Like so many others whose lives were changed profoundly by Ronald Reagan, I have been struggling, trying to find the proper words with which to express my feelings and beliefs about that singular man, that peerless leader. Why is this so hard, I asked myself? Because, as I finally realized, Ronald Reagan was at once a President of mythic proportions and of the American everyman.
Though he bestrode the political scene and the global stage like some iconic Westerner who looked and sounded the part, his voice, the voice of America, grounded in immutable beliefs, spoke to each of us in words that resonated in our souls, harmonized in our hearts and sparkled in our minds. He spoke the language of America in syllables echoing our mountains and fields, forests and rivers, to each and every American. He knew that we knew, and then he smiled and told a story. We all laughed then got down to business in farms, factories and malls, hospitals, homes and schools, or we created new businesses, all with a buoyant confidence and sustaining optimism instilled in us all by Ronald Reagan, who knew that we knew we should all be the best we could be. He knew an America thus inspired and motivated would remain the bulwark of liberty and freedom; that this country and its newly rejuvenated, rearmed and remoralized armed forces would defeat the evil empire and continue as the world's best hope, a beacon shining into the night of the future.
And so I finally realized what it all meant: we, all of us, are Ronald Reagan's people, reflecting and living his vision of America. Death shall have no dominion over that vision. We the people shall sustain it, foster it and pass it along to succeeding generations.
And so we say good—bye to the man who was our North Star, smiling there in a western sky, by which we set our true course as Americans as we continue our journey to that shining city on the hill.
John B. Dwyer is a military historian