Two Little Boys, Ronald Reagan at 100, and the Yankees

6 years ago

Remember when Reggie Jackson was Mr.October?  The guy the Yankees turned to in every World Series, and who had an impact even on their opponents - one of whom is "Sarah and the Goon Squad.".  To many kids kids growing up in Manhattan, Reggie Jackson hung the moon.  Unfortunately, he also frequently got drunk and into fights on homeward-bound post-game flights.  What, you wonder, does that have to do with Ronald Reagan?

When Ronald Reagan was president, our sons were little boys. Because of my job at the Today Show, however, they had been to one of Reagan's Inaugurations.  They knew what was going on, and that his dad and I felt that the cuts he was making to health, education and other domestic programs were dangerous and unfair.  

Then, when Reggie Jackson erupted in the tabloids for yet another drunken confrontation, it seemed appropriate to remind my small baseball fan that this was not acceptable behavior, even for baseball stars.

"Reggie may be a great baseball player", I began, "but he just isn't a very good person."

"Oh" my eldest began, with all the wisdom of his four years, "Like President Reagan is a very great person but he's not a very good president?"

Once I recovered from the sheer admiration I felt for this association, and thought about it, I realized that this was one of the explanations for Reagan's remarkable popularity.  It was very hard, no matter how much you wanted to, to actually hate him.  Unlike Nixon, or W, he radiated a warmth and grandfatherly aura that was familiar to those lucky enough to have elder relatives they loved.  My son had spoken for much of our country, as blogger Pattye Benson validates here.

Of course there was much more to it.  We know the reasons: the Iran hostages released, the sense of optimism so absent from the Carter years, his quiet lack of homophobia or outright racism. (I know about the welfare queens, and Atlanta Journal Constitution's Cynthia Tucker certainly disagrees.)  One of Reagan's biographers tells a story of his football years, when he and his team arrived in Reagan's hometown, where his black teammates were refused rooms in the local hotel.  Reagan took them home to his parents' house and they all spent the night there.  

In other words, he was fiercely conservative, but not bitterly so, as so many right-wingers are today.    As Tucker continues, "While every Republican presidential hopeful since 1988 has tried to wrap him/herself in Reagan’s legacy, it’s not clear that the actual Ronald Reagan — the president who actually led the nation for eight years — would survive the brutal litmus tests of the current GOP and its tea party faction."

Josh was among many kids who thought Reagan was kind of cool  A blogger friend of mine who is just a bit older than my son, told me once that when she was little she loved Reagan because he fired all the air traffic controllers.  Of course for most people in my political space, what he did was a travesty.  She didn't know anything about the right to organize or freedom of expressions.  It was, she said, the "sense that he was in charge, that when people misbehaved, he dealt with them."

So.  On this Super Bowl Sunday, one institution, we take note of this Centennial of another one.  However we feel about him, given the current disregard for history among so many, maybe it's time to celebrate with dignity the hundredth anniversary of one of our leaders, born before the First World War in the last one.










Cynthia Samuels, Managing Editor, and Partner Cobblestone Associates, LLP  Don’t Gel Too Soon

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