I have been reading the book, "Ronald Reagan: A Remarkable Life", by J.H. Cardigan (1995). I have always appreciated Reagan's leadership, style, confidence, and ability as President, but now I have a book to point others to and read up on some history of what made him such a great man and a great president.
I joined the U.S. Navy in 1987 when Ronald Reagan was President and I was PROUD to call him our Commander-in-Chief. Terrorist countries like Iran and Lybia got their butts kicked when they tried to mess with us while Reagan was president. In April of 1997, I left the Navy Reserve out of disgust for what President Clinton and his liberal cronies have done to our nation's military. He let rag-tag soldiers kill 18 Army Rangers in Somolia without the tanks and heavy support that they requested. After they were dead and dragged through the streets, Clinton offered no retaliation like the wimp he is. I left the military, as did many of my old high-school friends, ASHAMED to be required to call President Clinton our commander-in-chief.
This page will include some passages from J.H. Cardigan's great book and the excerpts will be changed from time to time:
[In his youth,] Swimming was another passion of Reagan's, and it was this skill that led him to his first serious job - lifeguard at Dixon's Lowell Park, three miles of wooded land on one of the more beautiful stretches of the Rock River. Reagan saved 77 lives in his six years as a lifeguard, a feat that made him a local hero long before his achievements in radio, film, and politics. Historian GarryWills, in his book Reagan's America: Innocents at Home, scrupulously documented this record - which wasn't hard to do, as Dixon's newspaper had made a habit of vigorously promoting the young man who had outgrown his spindly youth and who "had the movie-star look long before he was a movie-star." Reagan always downplayed his lifesaving heroics, even grumbling about the ingratitude of the rescued - "I got to recognize that people hated to be saved: almost every one of them later sought me out and angrily denounced me for dragging them to shore." But this is part of being a hero - Reagan was unimpressed by his own achievement because it was what he expected of himself. The young man was beginning to fit himself into the role he later played in Hollywood and carried out as president, the savior of the weak, the white knight. Taking on supreme responsibility, whether for thousands of swimmers or for millions of Americans, was something Dutch did as naturally as breathing. There was nothing to get self-conscious about.
On 3/30/81 Reagan walked out of the Hilton Hotel in Wash.D.C. having delivered a speech before the Construction Trades Council to a relatively desultory reception. "I was almost to the car when I heard what sounded like two or three firecrackers over to my left-just a small fluttering sound, pop, pop, pop. I turned and said,'What the hell's that?' Just then, Jerry Parr, the head of our Secret Service unit, grabbed me by the waist and literally hurled me into the back of the limousine. I landed on my face atop the arm rest across the backseat and Jerry jumped on top of me. When I landed, I felt a pain in my upper back that was unbelieveable. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. 'Jerry,' I said, 'get off, I think you've broken one of my ribs'.",recalled Reagan.
The pain Reagan felt was not a cracked rib--it was a bullet. As he later learned while recovering from his injuries at George Washington University Hostipal, a mentally deranged man named John Hinckley Jr. had opened fire on the president and his entourage. Reagan had been struck in the lung by a ricochet. Jim Brady, his press secretary, had been hit in the head causing a wound that was first believed to be fatal. Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy had been shot in the chest, and a policeman named Tom Delehanty had been hit in the neck. In a few terrible seconds the spectre of presidential assassination had once again been raised, this time captured on videotape for the entire nation to see.
Reagan's performance that day harked back to some of his greatest achievements on screen--but not a word of if was scripted. As Reagan first came to the realization that he was severely injured(he had begun to cough up blood that foamed with bubbles, sure evidence of a lung wound), the agent who had flung himself on top of his boss shouted out orders to change the limousine's destination from the White House to the hospital. "No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get enough air," Reagan later wrote. "I was frightened & started to panic a little." His subsequent comportment would belie this fear, to which he had so characteristically confessed. Within minutes the president was on a gurney at the hospital. A nurse there held his hand as he slipped in & out of consciousness. At one point he asked her, "Does Nancy know about us?" Later, as he was about to be put under anesthesia for surgery to his chest, Reagan quipped to an attending doctor, "I hope you're a Republican." The doctor responded, "Today, Mr. President, we're all Republicans." The physician might have been speaking for many Americans as the public absorbed the first news of the shooting. Somehow it was Reagan himself who soothed a shocked nation with his easy demeanor & ready wit. "Honey, I forgot to duck," Reagan told Nancy when he first woke up. It was a quotation from Jack Dempsey, who had used the same words to his own wife after being nailed by Gene Tunney in a boxing championship...Reagan was demonstrating a suave cool that camouflaged the true seriousness of the event. His description of the shooting downplayed his role. He did not boast. Indeed he made reference to his own fear.
From October 11 to 12, 1986, Iceland's tiny capital of Reykjavik played host to a decisive moment in world history. For decades the Soviet Union and the United States had been at loggerheads over the issue of nuclear arms. As the race to build ever greater stockpiles of atomic weapons continued unabated, efforts to diminish those deadly armories sputtered and died in one summit after another. By the summer of 1986, the deadlock in Geneva was deader that ever. In July, the new Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, sent Ronald Reagan a letter. Its substance was that a new "major Impulse" was required from the leaders of the two superpowers if there was to be any prospect of ensuring the safety of the world from nuclear destruction. Although he adhered to a doctrine of national strength, Ronald Reagan had always been a believer in ultimate nuclear disarmament. For decades the U.S. policy had been one of deterrence, using nuclear weapons to counterbalance the Soviet threat. To Reagan, viewing atomic bombs as counters in a complicated standoff was unthinkable; unilateral disarmament was equally illogical. For him, the Strategic Defense Initiative was the answer. By developing an impregnable system of defense against nuclear attack, the president felt he could ensure the safety of the American people while eliminating recourse to nuclear attack on the part of the Soviets. Reagan brought the SDI with him to the bargaining table in Reykjavik, and it proved decisive. The President arrived in Iceland on October 9 . Like prizefighters before a bout in the ring, both he and Gorbachev were aggressively courted by the media. When Gorbachev arrived the next day, Reagan cracked aloud as he watched the television coverage, "When you stop trying to take over the world, then maybe we can do some business" (quoted by Lou Cannon). Demonstrating both a tough resolve and a respect for his own role as only one of two parties to the negotiation, the president set the stage for a remarkable encounter. Just ten hours after the negotiations had begun, Ronald Reagan stormed out of the summit. Both leaders had arrived in a aggressive frame of mind. Gorbachev was committed to the Antiballistic Missile treaty, which barred any form of antinuclear defense. Reagan was adamant about the deployment of the SDI. Both men sought the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe -- which Reagan referred to as the "Zero Option." For him, it was a step toward the total elimination of nuclear armaments. By Sunday afternoon a substantial reduction in missiles had been agreed upon. But when Gorbachev called Reagan on the SDI, Reagan didn't blink. He walked out. "As Reagan put his coat on, Gorbachev said, `can't we do something about this,'" Lou Cannon later recounted. "Reagan had had enough. `It's too late,' he said" (Cannon, "President Reagan"p769). Ronald Reagan refused to budge on what he so firmly believed in as the only defense left to the United States. When he did so, the Soviet leadership was left with the definite impression that the SDI was real and that the American president was a tough customer.