Were he still alive, the greatest American President of my lifetime would have been 100 years old today. I promised some time ago to write a few pieces on my personal and political heroes and this short post is one of those.
Reagan had firm beliefs about what was right and what was wrong, and he had the gift of being able to express them in simple words. He knew that the Soviet Union was the main threat to peace during his presidency: he named it “the evil empire”. He knew that the only way to ensure that Western democracy was preserved was to ensure that those in power in Moscow knew that any attack on a NATO country would result in the destruction of the Soviet Union. That was why the Cruise missiles were stationed in this country. Nuclear weapons “worked”, precisely because they never had to be fired.
He found a staunch ally in Margaret Thatcher, and together they won the Cold War, the defining international political issue of the first quarter century of my life. But Reagan was not just a Cold Warrior. After the economic and political disasters of Watergate and the Carter presidency, Reagan taught Americans to believe in themselves again. It was OK to be proud to be American. It was nothing to apologise for. Again, his work was mirrored in the UK by Margaret Thatcher.
Today, as David Cameron seeks to pursue his “Big Society” localism agenda let us finish by remembering one of the Gipper’s best quips: ” The 9 most frightening words in the English language are “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help””. We in the UK have for years responded to every problem that faces us with the question “what is the Government going to do about it?” It’s time to get past this dependance, and to stand on our own two feet. That is the Reagan way.