Happy 100th birthday Ronald Reagan, in many ways the most Irish of presidents. As the You Tube video makes clear, there were grand celebrations back in your ancestral town of Ballyporeen when you were elected.
Reagan enjoyed his Irish visits. He had the humor and wit of the Irish , but also the incredible communication skills sometimes known as the gift of the gab.
There was a deeply sentimental side to him too and he captured how many Americans wanted to see themselves, straight shooters with firm ideas and an ability to get things done
This was a guy who was born with a wooden spoon in his mouth. He didn't go to Harvard or Yale, but rather Eureka College in Illinois.
His father wasn't blue blood,instead he was a shoe salesman and a bad Irish drunk.
If you look at the fathers of recent presidents they sure were not role models. Reagan and Clinton's were alcoholics, Obama's never stuck around.
Because or in spite of such poor male images, these men all succeeded in getting to the highest office in the land.
Reagan has three separate careers, as a mainly 'B' movie actor, a pitchman for major corporations and then a late blooming political career which saw him leap from governor of California to the White House.
I wasn't in America long when Reagan ran for president. I think his campaign was one of the greatest of all time.
The morning in America montage at a time when America was reeling from the Iran hostage crisis and a foundering economy was masterful.
A few years later I got a VIP tour of the White House along with a journalist I was dating who was very friendly with the press secretary.
As we exited the West Wing, Reagan suddenly appeared in the distance making his way to the Air Force1 helicopter.
He made an indelible impression, tall , tanned, big cowboy boots, great shock of wavy black hair.
He turned and waved vaguely in our direction.
This was a man with presence.
He proved it when president. As a Democrat I disagreed with a lot of what he did, but he did change the argument from what could government do for you to what could we do for ourselves without government.
That debate is still going on but I doubt it would have the same rancor if Reagan were still around.
The definition of Irish genius is telling a person to go to hell in such a way that he actually thinks he will enjoy the journey.
Ronald Reagan had that ability, always pleasant no matter what compared to the dour humorless characters we have today.
I cannot imagine Obama and Boehner yucking it up like Reagan and 'Tip' O'Neill used to do when politics for the day was over.
He told Gorbachev to tear down the wall and changed history but he changed America too, for the better I feel in many ways.
So happy birthday Ronnie Reagan. The relatives back in Ballyporeen still say hi.
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