An old Broadway tune goes, "Everything Old Is New Again," and
the many bell-bottomed jeans I see walking the streets just
might prove the lyrical adage.
But while fashion seems to come and go and
come again, some ideas are as timeless as they are true. For example,
just when you thought California leaders lacked new insight about
the state's energy crisis comes one of the Golden State's favorite
sons with some bright perspectives to light the days ahead.
"All the world, I guess, is aware of the
California shortage. Some think we are careless guzzlers and it serves
us right. Others laugh it off as proof that Californians are pixilated.
One thing we can prove: Californians aren't to blame, as a Washington
Post editorial suggested they were."
These sentiments sound like contemporary
stuff, but the words were written a generation ago -- and they show
for the umpteenth time that Ronald Reagan predicted most of what ails
and ailed our country, and that he prescribed common-sense solutions
that others still suggest today.
A new book has helped capture this fact --
"Reagan In His Own Hand" edited by Martin Anderson, Annelise
Anderson and Kiron Skinner. It is a collection of the radio addresses
President Ronald Reagan delivered between 1975 and 1979, leading up
to his election as president in 1980.
And make no mistake: While already a popular
figure, the special qualities of his radio work were instrumental
in elevating Reagan to the White House. He broadcast more than 1,000
of these radio essays, and in reading them, one can literally hear
a full voice of the vintage Reagan wit.
In describing environmentalist foes of energy
source expansion, he writes, "It is rude and ungentlemanly to call
them ignorant. They just know a great many things that aren't true."
Another asks, "Will Alaska wind up as
our biggest state, or will it be our smallest state surrounded by
our biggest national park?" But most of all, these writings provide
ready proof not only of President Reagan's instinctive understanding
of foreign policy, domestic affairs, human rights
and social issues -- we knew that already -- but of his
deep intellect and keen mind.
And they leave us with perhaps the most compelling
evidence of all in making the case for Ronald Reagan as the quintessential
thinking man. In truth, Reagan has already received the most important
tributes: Statesman, patriot, peacemaker, restorer of the American
But one acclaim that has too often eluded
him is that of intellectual, mostly because he surely did not seek
it. He proudly volunteered Louis L'Amour westerns as his favorite
reading, when he surely could have told us of his fondness for Proust
His favorite food? Not the haute cuisine
of the well-to-do, but the American staple macaroni and cheese. Take
a look at today's newspapers. Most every subject dominating the present
headlines is captured among Reagan's radio addresses: taxes, crime,
education, economics, energy, the environment, China.
Reagan did not merely comment on the affairs
of the day, he considered where America was, and plotted a new and
better course for her to choose. Facts, figures, data, research, studies,
percentages -- all leap off the pages of this book and show Reagan's
love of knowledge.
And as an avid outdoorsman (he even labeled
himself "an ecologist"), he could be graceful in writing of
natural beauty: "There is a vast wilderness of mountains, lakes,
rivers, glaciers and tundra, where Kodiak bears roam and the great
Arctic wolves stalk the caribou."
The Sierra Club couldn't have put
it any better. This book is truly the definitive work on Ronald Reagan,
and how appropriate it is that the man himself would be its primary
author. As future historians seek to understand the 40th president,
and place him into the context of the American experience, they will
look first, and often, to "Reagan In His Own Hand."
For me, one device used in every address
is most memorable. Each commentary begins with a short, provocative
thought, followed by Reagan's assurance that "I'll be right back,"
as the broadcast went to commercial break. With this collection, Reagan
will always "be right back."
Those of us who watched him and admired him
can treasure him anew, and perhaps even more importantly, those not
old enough to remember him can learn what made him great.
Note: Mark Burson is the executive director of the Ronald Reagan
Presidential Foundation in Simi Valley, CA].
Letter to the Editor
©2001 Clovis Free Press. All rights reserved.