Yesterday would have been Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. I have a soft spot for the former actor since he was the first president of my memory. Although I was born when President Carter was in office, my only knowledge of him was of my brother, Tom, telling me he had a peanut farm.
And it was my brother who piqued my interest in the President. Tom was in his teens when Reagan started his second term and I remember him prancing around the house, impersonating Reagan's mannerisms and phrases, particularly how he would precede every answer or remark with the word "well." He carried around a tape recorder and produced skits of himself as Presidents Reagan, Carter, Ford and Nixon. Needless to say, he was a bit of a political junkie, even then.
Aside from that, what I remember the most about Reagan was the speech he gave to the nation after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. I watched the explosion in shock from my desk in school and I listened to the man known as "The Great Communicator" address a nation that was mourning. I remember though how he signaled out the school children in his speech and that's when everything changed for me. My president was talking to me.
I did a little research here at Create The Good, and found that Ronald Reagan was very philanthropic. In his 1981 Inaugural Speech (which he wrote himself) he said:
"We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup. How can we love our country and not love our countrymen, and loving them, not reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick and provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory?"
In 1981, President Reagan also established the White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives and worked to encourage businesses and the private sector to organize volunteer opportunities. And in 1986 National Philanthropy Day began with a presidential proclamation from Reagan.
"What's even more interesting is during his term, charitable giving rose by more than 25 % in inflation-adjusted dollars, twice the rate of the previous decade." New foundations sprang up "and corporate giving as a percentage of pretax profits reached an all time high," as Les Lenkowsky pointed out in his article, "Ronald Reagan Helped Philanthropy, Despite How Much Nonprofit World Objected to His Policies," Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 10, 2004. The effect continued after Reagan left office. "In the 1990s, tax rates...remained below their pre-Reagan levels, and philanthropy grew even more rapidly as the economy picked up speed." he continued.
I'm not much of a political person, I'll admit. But, my memories of Ronald Reagan (like the ones I just shared) will last a lifetime. Here's a great recap video from CBS on his legacy.
Happy 100th Birthday Mr. President!
What are your memories of Ronald Reagan?
(Photo via: flickr)
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