he liked to think and plan for what this country could be; in his words, "a shinning city on a hill." He wanted to raise people's expectations of what they could become as individuals and collectively as a people and as a nation. He saw in each a tremendous reservoir of possibility. Most decisions, as he saw it, must be based upon principle: To Reagan, the future always looked brighter than today, no matter what the polls were saying. He always tried to give credit where credit was due. He had a sign on his desk: "There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." What he wanted were results, and those, we believe, he got.
In Kiron K. Skinner's new book just released in September of this year, "Reagan: A Life of Letters," the author profiles the 40th President through Reagan's over 1,000 letters that he personally penned. Reagan, through his letters, comes through solidly as a modest, plainspoken man driven by high idealism, and hopes and faith in the people. There was a time when to many it appeared that Reagan dealt only with the larger issues and cared little for detail. But now as it appears, he was a very detailed leader who examined almost every issue with a fine tuned "microscope" of principle and realism.
Clearly, at the heart of his style of leadership is his keen relationship with the people. He often touched the hearts of people when he expressed the sincerity of his hope and dream of a "shinning city on a hill." As we see it, he motivated others to reach to the heights of their own personal self-actualized destiny. Reagan expected much of himself and he saw hope and pride in one's personal contribution of zest and vitality to the good of others. And therein lies the meaning of the shinning city on the hill. And trust is a necessity for the wholesome relationship with people. Reagan as President was perceived by many as a person who could be trusted. He generated this level of credibility in one-on-one situations or when speaking to thousands. People will entrust their hopes and dreams to another person only if they think the other is a reliable vessel. For when a person demonstrates character over a period of time, trust begins to follow. And so it was with Reagan.
It was in Ronald Reagan's character that he never took himself too seriously. As proud as he was to be President and his respect for the Presidency, he regarded himself as a temporary occupant. "This is the people's house," he often said, and felt as he did while growing up, "living above the store." Like most successful leaders, Reagan had developed a set of core beliefs long before he came to the presidency. He saw America as a nation with a special mission. That America should be symbol of justice where strength, freedom and values matter. Ronald Reagan: President, Commander-in-Chief, Leader, and a Role model...and that is the way it is, as we see it FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.