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Ronald Wilson Reagan
February 6, 1911 - June 5, 2004
40th President of the United States of America.

Brian H. Gill

Friday, in Washington, DC, the American flag which flew over the Capitol during the first inauguration of President Reagan covered his casket. After a public service at the National Cathedral, Ronald Wilson Reagan's body was airlifted to the west coast in the plane that has served as Air Force One. As the sun set on the Pacific horizon, his body was buried and we said good bye to Ronald Reagan.

A week ago, on Saturday, June 5, we learned that he was dead. The news was not unexpected. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's for many years. Now, the man who had taught Americans how to hope and dream again was free.

As news spread, flags across the country were brought to half staff, and stayed there for the week.

On Friday, June 11, with temperatures around 96 degrees in Washington DC, former president Reagan lay in state in the Capitol building's rotunda.

America, embodied by thousands of people waiting in the heat, walked by Reagan's casket. A few were officials and dignitaries. Most were just ordinary people, come to pay respect. They wore T-shirts and business jackets, Oxfords and flip-flops.

People from all over the world attended Reagan's state funeral at the National Cathedral on Friday. Many of those of us who couldn't be there in person watched on television, or on the Web, or listened on the radio. The service was conducted by an Episcopal priest, plus Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim clergy.

Then his body was airlifted to California, where he was buried before sunset on the day of the funeral. Reagan had said that he wanted to be there for the California sunset.

People have remembered Ronald Reagan in many ways. The Jelly Belly candy company's website displays three portraits of Reagan, done in jelly beans.

I would like to honor the 40th president by recalling some of what he did, some of what was said about him, a little of what he said.

I remember being impressed by a president who had the good sense to pace himself, and who could take a vacation when needed. Who knew how to delegate. Those were tense times, and I was a little more relaxed, knowing that the man with launch codes that could start WW III was well-rested and not bogged down in trivia.

I also remember a president who seemed to live in the same country that I did: a place where hope and opportunity were allowed, and where great things could happen.


Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said this about about Reagan, in her eulogy:

"In his lifetime, Ronald Reagan was such a cheerful and invigorating presence that it was easy to forget what daunting historic tasks he set himself. He sought to mend America's wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism. ...

"His politics had a freshness and optimism that won converts from every class and every nation - and ultimately from the very heart of the evil empire. ...

"Others hoped, at best, for an uneasy cohabitation with the Soviet Union; he won the Cold War - not only without firing a shot, but also by inviting enemies out of their fortress and turning them into friends.

"I cannot imagine how any diplomat, or any dramatist, could improve on his words to Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva summit: . Let me tell you why we distrust you.. Those words are candid and tough and they cannot have been easy to hear. But they are also a clear invitation to a new beginning and a new relationship that would be rooted in trust.

"We live today in the world that Ronald Reagan began to reshape with those words. It is a very different world with different challenges and new dangers. All in all, however, it is one of greater freedom and prosperity, one more hopeful than the world he inherited on becoming president."

There isn't a better way of closing, than by combining excerpts from two of Ronald Reagan's own speeches.

"Emerson was right. We are the country of tomorrow. Our revolution did not end at Yorktown. More than two centuries later, America remains on a voyage of discovery, a land that has never become, but is always in the act of becoming. ...

"We can no longer judge each other on the basis of what we are, but must, instead, start finding out who we are. In America our origins matter less than our destinations, and that is what democracy is all about. ...

"I want you to know that I have always had the highest respect for you, for your common sense and intelligence and for your decency. I have always believed in you and in what you could accomplish for yourselves and for others.

"And whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way."


"We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers. ...The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them. ... Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue."

(Excerpts from Margaret Thatcher's eulogy appeared in the Star Tribune, Twin Cities, MN, June 12. The first four paragraphs of Reagan's words are excerpts from his valedictory speech to the Republican national convention, August 17, 1992, from a longer excerpt in the Green Bay News-Chronicle, Green Bay WI, June 8. Sentences of the final paragraph are from Reagan's address to the nation on the Challenger disaster, from the Oval Office, January 28, 1986.)

Sunday, June 13, 2004


copyright Brian H. Gill 2004

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Brian's Attic: The Reading Shelf

Americana Observations Fiction
9/11/2002, 2005 Arthur's Home
by Naomi Gill
The Dream
An American Family Day of the
Living Driver
Ich Bin Ein Amerikaner Jonah Fan Page The Village, the Fence and the Sign
and Ketchup
Ronald Wilson Reagan Once it Was Believed /
Now We Know
Wilbert and Grunt

Brendan's Island home page
I Love It Here! (life in a small town) | A Walk on the Catholic Side
Brian's Attic | Attack of the Amateur Photo Album
Brendan: A Monk, A Boat And a Legend
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