Thursday, February 27, 2014

Truly Inspirational Leaders Are Selfless

They Take On The Burden And Share The Credit

I wandered into the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara the other day, and decided to treat myself to a full tour. If you're ever in the area, and you are a fan of President Reagan (or of conservative American principles), I highly recommend a visit to the center. It's a glimpse into the kind of man Ronald Reagan was. Some of the exhibits feature Reagan in his own words - interviews he granted, addresses he gave. Others share the perspectives of people who knew the president personally, such as Secret Service agents and others who worked at the Ranch, and people who were Reagan's friends. What surprises you is how little ego Reagan had, especially considering he was a broadcaster, movie star, governor, and president.

A typical quote from a Reagan staffer was along these lines: "When things went wrong, the president would call us together and apologize, saying 'that was all my fault.' But when things went well, he always found someone else to give credit to. He had no ego." And you can see this in some of Reagan's self-deprecating humor. He once quipped that Thomas Jefferson said a president is not judged by his age, but by his deeds... "And ever since he told me that, I've stopped worrying about it." A typical quote from the president himself ran something like this: "Government does not create wealth. It only consumes wealth." He had a way of boiling things down to simple truths that people could understand.

When asked on "60 Minutes" in 1975 why he would consider running for president (and challenging a sitting president in his own party, Gerald Ford), Reagan said he just wanted to be of service. Sure, any politician would say that. But what strikes you is that he really seems to have meant it. The interviewer went on to challenge him, asking what great things the elderly Reagan could still accomplish. "The great leader is not the leader who does great things, but the leader who can get the people to do great things," he responded.

Reagan narrowly lost the Republican nomination to President Ford the next year, but five years later, as the 40th president, Reagan pushed through the greatest tax cut in U.S. history, and as the 1980s unfolded, America started to believe in itself again. People got away from buzz words that had dominated the short-lived Carter administration, such as "malaise," "stagflation," "misery index," and "energy crisis"... terms my kids probably never heard of (thanks to Reagan) but terms with which my generation was intimately familiar. Rather than sit around wondering where we stood on the "misery index," Americans decided they could start a business, get an education, stand up to evils like communism... do great things.

Someday (hopefully in the not-too-distant future) there will be a museum, or presidential library, or some place far-left zealots can go to remember the legacy of Barack Obama's presidency. Obama, who has had the audacity to liken himself to Ronald Reagan (though not lately), has governed in exactly the opposite way from the way Ronald Reagan ran the administration. When things go wrong, it's always someone else's fault - we all know that either the GOP minority in Congress, or his long-gone predecessor George W. Bush, are his favorite scapegoats. Obama wants big taxes and big government spending, claiming that this will somehow create jobs and make us all more prosperous - we all know he's undertaking the opposite of Reagan's actions, which actually did create jobs and prosperity (and Reagan inherited a much worse economy than did Obama).

And though the country doesn't want them, Obama and his Democrat friends in Congress have rammed through stimulus spending bills, bail-outs, government health care, financial over-regulation, government takeovers of industry, and all sorts of controls on daily American life. He governs as though he does not fundamentally believe Americans can do great things, and it is up to him to do them (even when most of us agree the things he's doing are not all that great).

Jimmy Carter governed from the left, and the country suffered enough to finally wake up and find the Reagan in its midst. Barack Obama makes Carter look like a right-winger... so maybe we can take hope in knowing that, somewhere out there, there's a truly great leader who can fix this mess by freeing us up to do great things again. I'll close with an update of one of my favorite Reagan quips, with apologies to the late Gipper: A Recession is when your neighbor loses his job... a Depression is when you lose yours... and a Recovery is when Barack Obama loses his.

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