St. Louis -- When someone says "the President," I still think the reference is to Ronald Reagan. As JFK did for Bill Clinton and his generation, and as FDR did for my mom and dad, Ronald Reagan defined the presidency for me. He was my president. He is my hero. Having just moved to St. Louis from Groton, Connecticut (fleeing taxes, among other reasons), I was busy this afternoon moving furniture from our bedroom to the basement of our house, which is just four years younger than our 40th president. I sat down to rest for a minute when the sound of breaking news rang from the television in the living room. I tuned my attention to hear that Ronald Reagan had announced that has Alzheimer's disease. My heart broke.
I cannot put into words, really, what Reagan meant to me. He became president when I was a junior in high school. That same school year, as we were wrapping up acting class, which was my last period of the day, our principal announced that the president had been shot. I was angry.
In 1984, I was a college student, splitting my time between studies and campaigning -- for Ronald Reagan's reelection. I saw him speak under the Gateway Arch on the banks of the Mississippi the Sunday before his reelection. I treasure that day.
Later that year he became my commander in chief when I entered the U. S. Navy's submarine force. Never have I been so proud to work for anyone as I was to work for him. I suppose that I would never have joined had it not been for Ronald Reagan.
For the past few years, I have, now and then, in bleak moments of reflection and introspection, wondered how I will react when the inevitable news comes that Ronald Reagan has passed away. I hate to think of such things, but a cruel voice in my mind sometimes forces these dark, miserable thoughts into my conscience, like foreboding of some horrendous phone bill that will come due in a week when you have no money. I try to change my thought pattern, often resorting to blurting out a meaningless word in an attempt to break the disquieting thoughts. But the voice always returns.
In so many ways, today's news struck harder than news of his death would have. As a Catholic, I have strong faith that Reagan will gain rapid access to eternal splendor. Also, my grieving will be eased by the weeks of tribute to one of our greatest presidents.
But I know the ravages of this disease that now afflicts a man I love the way I love my own parents. I know what lies ahead for him and his family. I know that I will be forced to hear the horrible reports of his decaying mental state. I will have to endure the mean and hateful jokes liberals will make about a man I love and respect, a man who stood before the world and virtually talked communism away. I know it will be hard, and I know I will not always react intelligently. You see, Reagan is too close to my heart for my mind to intercede.
Godspeed, Ronald Reagan. I am sure I pray with all Americans that you face this disease the way you faced the assassin's bullet, the cancer, and the Kremlin. I pray you defy the medical books' timetables the way you defied your enemies and critics, foreign and domestic. I pray you live long enough to see your noble and worthy vision of America -- this shining city on a hill -- vindicated by a glorious rebirth of the individual. I wish you and your family all the best. And I pray that as you battle this affliction, God gives you the comfort, courage, and confidence that you gave your country for those eight wonderful years.
We love you, Mr. Reagan. God bless you.