Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to a student group at my Alma Mater, University of Virginia. My topic was Jefferson and Madison and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. But during the question and answer period, my audience of Young America's Foundation listeners peppered me with questions about Ronald Reagan. They seemed most interested in my service in the Reagan administration. For young conservatives, especially, but for young Americans generally, Reagan is a wonderful story.
The media in his time could not believe that Reagan was so popular on campus, so well-loved by the young. He returned that affection fully. The young liked Ronald Reagan because he liked them. Columnist George Will commended Reagan's optimistic vision of the future, saying "he spoke to the future in the accents of the past." So, for the young, he offered an appealing vision, but one firmly rooted in this country's storied past. As President, Ronald Reagan quoted the Founding Fathers more than his four predecessors combined, as Heritage Foundation's Andrew Busch tells us. And, alas, he cited the Founding Fathers more than any of his successors.
After a tumultuous two decades for America, President Reagan said his favorite placard was not one of protest. From his Presidential limousine, he pointed out a college cheerleader holding a sign. It said: "He's old but he's cute."
Ronald Reagan explained for all of us what his vision was. He spoke of the Shining City on a Hill in his Farewell Address in 1989. I thought of his vision as I drove past the U.S. Capitol at dawn earlier this month. There was Reagan's Shining City on a Hill!
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.
That's Ronald Reagan's love of poetry. It's his vision. But it also had policy content. And what Ronald Reagan sought to do for America is in many ways what Family Research Council seeks to do. His pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-faith agenda is very much what inspires our organization's efforts. It's why I am so grateful to have served in his administration and to have followed up with service in an organization dedicated to Faith, Family, and Freedom.
President Reagan made America strong and respected again. After four years of Jimmy Carter's misrule (1977-1981), Americans yearned to see their country become once again what Winston Churchill called us: the Great Republic.
Ronald Reagan was pro-life. In fact, he was the first politician to call himself "pro-life." Prior to Reagan, all those who defended the inalienable right to life were cast in the "anti" mode. The media casts us this way, still.
Reagan knew that it was better to be for something than against. He cut all federal funding for Title X, the so-called family planning program, from his federal budget all eight years of his presidency. He understood how these programs are abused and how these funds support Planned Barrenhood (Parenthood). This outfit kills more than one thousand unborn children every day. They are the world's largest trafficker in abortion. Liberals in Congress put those funds back in the budget, but Reagan made that important statement.
He spoke about the right to life of unborn children--in his State of the Union Addresses, his messages to Congress, and in hundreds and hundreds of handwritten letters to pro-life constituents. He even spoke of the unborn in his Inaugural Addresses. President Reagan every year issued Sanctity of Human Life Proclamations, many of which lauded the life-saving work of Pregnancy Care Centers staffed and funded by Christian citizens.
Since I had served in the Reagan administration in the Education Department, I knew how strong President Reagan was for parents' rights, including the parental right to choose a public, private, religious or home school for their children.
Reagan was pro-marriage. I was recently pressed by a student group that wanted to know what Reagan thought of giving marriage rights to same-sex couples. I was hard-pressed to remember if he had ever spoken of that idea--since no one was talking of men marrying men in the 1980s.
Then, it struck me. YES! He did have a view. As with pro-life, Reagan was pro-marriage. First, he became the only Republican candidate for President since 1928 who opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. It was the redoubtable Phyllis Schlafly, of course, who led the fight in the trenches against ERA. Second, it was Ronald Reagan as President who validated her brave effort and those of the tens of thousands of American women who understood what ERA would mean. It would mean drafting women and ordering them into combat, forcing Americans to pay for abortion-on-demand, including sex-selection abortions that overwhelmingly target unborn baby girls, and ERA would mean ending marriage by permitting men to marry men. It would also mean men invading women's rest rooms and locker rooms, claiming to have changed their sex.
Finally, Reagan's Shining City figure of speech derived from the famous sermon by John Winthrop to the Puritans in 1630. Sailing on the Arbella on the always-dangerous Atlantic. Massachusetts Bay Colony's first governor told his fellow colonists the eyes of the world would be upon them, as "a citee upon a hill."
Reagan's love of poetry came first from his love of the Bible. He read it regularly from the days of his youth. He actually proclaimed 1983 the Year of the Bible. The atheizers howled, of course. But his Proclamation showed how the Bible had been a formative influence in the life of this self-governing People.
When President Reagan went to the Berlin Wall in 1987, he called upon the Soviet dictator, Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." But there was another part of his speech that was of great significance. Reagan pointed to the East German Communists' radio tower on their side of that brutal and ugly wall. They've tried to paint out the defect in globe atop that tower, Reagan told his listeners. They've tried to sand blast it and etch it out with acid. But still, when the sun strikes that globe, it reflects the Sign of the Cross.
This part of the speech was never covered in the West. Not surprising. The media didn't like the man or his message.
But Americans did. And especially Young Americans.
In the spirit of President Reagan, Family Research Council is committed to protecting the unborn from the moment of conception onward. To learn more about our work and the resources we make available at no charge, go to www.frc.org