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Jewish World Review
June 14, 2004
/ 25 Sivan, 5764
Ronald Reagan, R.I.P.
What an emotional couple of weeks for America. First Memorial Day highlighted by the official unveiling of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. followed by the 60th anniversary of D-Day, then finally, the passing of President Ronald Reagan. An emotional couple of weeks, yes, but emotions made up of pride, honor, gratitude and patriotism. And a lot of other emotions, too.
More than 106,000 people came to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley to pay their respects to one of America's greatest presidents. The arrival of the body, which would lie in repose at the Library, was televised. I saw the family gather beside the flag-draped casket and I felt as though I were intruding as I watched Nancy Reagan gently put her cheek down upon it following the short service.
I watched the crowds gather in Washington as President Reagan's body was transported across the country. Tens of thousands lined the streets to say good-bye to The Gipper as the caisson rolled slowly down towards the Capitol. Nancy Reagan stood at the top of the stairs waiting as her husband's casket was carried up by eight military pallbearers. Twenty-one gun salutes, marching bands, the Fly-overs, the Supreme Court and Congress gathering in the rotunda, the speeches - all of it quite something. Very impressive, very historic, and very sad. Of course it's sad - a good man has left us, after all.
But it was wonderful at the same time. Wonderful that a good man was honored for doing good things. How rare it is today to see that. Wonderful to see crowds of Americans, thousands and thousands of them, who were polite and civil and just wanted to show up to show their respect for the president and his family. And wonderful to see the grandeur of it all, the pomp and circumstance, the majestic protocol in an era where formality, manners and dignity are almost completely gone in every aspect of our lives.
How nice it was to see people holding American flags again. Old folks in wheel chairs, kids on the shoulders of parents, every kind of American waving Old Glory. And still it was done in an understated non-celebratory way. This was not the exuberant flag-waving brought on by too much Fourth of July partying, this was the quiet patriotism of September 11, 2001. Reverence. Respect. You could even see it on the faces of the children. Why does it always take a national disaster or death of an American hero to bring this out in people? Yet it felt good to see once again.
It's comforting to know that you're not alone in feeling a love of country - to be reminded that, yes, there are millions of Americans that feel as I do. Being exposed to the daily assault by much of our media, it is easy to think that one is alone or at least in the minority to feel patriotic, but it is not so. I believe most Americans still are patriots. People wept as the caisson went by, and I heard one man boldly say, "We love you, Nancy," as the former first lady passed. No, I was not alone.
By and large people were dressed as most people generally dress today, but many made the attempt to look a little nicer than usual and that made me feel good, too.
One of President Reagan's accomplishments after he took office was that he made Americans feel good about their country again. He brought honor and dignity and love of country back to a nation that had gone through two decades of dishonor, indignity, and skepticism. He brought optimism back to a generation that had become jaded and cynical. He brought back hope for that "shinning city on a hill." As I watched the people lining up for hours to honor an American who honored America, as I watched thousands standing seven-deep along the Washington streets with flags in their hands and tears in their eyes, I felt optimistic about America and my fellow countrymen, and I couldn't help but think that even now President Reagan is still working his magic - well, there he goes again.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a
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© 2004, Greg Crosby