Reviewed by David Williams (April 30, 2003)
When Reagan left office in 1988, he thanked each and every member of the “Reagan Revolution” with these words: We’ve done our part. And as I walk into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan Revolution, the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren’t just marking time. We made a difference. We made a city stronger. We made a city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad … not bad at all. Truer words were never spoken.
Reagan came in to the office of President with some very specific goals – cutting the size of the federal government, getting the government out of the back pockets of the American people, reducing the tax burden on American citizens, and bringing about an end to the evil empire of the Soviet Union. From day one, Reagan worked feverishly and systematically towards coming up with solutions to each and every one of the aforementioned problems and in doing so, rejuvenated the American spirit. Although he had made unsuccessful bids for President in 1968 and 1976, Reagan won the Republican Party’s nomination with this simple phrase, “Ask yourself, are you better off now than you were four years ago?” (This question was easily answered in the negative by anyone who can recall living through the ridiculously awful presidency of Jimmy Carter.)
In a time when conventional politicians were cynical and many thought that America’s best days were behind her, Reagan exuded an optimism that said America’s best days were still ahead. With unemployment at an all time high, gas lines stretching around corners, astronomical interest rates and inflation, embarrassing and half-hearted attempts at diplomacy in rescuing American hostages, and a healthy fear of the Soviet Union at a fever pitch, Americans decided they were ready for a change. When Ronald Reagan handed Jimmy Carter his ass during the 1980 presidential election, the people spoke with a resounding roar and on January 20th, 1981, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of these United States.
Reagan worked feverishly with legislators as he prepared an Economic Recovery bill to send to Congress. However, on March 30th of the same year, he was taken down by an assassin’s bullet outside of the Washington Hilton. The bullet only missed the President’s heart by one inch and true to form, Reagan managed to joke about the attempt on his life soon after the shooting – not realizing how close he had truly come to death.
A speedy recovery was followed by speedy passage of his stimulus package in which the President had convinced forty Democrats to vote with him rather than along party lines. By 1984, Reagan’s stimulus package and the tax breaks included within it had revamped and rejuvenated the economy. Also, America’s rapid military buildup was having a huge impact on the Soviet Union by bringing to light the fact that the Communist state was feeling the economic burdens of trying to keep up with the United States militarily. It was around this time that Ronald Reagan and George Bush won re-election by one of the largest margins ever in United States history – completely obliterating the Democratic ticket of Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro – essentially wiping them off of the political landscape.
It was during his second term that Reagan really began to put the heat on the Russians and when he referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire”, many scoffed at the remark and ridiculed Reagan for saber rattling. However, it wasn’t long afterwards that the policy of “peace through strength” was proven to be an effective bargaining position as the former Soviet empire crumbled from within and soon thereafter, the Berlin Wall collapsed. Reagan would leave office with incredible approval ratings and his successes paved the way for his Vice President, George Bush, to slide right in to the Oval Office.
Ronald Reagan’s two terms in office saw remarkable economic growth, the reduction of tax burdens on the American people (the way it ought to be), a concerted effort to build the American military up to a true superpower status, as well as oversaw the collapse of Communism around the world. His vision of “peace through strength” was proven correct and he paved the way for a diplomatic and peaceful co-existence between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Imperceptibly, Reagan also made us proud to be Americans again. After such embarrassing events as Watergate and the discomforting presidency of Jimmy Carter, public mistrust of politicians and the political machine in general were at an all time high and it took a morally disciplined and principled leader like Ronald Reagan to bring the country back together again and to make us the proud people we always should be. He is … and will remain … one of the most revered and respected Presidents in history.
In Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered, we are given access to the life of Ronald Reagan through the eyes of those who knew him best – his family, his friends, and his contemporaries. The most intimate, touching, and heartwarming recollections come from his wife Nancy, as she candidly and openly discussed such things as the assassination attempt on her husband’s life, as well as the effects that Alzheimer's has had on the former President’s health. Reagan’s children (sons Michael and Ron, as well as daughter Patti) also make appearances in the feature and offer up commentary on their father’s often guarded and private tendencies, what it was like having Ronald Reagan as a parent, and how they handled growing up in a household where fame – either through film or politics – was ever present in their home life. While the kids didn’t always see eye to eye with their dad on his political views, it’s obvious that they love him tremendously as a father and their participation in Remembered is a welcome addition. Others making appearances in the documentary are various political figures from Reagan’s past including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Presidents George and George W. Bush. We also hear from family friends like Merv Griffin, as well as the Reagan’s family minister. Everyone recalls the former President with the utmost respect and adoration and they all speak highly of Reagan’s ability to charm and embrace an audience … his ability to speak to you rather than at you. The archival footage included contains some great gems and only adds to the enjoyment of the feature.
You cannot even begin to scratch the surface of Ronald Reagan or his presidency in under two hours no matter who you are, but Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered is a great snapshot of this great man and a good place to start for those of you who are interested in Reagan-Lite. However, if you want to know more, there are countless novels and biographies on Reagan’s life before, during, and after office. That being said, when A&E or The History Channel put their stamp of approval on a project, you can be guaranteed that the show will inform, entertain, and educate. Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered is no different and while very concise in nature, it gives a nice overview of Reagan’s life in movies, state politics, and ultimately, the Oval Office.
To give you a glimpse of the type of man Ronald Reagan is, let me quote you from his letter to the American people when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1994. His love for his country still outweighs his concern for his own health and he said the following: In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your President. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that day may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.