- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2011

On June 11, 2004, we buried my father at his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif. I kissed my father’s casket and said goodbye to the greatest man I’ve ever known — one of the greatest men the world has ever known.

The next morning, at the Bel Air Hotel, I saw one of my father’s dearest friends, Lady Margaret Thatcher. She greeted me warmly, and we talked about her friendship with my father. “Michael,” she said, “I’ve often thought it was tragic that your father was not elected in 1976. Perhaps the Cold War would have ended four years earlier. The world would have been spared so much suffering.”

“Actually,” I said, “I think Ronald Reagan became president at exactly the right time. If he’d been elected in 1976, I don’t think he would have accomplished so much.”

“What do you mean?”

“My father needed allies to bring down the Iron Curtain. Lady Thatcher, you were Dad’s strongest ally, and you became prime minister in 1979. Pope John Paul II came on the scene in 1978 — and his visit to Poland in 1979 sparked the rise of Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement. And there was Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia in 1977. And Mikhail Gorbachev didn’t come to power until 1985. None of Dad’s allies were in place in 1976 — but nearly all of you were there in 1981. It took all of you, working together, to end the Cold War.”

“Why, I never thought of that,” she said.

I believe God chooses the times and selects the people to accomplish His purpose in the world. He brought the Founding Fathers together in Philadelphia in 1776 to craft the Declaration of Independence. He assembled the Constitutional Convention in 1787, so the Founders could draft a Constitution to bind us together as “We the People.”

God chose the right time for Ronald Reagan’s election. On March 30, 1981, He arranged events to the split-second to prevent my father from being killed by an assassin’s bullet. And He chose the right time for the Iron Curtain to fall. God places the actors on the grand stage of history. As they play their parts, the drama of history unfolds.

In 1976, after Dad lost the nomination to Gerald Ford, we in the Reagan family thought his career was over, too. My sister Maureen took it the hardest of all. She was a weeping mess for days after the convention.

Finally, Dad sat Maureen down and said, “Everything happens for a reason — even this loss. Whenever you get knocked down, you have to get up and keep going. When the time is right, you’ll do what you were born to do.”

My father seemed unfazed by defeat. We all thought it was the end of the road. He saw defeat as a bump in the road. He seemed to know he’d be back to win it all in 1980. I don’t think he ever doubted it.

Dad watched from the sidelines as Jimmy Carter took America to the brink of economic disintegration and military collapse. Then, when the country turned to my father for leadership, he pulled America back from that brink.

Now, on the 100th anniversary of my father’s birthday, our economy is dangerously weakened once more. Our national debt is unsustainable. Trillions of dollars of Social Security and Medicare payouts are scheduled to hit us like a tsunami. Our national security is dangerously undermined by political correctness. Our government has nationalized banks, car companies and the health care system. We have more government and less freedom than at any other time in our history.

The decisions we make as a nation will determine whether or not we leave to our children the same American dream that was entrusted to us. As Abraham Lincoln said in 1862, “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.” Or as Ronald Reagan said in 1983, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

The challenges we face today are startlingly similar to conditions at the dawning of the Reagan era. The good news is that, with the hindsight of history, we now know what works. We know that a free economy, lower tax rates, and a pro-business regulatory climate can bring an ailing economy roaring back to life. We know that a strong military and a coalition of staunch international allies can topple an evil empire.

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