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On President Reagan’s 100th birthday, today, Super Bowl Sunday, I had to reminiscence at bit on the impact Reagan had on me.

Let’s start with this:  An unknown American author named Harold Bell Wright wrote an obscure book called That Printer of Udell’s.  It’s a story about a local printer who starts a movement in his community and at the end is commissioned to take it to the nation.  A young Ronald Wilson Reagan read that book and decided to be like the main character – and decided to be like him and asked him mother to be baptized.  May Wright receive his crown in heaven or maybe he did when he met the 40th President of the United States in June 2004 and realized the impact of one of his books on the history of the American Republic.

I never met Ronald Reagan. But one could be forgiven if Reagan seemed to reside in my home.  He was a teenage hero of mine (Maybe that’s why I never got the girl in high school!); through a cousin of mine who lived in a early primary state I got all sorts of 1976 campaign buttons (Ever heard of Milton Shapp?  I have his button for President!) and one of them was Reagan’s.  I wore that button to school in Germany a lot, as often as I could get away with it.

The 1976 election was exciting and disappointing at the same time; I was in Germany for the primary season and the USA for the convention.  I watched the convention, hoping for the political miracle that did not happen.  I did hear Reagan’s concession speech; it electrified the delegates and me.  I figured this was the last best chance of any sort of a conservative/libertarian revival in the USA.  I thought we might have to settle for a watered-down “moderate” conservatism.

I remember hearing both Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell speak on the radio in the mornings on my way to school.  Reagan was speaking for the Citizens for the Republic and Falwell had two visions:  More believers in politics and a great national university:  Liberty University.  Today Liberty has one of the few law schools with a Christian world view and is the home of the Helms School of Government.  (That’s NC Senator Jesse Helms; who probably saved Reagan in 1976 when he helped him carry NC in the primary.)

I was the founder and chairman of Wright State Students for Reagan; we made sure we have a presence on campus for the critical 1980 Ohio primary.  Once we were told Reagan would be in Dayton and we were told if we could get a small group to greet him at his hotel, we might get to see him.  We got several students to carry signs early in the morning and suddenly, he appeared out the window and waved at us!  I don’t know how I got to class that am!

I was also in a tight election – for precinct captain!  I needed five signatures of registered Republicans to get on the ballot and I had the support of the outgoing incumbent!  I was on the primary ballot; I was surprised when I voted that day and found Reagan at the top of the ballot (along with another future President: George H.W. Bush) and me at the bottom.  (There is an interesting story about that – by running for precinct captain I changed my precinct from Democratic to Republican!  The registration by party was soemthing like 89 GOP and 92 Democrats and 161 independents.  I got two independents (one at home) to switch to GOP to vote for me and a Democrat (my dad I think!  I Reagan Democrat) switched to vote for me, too!  That made the Dem total 91 and the GOP total 92!  I dutifully reported my effort at the first county committee meeting I attended.)

Reagan won the Ohio primary and the convention was happier!  I went to an airport rally and saw/heard the Gipper live (he was VERY far away however) and worked the polls election day in Dayton.  I knew it was a close election but I worked the polls and left to pick up a friend and watch the returns at home.  I turned on the radio and it was not long before the announcers were intoning that Reagan was winning practically everywhere.  Even in New York and Massachusetts he was ahead.  It was astounding.  A 44 state landslide.

I was at law school (The University of Dayton) when I heard President Reagan was shot; it was serious from the reports.  I am sure I prayed as I headed back home that day!  I thoroughly enjoyed the humor:  “I hope you all are Republicans!” and “Tell, Nancy I forgot to duck!”  I thank the Lord for his safe recovery!

I liked several speeches of the 40th President.  One I did not hear but heard about was the “evil empire” speech.  I have read that Henry Steele Commager called this speech the worst ever made by a President.  Reagan probably took that as a compliment.  I wonder what Commager did not like about the speech.  Here it is in its entirety from Reagan 2020.  I think Reagan’s willingness to negotiate with the Soviets but not compromise essential principles.  The fact that at Iceland, Soviet leader Gorbachev was willing to give up huge amounts of materiel to keep SDI in the laboratory proves that it was valuable to our national defense.  SDI kept the peace and helped defeat communism in Europe.  In short, the Soviet Union WAS an evil empire and Thank God, it is gone forever.

Another speech is the famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” in Berlin.  the Wall did come down.  I’ll never forget it.

I’ll never forget the call from my mother (I lived at home in 1986) saying the space shuttle exploded.  I have been an astroniomy and space buff and I was stunned.  I knew all the details.  It was a tragedy magnified by the fact millions of kids watched it live.  Here’s the President’s speech in writing.  Who could not cry when you heard these words – or when you read them today:

The crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Reagan made it possible for much of the conservative movement to be where it is today.  Only a handful of real conservatives were in office in 1976.  Today the GOP is a conservative party (yes there a few RINOs – fewer than this time last year!  But the party is certainly conservative and leaning toward libertarian!)  Reagan fought the good fight and we should look around and see our world today.  It’s a better place for his life and Presidency.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)


  1. The LSM is all over it self trying to compare the clown we have now with Reagan. That’s like comparing oranges to a bag of rocks. The LSM loathed Reagan as does O, he stated in the book someone wrote for him that he hated Reagonomics and all things REAGAN.


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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