Reagan’s legacy lives onMany Americans are taking a stroll down memory lane as they celebrate the birth of one of the country’s most admired presidents - Ronald Reagan. The 40th president of the United States, who died in 2004 at the age of 93 after fighting Alzheimer’s disease for years, would have turned 100 on Sunday. The former actor from Tampico, Illinois, is remembered for his room-brightening smile and moving rhetoric as much as for his efforts to end the Cold War. His reputation has grown over time, and Reagan is viewed more positively now than at any time while he was in office.
Both liberal and conservative members of Congress have supported numerous efforts to honor and highlight “the Great Communicator’s” legacy. Reagan earned his nickname because, even as a staunch conservative, he worked with the opposition in order to advance the rights of ordinary Americans and the power of the United States.
His amiable, optimistic and highly efficient leadership style won him more praise after he left office more than two decades ago. Among his newest fans is President Barack Obama, who as a liberal disagreed with much of Reagan’s domestic policies. Obama, stymied by knee-jerk moves from the opposition and a dearth of options to stimulate the economy, read a biography on the conservative icon during the Christmas holiday.
Obama then took a page or two from Reagan last month during his State of the Union address. He lobbied for balanced fiscal spending, a simplification of the tax system and improvements in social security - all pursued during the Reagan years.
Reagan came into power when inflation hovered at 12.5 percent and unemployment at 7.5 percent. He sought wisdom from experts in a broad range of fields and hired excellent aides to revive the economy, and he tweaked the very backbone of the social security system.
Reagan’s biggest accomplishments, however, came in foreign policy. He sought the abolishment of nuclear weapons and worked closely with Mikhail Gorbachev, even while publicly attacking the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.”
Liberal historian Sean Wilentz said Reagan was “very conservative, but also very pragmatic.” He knew the importance of compromise in politics and understood the need to yield in order to gain. There is in fact nothing extraordinary or creative about his leadership, but he developed his style based on good old common sense.