Instead of writing a new review I copied and pasted what I wrote on the day of Ronald Reagan's death in 2004:
Ronald Wilson Reagan 1911 - 2004 - my personal epitaph
Not that I have ever forgotten about him. There were many days in the last years when I wondered how former President Ronald Reagan might be doing, hoped his disease might be gracious and merciful to him and his family, searched the internet to find sites dealing with him and his presidency.
When I heard of his death late on Saturday, June 5th 2004, though, vivid memories came back into my mind and heart and a mixture of sadness for that man`s passing finally away from this world and gratitude for having been able to witness the time of his presidency. And anger on hearing German TV news with all the old cliches about the "last cold war warrior"; slight anger, really, for I have my own truth about him, my own memories, my own gratitude and my own reverence.
A shining city upon a hill - I glanced it during the years of the Reagan presidency - and never again since then.
It was about 1976 when I first read about Ronald Reagan (when he had almost a lifetime behind himself); I was 14 years old then, read the TIME Magazine to improve my English. He was running for the presidency, lost to the incumbent Gerald Ford and the dreadful, dreary Carter years of the late seventies followed. Of course, as an underage German who has never been to the United States of America all this should have been of minor importance to me . And yet it was not: I had always had strong (anti-communist, anti-socialist) political views, even when I was very young, inborn or educated into me (e.g. by my grandmother with whom I was allowed to watch debates in the German Bundestag in times when Konrad Adenauer still spoke there and I was hardly six years old). To me it was important what happened in the one nation that was able to protect Germany from being taken by sinister forces so few kilometers away from my home in southeastern Bavaria. To me it was important where in the world people did not fall to socialist ideas but upheld their beliefs in freedom, pursuit of happiness and self-responsibility. Margaret Thatcher was one spark of hope when she came into power in Great Britain. Jimmy Carter was a nightmare. Really - that was what I felt: seeing this dreary, sad, depressing American president talking of malaise and making it a reality really was very hard for me, though a German, though far away, though with a government of my own to dislike.
Ronald Reagan was different: sure, here was one major politician whose every political convictions I shared; the first in my life who said the very things I thought about the world in my own mind or which I could easily adopt and believe in. But more, much more than this, even from my scarce resources of gathering information about him I could feel his good-humouredness, his joviality, his interest in people, his joy of life, his basic well-meaning, his hospitable and humane nature, his courage, his big-heartedness which to me soon became the hallmark and the basic personal traits of this man. And a wisdom that was more than mastery of facts and details but referred to fundamental questions of man and his society.
I was not very astonished when I found in our school library a collection of transcripts from the McCarthy hearings on unamerican activities and read what the friendly witness Ronald Reagan had told the tribunal: asked whether in his view the American communist party should be prohibited by law the anti-communist Reagan quoted Thomas Jefferson and his trust in the strength of an informed American democracy and public; no, in Ronald Reagan`s view the communist party should not be made illegal; it was important to inform the American public, to give it all the facts, to give it the arguments of democracy and freedom - and to habe trust in the American people to draw its own and right and good conclusions. These views, expressed 20 years before I ever heard of Ronald Reagan did not fit into European cliches to be read in the newspapers of these days and ever since, but were very well compatible with my own picture of Ronald Reagan that I had begun to form.
In 1980 I was close to finishing school (which I did in June 1981) and English was one of my main subjects. We were encouraged to discuss things of our interest during our English course and soon I found myself arguing for the Ronald Reagan campaign, while most of my fellow students did not share my enthusiasm. I had become a fervent admirer of Ronald Reagan.
I remember very well the day of his first inauguration in January 1981. I searched AFN on my parents` radio, sat there in my parents` living room and listened live to his speech (although the transmission was not good and full of atmospheric noises); I even think that somewhere there still should be the casette tape on which I recorded the broadcast. Some parts of the speech I learned by heart those days: the passages about America beeing a beacon of hope and a pillar of freedom. When they sung "Oh beautiful America" on that day, I felt that good times were to come now - and come they did.
Of course I was young then, in my prime, my personal world was full of the options of youth and some of my memories of the Reagan years certainly are gilded with the warmth that almost everyone feels when he looks back to that time of his life. But I was happy politically then, as well. Ronald Reagan restored America`s pride which had been almost unrecognizable under the Vietnam, Watergate, Jimmy Carter and Tehran debris of the 70s; and with that in my view he restored many things that were good and noble and valuable in the rest of the Western world, as well. Ronald Reagan restored America`s strength, which had been declining, and with it the strenght of all the free World. He restored moral values of family, of a god-loving society, of personal charity and care for our next as opposed to undiscriminate and soulless state welfare. He showed personal grit and courage when shot in an assassination attempt (oh God, I so much feared it might all be over after so few months and I did pray for him). The pictures of young Americans shouting and demanding "four more years" for this old man in 1984 showed how important he had become to the future of America. And he did all this with an air of well-meaning which was sincere and which I had never before seen in any politician -nor ever after.
For all that he touched my heart as well as my political mind, for all that I really loved him - and I still do to this day.
Those who ridiculed him for his "eight-hour days with long breaks in between" (O-tone German TV on the day of his death), for not mastering all the details of complex political developments, for delegating the fine-tuning of political action to his lieutentants never realized that this was part of what made him great: politics is not petty details; petty details are dealt with by accountants and technocrats; politics is about having a vision of what things should be like, is about finding the direction for society to head into, is about translating well-meaning and a love of people into images and descriptions for a better future. The ability to do exactly that, his basic convictions and visions made Ronald Reagan different from the bunch of uninspiring technocratically minded politicians of his and our times. His speeches may have been influenced by his Hollywood experiences, may have been good acting, as well, but they gave me - and many others - something to care for, something to be consoled by, something to work and strive for, something to caress our souls as well as our minds.
We need not discuss whether his political actions and his presidency were successful: the Soviet empire and threat is no longer, Germany and Europe are reunited, America is still strong and proud. Success? - I deem so, yes. There are other great problems and daunting threats in the world of today - what we dearly lack is the benign leader that Ronald Reagan has been.
To me the 80s of the last century were the best time of my life, and this to a great deal due to how I experienced the man in the White House. Success? For me this man and his presidency were very very important and valuable, yes. When he left the public my own world grew colder and greyer; my own personal truth.
I am glad that Ronald Reagan has died the way he is reported to have: cared for by his family. A picture that suits this man very well.
On June 5th, to quote President George W. Bush, a great American life ended at a ripe age; an American life, true, but when the bell tolled for Ronald Reagan I heard it sound very very loudly, as well, and I think so did many people all over the world. Farewell, Mr. President and god bless you!
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