American Crossroads Salutes President Ronald Reagan on his 100th Birthday

With the lever of American patriotism, he lifted up the world.
– Baroness Margaret Thatcher

One hundred years ago today, Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, in an apartment above a dry goods store. Through the course of his life that followed, Reagan watched the 20th Century bring forth the heights of human achievement and the depths of human depravity. Yet before that century came to its end, Reagan would set in motion a new birth of freedom and prosperity for Americans and peoples across the globe.

If one can distill Ronald Reagan’s animating conviction down to a few words, he said it best himself in his October 27, 1964, speech “A Time for Choosing” endorsing Sen. Barry Goldwater’s candidacy for the U.S. presidency:

And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man….Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

Reagan’s patriotism flowed from his conception of the United States of America as a “shining city on a hill,” a society where ordinary individuals had that rare chance in human history to make their own decisions in their exercise of liberty. He told us our best days were ahead of us, but more than that, he instituted policies that allowed the American people to make it so.

As president, Ronald Reagan ushered in the liberalization and modernization of America’s economy, not by instituting any grand welfare program or regulatory regime, but by unleashing the entrepreneurial drive of the American people through tax and regulatory reform. Our nation’s economy boomed for essentially the next quarter century, taking in stride two historically shallow recessions. We owe the age of private technological innovation we live in today to the private capital unleashed by President Reagan’s economic policies.

Yet Ronald Reagan’s conviction that the human spirit was oriented toward freedom extended far beyond our shores. Having grown increasingly wary of international communism and alarmed at the empire-building of the Soviet Union following the Second World War, Reagan set U.S. national security policy on a dramatically different course upon assuming the presidency.

Where Reagan’s predecessors had failed through retreat and accommodation, Reagan succeeded with a policy of peace through strength. Deploying offensive weapons in Europe and developing the Strategic Defense Initiative – against strong opposition at home and abroad – brought the Soviets to the bargaining table. Ultimately, U.S. pressure against Soviet influence and aggression around the world bankrupted the Evil Empire’s socialist economy. Across Eastern Europe, capitals that once feared Soviet invasion threw off their shackles as formerly communist nations opened stock markets and held their first free elections in decades. Only a few years after Reagan demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” the Berlin Wall was gone and the Cold War was won.

But Ronald Reagan’s influence did not cease with his own enormous achievement s in office. A generation of activists and politicians has followed in his footsteps. The political realignment he solidified remains with us today as the recent 2010 elections confirmed America’s identity as a center-Right nation. Just as Ronald Reagan made his own political transformation from a New Deal Democrat to a bold, unapologetic conservative, millions of Americans over the last two years have rediscovered America’s founding principles and energized our political discourse with a renewed commitment to accountable, constitutional government .

American Crossroads honors President Ronald Reagan on his 100th birthday. Confident as he was that America’s best days still lie ahead of us, we rededicate ourselves to the values Ronald Reagan cherished: individual liberty, limited government, free enterprise, and a strong national defense. Happy Birthday, Mr. President and may God bless America.