In His Own Hand

Today, Sunday, February 6, 2011, marks the Reagan Centennial, or as President Ronald Reagan apparently would have phrased it, the 61st anniversary of his 39th birthday.  Although I remember President Reagan being President, it was at a time of my life when I was politically unconscious, being in my youth (relatively speaking, of course) concerned more with my career and getting a wife than with the details of the political events swirling around me. 

It is only as I have awakened and studied that I have come to appreciate fully the genius and character of Ronald Reagan, and to thank God for him and his legacy.  As we remember and celebrate that life and legacy today, many others will be better able to do justice to the man and his day.  For example, one excellent Reagan essay can be found at BLACKFIVE here.  Another tribute from Mark Alexander’s pen can be found here.

So, rather than duplicate and repeat everyone else, I thought I’d repost two stories from the man himself that I posted awhile back:

HISTORY

From Stories in His Own Hand – The Everyday Wisdom of Ronald Reagan, K. Skinner, A. Anderson, M. Anderson, eds., 2001, The Free Press, New York, pages 49-53. This is a collection of stories he wrote for his daily national radio program.

August 7, 1978

A few years ago a gentleman named Gary Rekstad wrote a capsulized summary history under the title, "Once There Was a Great Nation." I’ve capsulized it even more to fit our time limitation. I thought you’d like to hear it.

Once there was a great nation – "founded by pilgrims who decided to leave their own country which didn’t encourage freedom of religion. They migrated to an uncivilized land inhabited only by savages. The rock where they landed was to become a national shrine.

They drove off the natives, built rude shelters and houses of worship, setting aside a special day to give thanks.

These pilgrims believed in their God and they also believed in work. They established schools that in a way became the first public, free education in the world.

Other colonists came and established other communities. And some of the noblest words ever written began to surface. Facades of our modern buildings bear some of them, ‘liberty,’ ‘justice,’ ‘freedom of worship.’

Then an older nation sent tax agents to exploit the colonists. The colonists sent their greatest men as representatives to a general assembly, choosing a gentleman farmer as their leader. He united them and won the war against the ‘old world.’ that farmer is known as the ‘father of his country.’ Today a famous U.S. city is named after him.

Ultimately, a civil war divided the fledgling country. Its leader who tried to keep the Republic united was assassinated. his murder has been immortalized by one of the greatest playwrights of all time. After the wounds of the bloody civil war healed, the nation became a world power.

Next the citizens began to think of security paid for by tax money. Farmers petitioned for price supports. The government bought up crops and stored them in warehouses. Industrialists were next to ask for tax benefits. The middle class declined under the added tax burden. Crime became so commonplace it was dangerous to walk the streets at night.

A crippled man led the nation into a war and foreign entanglements.

A general who had been victimized by government pleaded with the nation to return to the principles of the founding fathers. He died bitterly thinking his anguished thoughts.

An honest senator dared to speak out for a halt to foreign aid and foreign subversion. He was branded a reactionary.

The nation fell deeper into debt. It joined a league of the world. Increased taxes to send wheat to its enemies, devalued its currency, substituting base materials for silver in its coins."

That nations name? Ancient Rome. I skipped a couple of lines to tell you that, lines that are facts of history. Mr. Rekstad had summed up that the nation – Rome was totally corrupt, its middle class dead. The barbarians moved in and destroyed civilization.

The parallel to our own history is almost eerie, so much so one wonders if we can avoid those last couple of sentences. The rock where those first Romans landed is called the pilgrim’s rock – foundation of the Temple of Jupiter. The gentleman farmer was Cincinnatus; the assassinated leader, Julius Caesar; the crippled leader – Caligula; the general Mark Anthony and the honest Senator Cicero. Shakespeare of course the playwright who immortalized the death of Caesar.

How will we finish our story – the story of another great nation?

WOMEN

Then I couldn’t resist one more story from Stories in His Own Hand – The Everyday Wisdom of Ronald Reagan (pages 28-32).  I always enjoy when a prejudice with no facts to back it up happens to get shot down in flames.

The editors intro to the story:

Women were drawn to Reagan, and perhaps for reasons that went beyond his good looks. A surprising aspect of his character is his deep respect for the strength and toughness of women. He never thought women were like men. In some ways Reagan feels women are superior, calling them "the single most civilizing influence in the world."

May 15, 1978

In spite of all the jokes men like to tell about women drivers I think almost all men know in their hearts that women have been the single most civilizing influence in the world.

Years ago I read of an incident that took place in India during the days of British colonial rule. It is not a make believe legend but an actual happening. I was reminded of it on our recent trip and thought you might like to hear it.

The scene is a dinner party in one of the palatial homes in India, a typical cosmopolitan gathering including a British colonel of the old school and a visiting American businessman. The rest were colonials, Indian notables and so forth.

Somehow the conversation had gotten around to heroics, courage and what makes individuals perform noble deeds. The British colonel was holding forth on the idea that men have that extra bit of control which in time of stress makes them able to resist panic and with courage do the dangerous thing that has to be done. Women on the other hand, according to the Colonel are not gifted with that measure of control and therefore grow hysterical, faint or stand helpless to act in the face of danger.

As he was going on in that vein the American happened to notice the hostess signal to one of the servants who leaned over her chair while she whispered something to him. The American thought nothing of this until he saw the servant returning to the room carrying a saucer of milk. Passing the table he set the saucer on the floor just outside the glass doors which opened onto the patio. Suddenly the American remembered, – in India a saucer of milk is snake bait – cobra bait to be exact.

He saw the servants standing against the dining room wall and it was obvious they were frightened and tense. Quickly he looked around the room. There was no furniture that could conceal a snake. He looked overhead thinking possibly it could be on a beam but there were no beams, it was a tile vaulted ceiling.

Then he realized there was only one possible place a snake could be – under the table. His first instinct was to push his chair back and run but he knew this could cause the snake to strike one of the other guests. The Colonel was still holding forth. The American interrupted him and said, "Colonel let’s have a test and see who has the most control. Let’s see how many of us can remain absolutely silent and motionless for five minutes. I’ll count to 300 as a measure of time and no one must move or utter a sound."

Everyone went along with the idea and the countdown started. It had reached 280 when a king cobra slithered from beneath the table and through the patio doors to the saucer of milk. The servants slammed the doors with the snake on the outside.

In the excitement that followed the Colonel shouted, "That proves my point, this man could have saved himself but he thought of a plan to save the rest of us." The American said, "Just a minute Colonel." Turning to the hostess he asked, "How did you know there was a cobra under the table?" She said, "It was on my foot."

Great wisdom from a great man.  Thank you, sir!

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