American Prophet: Ronald Reagan

The prophets of the Bible are individuals chosen by God to speak for God.  Many mentions of prophets are made in the Bible. In fact, a section of the Old Testament is devoted to a collection of books by them. Their names, and quotes, appear all over the New Testament and are the subject of sermons to this day.

What they all had in common was a heart for God, an anointing to hear from Him, and the faithfulness to impart his message to others.

“For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

Prophets speak loudly from the pages of the past, their words seem to take on greater meaning over time, are more relevant than ever and provide us with insights into the past and counsel for our present and future.

As a fan of American history, I often think of historic figures as similar to the prophets of the Bible, whose lives, experiences, achievements and words take on greater meaning over time and provide us with guidance concerning the great challenges we face today as a nation.

In my view, three such American Prophets are former Presidents George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, each of whom presented the American people with prophetic farewell messages that speak loudly today and, if we listen closely, can provide us with guidance and counsel to guide our collective future.

Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States, defeating incumbent President Jimmy Carter, on November 4, 1980. Reagan won a decisive victory over Carter, carrying 44 states and receiving 489 electoral votes to Carter's 49 in six states plus D.C. He also won the popular vote, receiving 50.7 percent to Carter's 41.0 percent, with independent John B. Anderson garnering 6.6 percent.

It's fair to say that the presidencies of Eisenhower and Reagan served as bookends, at the beginning and end of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, both determined to avoid global war while seeking to stop the spread of communism. Like Washington, Reagan led the United States out of a period of great uncertainty and often utilized simple but patriotic prose to inspire the American people to achieve greater things for themselves, their families, and their nation.

Through determination, optimism, and a commitment to a clear set of principles grounded in faith – including his faith in America’s founding and Constitution, faith in our free-market system and faith in the goodness of the American people, during his eight years in the White House, Reagan reignited the American economy, reestablished American leadership in the world and renewed the American public’s sense of pride and purpose.

President Reagan in 1991

In a televised speech from the White House, President Reagan delivered his farewell address to the nation. Like Washington and Eisenhower, Reagan sought the opportunity to share his experience and perspective with the American public, noting “soon it'll be time for me to go. But before I do, I wanted to share some thoughts, some of which I've been saving for a long time.”

The way I see it, there were two great triumphs, two things that I'm proudest of. One is the economic recovery, in which the people of America created -- and filled -- 19 million new jobs. The other is the recovery of our morale. America is respected again in the world and looked to for leadership.

Reagan reminded the American people of the ever-present naysayers, experts and talking heads who were confident his plans wouldn’t work, that his simple approach was not enough to tackle complex problems.

Well, back in 1980… pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe. Our views on foreign affairs would cause war. Our plans for the economy would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse. I even remember one highly respected economist saying, back in 1982, that ``The engines of economic growth have shut down here, and they're likely to stay that way for years to come.'' Well, he and the other opinion leaders were wrong. The fact is, what they called ``radical'' was really ``right.'' What they called ``dangerous'' was just ``desperately needed.''

Once again Reagan expressed confidence in America’s founding principles and his faith in the American people, noting that personal, political, and economic freedom is the “secret sauce” to sustained prosperity for all people.

But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world. Countries across the globe are turning to free markets and free speech and turning away from the ideologies of the past.

Reagan reminded the American people that the success of his administration was the result of his consistent focus on the fundamentals, as I call it. The guidance, the wisdom and the truth in the founding of the United States and the unique notion that the people are sovereign and the government’s power is derived from the consent of the people -- a departure from all governments in the past and many in the present.

Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: ``We the People.'' ``We the People'' tell the government what to do; it doesn't tell us… Almost all the world's constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which ``We the People'' tell the government what it is allowed to do.

In looking ahead, Reagan outlines a challenge to Americans… to maintain our freedom and prosperity as individuals and as a nation, we must nurture and cultivate an appreciation for our nation’s founding principles in every succeeding generation.

But now…some things have changed. Younger parents aren't sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom -- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection. And let me offer lesson number one about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do

Washington, Eisenhower and Reagan.  Three presidents who led America thorough three periods of crisis, uncertainty and conflict and whose experience, achievements and insights offer us wisdom and guidance today.

Like the prophets of the Bible, the words from these American Prophets present insights to address the complicated issues of today:

  • Promote unity as Americans, first and foremost
  • Guard against factions, foreign entanglements and so-called experts in industry, science, academia and the bureaucracy
  • Maintain faith in our nation’s founding principles, the American people and Almighty God

It’s simple, really. Most profound things are. As we learned from Jesus, the one whom the Prophets foretold:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and all the Prophets hang on these two commandments.  Matthew 22:37-40

Photo credit: Katrina Cravey CC BY-SA 4.0 license

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