Killing Reagan by Bill O’Reilly was the next stop on my reading journey these past two weeks. I’ve reviewed both Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln over the past few days. I was born in 1978 under the presidency of Jimmy Carter, but first learned the pledge of allegiance and national anthem under the leadership of Ronald Wilson Reagan who served from 1981-1989 as the 40th President of the United States. Most of the foundational things that I learned about our great nation were learned when President Reagan was in office. I also “Just Say No” to drugs because of the campaign of First Lady Nancy Reagan. I also say no for lots of other reasons…but she was the one that coined the phrase. I remember vividly watching President Reagan’s funeral in the summer of 2004 and realizing that was the end of a political era in our country.
Monday, March 30, 1981 was a pivotal day for President Reagan in a variety of ways. He was shot by would-be assassin John Hinckley, Jr. who was eventually released from prison after being declared healed from his mental illness. Many say that Reagan never fully recovered from the shooting even making the point that they felt that may have been the beginning of his decline that ultimately led to his passing from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. I’ll never forget when I heard that President Reagan would be no longer appearing in public after he attended President Nixon’s funeral. He wrote a letter to the nation that ended with…”I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.” [Read the entire letter HERE]
This book helped put together a lot of pieces for me historically and politically, but even more, offered some closure to some of the questions that I had about the Reagan family…his wife Nancy as well as his four children who have all battled their own demons as well. There certainly was a lot of heartache in the Reagan family to go along with the leadership that many of us still celebrate today. While I’ll never forget President Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!”, I’ll also remember him for his comforting speech to the country after I watched the Challenger Space Shuttle explode on TV in 1986, and continue to be inspired by the words from his dear friend and former Prime Minister of Great Britain Margaret Thatcher in her eulogy at his funeral.
“I know in my heart that man is good,” the inscription on Reagan’s tombstone reads, “that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”