- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2019

This day in history in 1975, Ronald Reagan announced his run for the Republican Party’s nomination for president. He lost.

He didn’t quit.

Ten years after that, a recently-elected second term President Reagan met with then-General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva and, upon returning home, told Congress: “I called for a fresh start, and we made the start.”

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This, a warming — significant especially so since it came only months after Reagan, in a State of the Union, outlined his famous hard-line doctrine against communism.

It was a rendezvous with destiny that almost never was.

In the “The Divine Plan: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan and the Dramatic End of the Cold War,” a book by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando, and in “The Divine Plan,” a newly released movie directed by Orlando, storytellers recount how assassination attempts of two key Cold War players, Reagan and the then-pope, John Paul II, very nearly stopped Cold War peace in its tracks.

“Two boys raised during violent times — who would become a president and a pope,” the narrator of “The Divine Plan” states.

Gunmen had hoped otherwise.

John Hinckley Jr. shot and grievously injured Reagan on March 30, 1981, in Washington, D.C. Mehmet Ali Agca shot and seriously injured Pope John Paul II a couple months later, on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

It was those shared tragic experiences, combined with deep faith, that drew the unlikely pair closer than perhaps they otherwise would’ve been.

“Surviving strikingly similar near-death experiences,” an Amazon description of “The Divine Plan” DVD reads, “they confided to each other a shared conviction: that God had spared their lives for the purpose of defeating communism.”

History speaks to their success.

“Other American presidents tried to figure out how to manage the Cold War,” a clip from the movie states.

Too true; John F. Kennedy, for instance, opposed the Berlin Wall but shrugged off action by saying, “A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.”

Reagan had higher aspirations.

“Reagan wanted to win the Cold War,” the movie goes on to state.

And win he did.

“Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate,” Reagan famously said, at the Bradenburg Gate on June 12, 1987. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Once again, history speaks to the ultimate realization of this call.

“There is a school of thought that Ronald Reagan only managed to look good because he had clever writers putting words in his mouth. But Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Bob Dole and Bill Clinton all had clever writers. Why was there only one Great Communicator?” Peter Robinson wrote, in his 2007 “How Top Advisers Opposed Reagan’s Challenge to Gorbachev — But Lost” piece for Prologue Magazine.

And his answer: “Because Ronald Reagan’s writers were never attempting to fabricate an image, just to produce work that measured up to the standard Reagan himself had already established.”

Reagan, in his core, believed in freedom.

His teaming with the pope to fight communism and spread that view of freedom was simply all part of a “divine plan.”

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ckchumley.

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