Ronald Reagan spoke eloquently in many ways. But the Great Communicator may be best remembered for his words of faith and the cultural changes that followed them. Faith was the wellspring of his optimism; it was the guiding star of his presidency. Mr. Reagan’s faith was the foundation of all he did, and it remains the cornerstone of his legacy.
Mr. Reagan spoke from faith when he saw dawn beyond America’s dark hours, when he saw freedom piercing the Iron Curtain. A committed Christian, Mr. Reagan was convinced that everything happened for a reason and that he had been chosen by God to play a part in America’s great mission.
Mr. Reagan’s faith was a rugged one: It sprang from the tempering of hard and bitter experience. His father was an alcoholic. His poor eyesight caused him to miss out on the greatest event of many of his generation — World War II. He was a good actor, but never a great one, and his divorce from Jane Wyman stunned him so greatly that he later said his life did not become whole again until he married Nancy Davis. His years of presidential triumph came only after he was within heartbeats of losing his life to an assassin’s bullet.
That faith was a part of all his words. In his “Time for Choosing” speech, Mr. Reagan declared, “We will preserve for our children this, the last best home of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.” In his first inaugural address, he said, “I’m told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and I’m deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended us to be free.”
His works reflected his faith as well. He spoke against abortion and for prayer in schools. He transformed cultural conservatism’s frown at vice into a smile at virtue. Mr. Reagan returned unapologetic patriotism to the national discourse; he restored personal freedom and responsibility as the touchstones of the national philosophy. While he saw moral courage as an essential weapon of free men, he made sure that the Cold Warriors were well-armed and well-equipped.
Mr. Reagan once remarked, “When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.” Now, even his passing has become an expression of his faith. After years of darkness, Mr. Reagan has made his last journey to the shining city.