June 05, 2004

"Goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America" - Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1911-2004

Not being an American, I don't have nearly the same attachment to President Reagan as my American friends. But I remember watching the 1980 election results on television and seeing Reagan destroy Jimmy Carter and John Anderson at the ballot box. I think this was the first time I paid attention to the political world, except perhaps for my parents telling me that "Trudeau is in again" or some such.

The assassination attempt on Reagan's life in 1981 was the first major news event I can remember pre-empting all programming on all networks.

While as a preteen most of the politics of Reagan's first term went over my head, I remember sitting down and watching the speeches at the 1984 Republican National Convention. I was so impressed with Reagan's oratorial abilities (at age 13!) that I made a point of tuning into his speeches any chance I had.

I remember the friendship between Reagan and then prime minister Brian Mulroney, and the rendition of "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" they sang together on St. Patrick's Day, 1985.

I remember his touching citation of the poem "High Flight" following the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger. The postponed State of the Union address that year was the first I ever listened to.

I don't remember his speech in Berlin where Reagan entreated, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." But I remember the day two years later when the wall came down.

By the time I got out of my teenage years and started following politics for real, whether international or domestic, Reagan was long gone and his successor, George H. W. Bush, was nearly on his way out. However, since those days there has not been a leader or statesman of the likes of Ronald Wilson Reagan.

He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
- Hamlet, I.2.189-90

God speed, Mr. President.