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Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Hail To The Chief!
How many Presidents can you remember in your lifetime? Born during the second term of the Eisenhower era, I have lived under the leadership of ten different Commanders-In-Chief. Though I remember neither his election nor his presidency, one of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother weeping in her rocking chair, feeding my new baby brother, watching the TV coverage of JFK’s assassination. Along with the rest of the nation, she was so very sad. I remember feeling sad too, though at that time, not really sure why. I vaguely remember LBJ, though admittedly, my sole impression of him at the time was that his wife and daughters had really strange names! Most Americans probably associate Viet Nam with LBJ, and I remember every week in Sunday School praying for “our boys in Viet Nam”, especially those from our hometown. Next, of course, came Nixon. Who can ever forget that! Those jowls flapping as he vehemently claimed “I am not a crook!” What I remember most about his presidency was growing so weary of the Watergate scandal, the interruption of perfectly good television for news coverage, and the disappointment most Americans felt. Gerald Ford’s term was at a time when I cared not one iota about what was going on in the world. I was in high school, and nothing mattered except my clothes, driving the car, my friends, and my boyfriends. The fall of 1976, though, found me eligible to vote for the first time. Seems that back in those days most folks around here were Democrats. Was it just a few short years ago that the Democrats were the conservatives and the Republicans the liberals? Maybe… maybe not… but I just can’t imagine my dear old grandma and my parents being liberals. At any rate, we just “were” democrats. My mom and my grandma used to work the election poll in my little town, and Mama Nay was very proud, when like a good little Georgia Girl, I asked for a Democratic ballot upon which to cast my first-ever presidential vote for Jimmy Carter. Why did I vote for Jimmy? Well, probably for the same reason that black folks will vote for Barak, and so many women voted for Hillary. It wasn’t about his platform, it was his popularity with the folks here in Georgia, despite his outrageous, beer-drinkin’ brother Billy. Jimmy was a good ol’ boy, and a Sunday School teacher to boot.. so he MUST be the better choice. Right? But then came the day when I walked into the polls and asked for a Republican ballot. The poll workers are not supposed to comment, advise, or campaign in any way, shape or form to the voting public. Nevertheless, when I stated “Republican”, Mama Nay pierced me with those chocolate brown eyes of hers and said “Mmmmm…Caaaaaathy!” I couldn’t help but smile. Mr. Carter lost the election that year to Mr. Reagan, and I felt like I had made the right choice to “switch” parties. Why did I choose to do so? Though I did examine his ideas and found them to my liking, it probably was not based so much on platform as on the fact that I just liked the guy and felt like he would make a good leader. And I guess I'm a sucker for rosy cheeks. My presidential roll-call of remembrance will end here, because it is Mr. Reagan that I wanted to write about in the first place. (And, in my very humble, politically-challenged opinion, the buck stops here anyway as far as great leadership is concerned.) A recent book find seems to have confirmed what I felt in my heart. One day while shopping at a local five-and-dime, I noticed a pile of new books with $1.00 price tags. For an avid reader such as myself, that’s better than a blue-light special at K-Mart or a 50% off coupon from Michaels. Rambling through the books, I found one titled A Different_Drummer by former deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver. I purchased the book, intending to thumb through it some day, fully expecting it to be about as interesting to me now as the Watergate hearings of the 70s. To my delight, I found this a very informative and endearing picture of Mr. Reagan, based on Mr. Deaver’s longstanding relationship with the Reagans. A might bit confusing at times, as he also served in the same capacity when Mr. Reagan was governor of California, and sometimes it was hard to tell if the story he was referring to was set in California or Washington. At any rate, though this was indeed a biased writing (Deaver and the Reagans were close personal friends for many years), it was a wonderful glimpse inside the kind heart and brilliant mind of a man who was sometimes seen as shy or elusive by the public. I learned many things about his leadership skills, and his handling of national matters. It was very impressive. I’m quite sure that there were less-than-positive sides to his presidency as well, that were omitted from this account, written by a dear friend. The fact that there was so much good about the man is refreshing, and that he maintained those qualities is quite remarkable- not only during his presidency, but throughout his remaining years. I wish that I could have met him and spent some time talking with him. Though I'm sure not without flaws, his integrity was amazing, and has left me again proud that I was a Reagan supporter. Unlike those late days of 1963 when I was sad but not sure why, I understood the cause of my sadness as I watched Nancy bidding a final goodbye to Ronnie in 2004, and like my mom saying goodbye to her favorite president, I found myself weeping as I said goodbye to mine. I imagine if I had “known” him better (by reading this book) before his death, it would have been even sadder still. So here’s one for the Gipper: My acknowledgement and appreciation for a job well done, and for your service to our country.