Paying Tribute

Today’s Profit Confidential takes a different twist. I’m breaking away from my usual Thursday financial commentary to pay tribute to a man who, I believe, changed America and the world for the better.

I’d like to start by admitting upfront that I have always been a huge Ronald Reagan fan. In fact, I remember when Anne Edwards came out with her book, “Early Reagan” in 1987; I was probably the first person in line at our local bookstore to get a copy. And I think I read all 571 pages in record time.

While I understand and acknowledge there are Reagan critics out there, especially those who did not agree with his action on AIDS, civil rights, and poverty, I know too that I am thankful to President Reagan.

President Reagan taught me that, in America, anything is possible. Born poor in Tampico, Illinois in 1911, Reagan became a movie star who became President. Imagine just that — going from poverty, to a movie star, to President. “Only in America,” they say. Pity the world, I say. Because if this isn’t freedom, I don’t know what freedom is.

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President Reagan taught me that, in reaching your goals, your age does not matter. He was the oldest President ever elected, at the ripe age of 69. Whenever my parents tell me they’re too old to do this or that, I always remind them of what Reagan was able to achieve in his `70s.

President Reagan taught me to have a positive mental attitude — always. When a reporter asked the President whether his life changed after he had colon cancer, he responded, “I didn’t have cancer, the polyps in my colon had cancer.”

President Reagan taught me how to play poker. In the cold arms race, Reagan almost bankrupt America building our arms arsenal up. But in realty, he was building our arms faster than the Soviet Union could, because he knew they would run out of money before we did. He was right. And today, in my opinion, the Soviet Union needs to thank Reagan for liberating it from communism. He brought down the wall.

President Reagan took the motto “less government is better” and actually did something about it. Reagan cut taxes, which is number one with me. He was able to get the economy moving after a deep recession. I remember many of my friends going broke in 1981 because interest rates were almost 20%. From 1981 to 1989, when Reagan held office, the economy just got better and better. President Reagan believed the right answer was not more social welfare benefits for the poor, but that strong economic growth would ultimately help the poor by creating jobs.

President Reagan showed me that the business of this machine called the United States of America always comes first. In 1981, when thousands of air-traffic controllers went on strike, crippling U.S. air-traffic, personnel, and business, President Reagan dismissed thousands of air-traffic controls who defied the order to return to work.

Grover Norquist said it best, “He’s the greatest President of the 20th century. He changed the world. He defeated the Soviet Union.”

While many Americans consider John Kennedy as the most popular President of the 1900s, could it be he was so popular because he was assassinated? President Reagan was also shot, with quite a few bullets, but he lived, and I believe he did considerably more than Kennedy did for America.

I’ve always believed that in life we come with nothing and we leave with nothing. The money, all it buys, the friends, and the good times are always left behind. “We can’t take it with us.” After they leave, people are judged on what they contributed to society and the world. For most of us, that contribution is our children… raising good-standing citizens and human beings who are kinder, more sympathetic, intelligent, and giving than we are.

For Ronald Reagan, the contribution was freedom. If you visit what’s left of the Soviet Union today, and remember what it was like in the 1970s, you will find millions of people free from communism, embracing liberty and the dream to come from a poor background, become a movie star, and maybe even President.

But today, there are only 55 dedications in the U.S. in honor of Ronald Wilson Reagan. There are about 700 bridges, schools, and streets in the U.S. named after John Kennedy. It was President Reagan who signed a bill creating a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King. Hopefully, one day, our children will also acknowledge Ronald Reagan and his great contribution to America.