There have been six U.S. Presidents in my lifetime. I've liked one of them. Initially a Liberal Democrat who supported FDR's New Deal policies, Ronald Reagan ultimately turned Right when he declared, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me." This was never more evident years later when then-Governor Reagan ordered more than 2,000 troops from the California National Guard to occupy Berkeley for two weeks to quell some of the characteristic rowdiness we have come to expect from many in the Bay area.
A Liberal rarely dares to do such a thing. A Conservative rarely hesitates.
Reagan's two terms as our President -- both of which he won with unprecedented dominance -- saw a notable increase in our national debt, but dramatic decreases in unemployment, inflation and income taxes. He also played a key role in winning the Cold War, once unthinkable, thanks largely to the "peace through strength" mantra of what became known as the Reagan Doctrine; a motto that is now central to the aircraft carrier that bears his name.
Over 100,000 people paid their respects to President Reagan (over a nonstop 34-hour stretch) as he laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda when he died over six years ago. Over 100,000 more walked past his casket several days later as Reagan laid in repose in the lobby of his presidential library in Simi Valley, California.
He wasn't perfect; no President ever was. But he was authentically American. Possibly among the last of a dying breed -- Lord, I want to be wrong about that -- and some people hated him for it. Today our 40th President would have turned 100-years-old, and part of me is glad that he's not around to see our current state of affairs. So, for his committed detractors, I'll allow the Man to speak for himself:
"And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.
"We've done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger. We made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all."
-- from Ronald Reagan's Farewell Address; January 11, 1989