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For the last half hour, I’ve been soaking in Ronald Reagan’s final address from the Oval Office. It isn’t the first time I’ve read the speech. In fact, I recall watching it on TV as he delivered it live. At times, it feels like that was just yesterday.

It had the marks of all of Reagan’s speeches: abundant profundity, profuse optimism and the belief that We The People, Reagan’s Army, had won the victories. That’s quintessential Ronald Reagan. In his mind, he didn’t lead us to great things. He just did enough to help us do what needed to get done.

On that final point, I will profoundly disagree. It’s the only time I’ve ever profoundly disagreed with Dutch. President Reagan said that it’s essential to teach people what America is all about so let’s dive in together into how to do that, as captured in his speech:

If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I’m warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual. And let me offer lesson No. 1 about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven’t been teaching you what it means to be an American, let ’em know and nail ’em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.

If we’ve learned anything the past 2 years, it’s that we must hold true to America’s first principles, that liberty will always produce great results, that it’s right to not “be afraid to see what you see.”

There will never be another Dutch but there’s no reason to think that there aren’t countless opportunities for the next great American revival. It’s part of our DNA. Most importantly, let’s remember President Reagan’s great admonition: that “all great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

This isn’t said with any bitterness but, frankly, it doesn’t take a village. It takes a dinner table with everyone engaged in vital conversations about our history, our freedoms, our accomplishments.

This is one of my favorite Reagan profundities:

Well, back in 1980, when I was running for president, it was all so different. Some pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe. Our views on foreign affairs would cause war. Our plans for the economy would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse. I even remember one highly respected economist saying, back in 1982, that “the engines of economic growth have shut down here, and they’re likely to stay that way for years to come.” Well, he and the other opinion leaders were wrong. The fact is, what they called “radical” was really “right.” What they called “dangerous” was just “desperately needed.”

And in all of that time I won a nickname, “The Great Communicator.” But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation, from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries. They called it the Reagan revolution. Well, I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.

Great leaders always share the accomplishments with their troops. This was certainly true of Reagan. Of all the presidents I’ve had the opportunity to vote for, Reagan stands alone in being a man who was both cheerleader and policymaker, Great Communicator and moral compass.

President Reagan understood that it didn’t take a great communicator to get America back on her feet. President Reagan understood that it just took a reminder to We The People that we didn’t need government to achieve great things. We just needed periodic inspiration from our leader that we, as individuals, could accomplish things beyond our wildest dreams.

Shortly after Reagan’s administration, George Will wrote that President Reagan was like the uncle who knew just the right time to give us a pat on the back that would inspire us to do more great things. Will’s words are as true today as they were when he wrote them.

The great thing about President Reagan is that he knew where America’s greatness came from:

Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: “We the people.” “We the people” tell the government what to do, it doesn’t tell us. “We the people” are the driver, the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world’s constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which “We the people” tell the government what it is allowed to do. “We the people” are free. This belief has been the underlying basis for everything I’ve tried to do these past eight years.

Just like his predecessors, President Reagan’s administration wasn’t perfect. Still, great things were accomplished that still are mind-boggling, even for someone who lived through them. As usual, President Reagan summed it up best:

The lesson of all this was, of course, that because we’re a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours. And something else we learned: Once you begin a great movement, there’s no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.

I believe that we’re at the start of the latest generation of the Reagan Revolution. If we “remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours.” We’re certainly getting back in touch with our first principles. We’re certainly starting to believe in ourselves.

Most importantly, we’re understanding that the things, politicians really, in our way can be swept away quite swiftly. Last November provided proof positive of that. Long before last November’s revolution, we learned that internalizing the Constitution’s principles and standing for limited government would put us on the path of restoring American exceptionalism.

Finally, let’s live worthy of living up to President Reagan’s dream of that shining city on a hill:

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still.

What’s great about Reagan’s shining city on a hill is that it wasn’t just a vision. It’s something that, for 8 years, President Reagan’s leadership and wisdom, combined with Reagan’s Regiments, made a reality.

“Not bad, not bad at all.”

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