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County Hall Corner: Gems from the Gipper

The disaster playing out in Afghanistan reminds many of Vietnam, but my mind was reminded of the 444 days of captivity of the US Embassy personnel in Iran in the late 1970s. It was no coincidence that these Americans were freed on the day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, January 20, 1981. There was a new

The disaster playing out in Afghanistan reminds many of Vietnam, but my mind was reminded of the 444 days of captivity of the US Embassy personnel in Iran in the late 1970s. It was no coincidence that these Americans were freed on the day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, January 20, 1981. There was a new sheriff in town, and the bad boys knew that this guy would back his words with action.

Reagan was two weeks short of 70 years of age when he was inaugurated as President of the United States. He had a snappy wit that caused even those who hated him admitting that he had a captivating way of presenting his ideas. He had the additional advantage of being an actor, so he also knew how to deliver a speech. But what put meat behind the words is that he meant what he said. What makes Reagan even greater is how his words still speak to our political climate of today.

His most succinct comment on government, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” (Check out the $2.3 trillion Recovery bill, the $1 trillion Infrastructure bill, and the 3.5 trillion Social Spending bill to verify this timeless truth).

Two quotes that speak to the government’s response to COVID: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” And also, “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” (Unfortunately, this lesson has not been learned by our political leaders, and we may be looking at yet another draconian response to a health hazard that is certainly serious but not worth sacrificing all our freedoms.)

Speaking of freedom, three great quotes: “As government expands, liberty contracts,” and “Man is not free unless government is limited.” Another longer quote but truly thought-provoking, “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, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” (A sobering warning in light of all the government constraints forced upon us in these times).

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” (Shoots down Critical Race Theory in two sentences).

“I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the US Congress.” (No need to wonder — it could almost be assured that they would be decried as antiquated Jewish dogma seeking to constrain human potentiality).

“A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.” (Yes, Reagan really said this, and meant it.)

And in closing, two quotes on courage: “Don’t be afraid to see what you see.” And “Heroes may not be braver than anyone else. They’re just braver 5 minutes longer.” (This might be what we most need to hear today. Our society seems touch-sensitive to anything that threatens us in any way. We should not fear, but face the reality with sound wisdom, rather than a knee-jerk reaction).

One Reagan biographer noted, “Great communicators have a way of capturing our imagination, triggering our participation, and making us see things in a new way — even if we don’t agree with it. These great speakers are also good at making us laugh. Ronald Reagan hit all of the bases.”

Yes, he did. And they still hit us forcefully in our day and age as well.

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