Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Another Lesson in Overcoming Adversity

On March 13, 1966 (a Sunday), in the midst of his first campaign for governor, Ronald Reagan found himself bed-ridden with a  temperature of 101 degrees.  This was his second bout in a month with what turned out to be influenza.  

Admittedly, healthcare in 1966 had made many advances, and Reagan was by that time a “man of means,” but I cannot help but wonder what crossed his mind as he lay sick in bed.  Did he recall the time that his mother nearly died from the same virus?  Did this make him conscious of his own mortality?  Maybe…maybe not.  

As times of trial go, this was a minor one for Reagan (on other occasions he suffered a leg with seven breaks requiring months in traction, and later as President was nearly cut down by a would-be assassin’s bullet).  Nevertheless, this brief episode reminds us life is not always simple, nor easy.  Frequently, victory is nothing more than the story of refusal to give up in the face of obstacles great (and small).  Reagan—perhaps because of the vicissitudes of his own life—understood this better than most politicians.  Those experiences may have been what uniquely qualified him to lead America at a time when so much seemed to be going wrong for so many.  That was why we believed him when, during his first presidential inauguration, he said things like: 

The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades.  They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away.   They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done...

It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams.  We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline.  I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do.  I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing...

Can we solve the problems confront us?  Well, the answer is an unequivocal and emphatic "yes!"  To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I did not take the oath I have just taken with the intention of presiding over the dissolution of the world's strongest economy...Progress may be slow--measured in inches and feet, not miles--but we will progress...

[The crises we face today requires] our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God's help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.  And after all, why shouldn't we believe that?  We are Americans.

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