What Reagan Meant to Immigrants like Myself

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The first time I ever voted in my life was in 1984 after I became a full US citizen two years earlier. My native country of Syria remains to this day a country that is occupied by brutal men who are too cowardly to hold real elections so voting in 1984 was quite special and sad at the same time.

My vote went for Ronald Reagan. It was an easy decision because of how Jimmy Carter handled the Khomeini disaster and the US economy; voting for Walter Mondale who served as VP under Jimmy Carter was an invitation for possibly another disaster.

Ronald Reagan”™s strength emanated from his own personal experiences and beliefs. But as a communicator, he made us all aware of how important those beliefs are to the greatness of the United States. To immigrants like me, who did not study US history or how it came to tower over all other nations, understanding Ronald Reagan was, at the same time, an education and an awakening like no other. To me, Ronald Reagan was Capitalism 101, Government 101, Exceptionalism 101, and above all Individualism 101.  With Reagan, it became clear what made the United States a gatherer nation of all exceptional people and things. The country was and remains a magnet for the willing and the able because its system of government knows how to extract the best in you.

I am hardly an expert on Ronald Reagan and everything I recall of this man are the experiences I had as I watched his administration steer us from economic disasters he inherited from Jimmy Carter in the first term to foreign policies successes he accomplished in the second term. Most vivid in my mind is his bombing of Qaddafi”™s Palace in 1986 on tax day, something that no other U.S. President would have dared do after it was discovered that Qaddafi was ordering terrorist attacks against the US in Germany. The second most vivid item was the Reykjavik Summit with Mikhail Gorbachev to ban Ballistic Missiles.

Compare these two examples: Qaddafi killed 2 American servicemen in La Belle Discotheque in West Berlin and Reagan, refusing to be intimidated by a brute, ordered the attack on his palace. Assad killed hundreds of US Servicemen in Iraq and Bush accepted this brutality against his own people and did not respond. That”™s why Reagan is one of the greatest US Presidents ever to hold office. Today, the US is paying and will pay for some time to come a heavy price for that lack of vision and courage by Bush. Don”™t misunderstand me, Bush had many great moments but when it mattered the most, he hesitated. On the other hand, in my personal opinion, VP Cheney would have followed the example of Reagan in Libya without hesitation.

In his discussions with the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan wanted to include an important item on the agenda: Human Rights for the Russian people as well as emigration of Soviet Jewry. This instance in history changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people suffering under a stifling Soviet system of oppression, including the life of Natan Sharansky who has dedicated his life to helping other dissidents around the world (His book Fear No Evil is a must read about his trials and turbulent life in Soviet prisons). Few will have the greatness to bend history and Reagan could do it with ease. That natural ability was a constant reminder to immigrants like me that in America, there are no limits to greatness.

Incidentally, I received this email from a friend that describes, indirectly, the transformation of the American people between 1980 and 2008. It was first published in the Prager Zeitung of 28 April 2010.

“The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama, who is, after all, merely a fool. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools such as those who made him their president.”

I belong to that group of Americans of the year of 1984.

Happy 100 Mr. President, I will always vote for you in my heart.


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