(Host) Commentator Madeleine May Kunin recalls her impressions of Ronald Reagan.
(Kunin) This country is not heavy on pageantry, but when a President dies there is a long public pause to make room for remembrance.
Thousands of people waited for hours to view Ronald Reagan’s casket, many who were not even born when he was President.
It is too soon to proclaim whether Ronald Reagan was a great President or not. Some are eager to put his visage on Mount Rushmore and replace either Alexander Hamilton or Andrew Jackson with his likeness on our currency. Others complain of “Reagan fatigue” after a week of almost uninterrupted adulation, which not everyone shared.
I have my own memories of the President who swept the state of Vermont when he was elected to his second term in 1984 — the same year I was elected Governor.
I remember listening to him tell stories at the annual National Governor’s meeting in Washington about his famous welfare queen — and silently I argued with him.
In his first term, when I was a state legislator on the appropriations committee, we struggled to fill in the holes in the state budget created by Reagan’s budget cuts for the poor.
Although I disagreed with his policies on many things — including foreign policy in Latin America — I have no angry memories of him.
He was not a mean-spirited man. He was genial, charming, and hard to dislike.
He opposed legal abortion but did not foist his views on us. He espoused “family values,” which became a catch-all phrase for clean living and implied that Democrats did not share that same life style.
But he didn’t push his social agenda. We knew where he stood, but he did not expect the country to stand in unison where he was.
And yes, he was an optimist. He understood that special quality which only America has — that eternal belief that in this country everyone can aspire to success and happiness.
He believed it and he conveyed it by his presence.
For that, a country can be grateful. Regardless of political persuasion, we mourn the passing of a President who made us feel good about our country.
It is this optimism that we need today more than ever – the belief that American can be that shining city on the hill, not only for Americans, but for the world.
This is Madeleine May Kunin.
Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.