Among the many tributes to President Reagan that have flowed through the BMH office since the weekend was this one by a personal friend and former colleague, Pat Nolan. Pat (who once rode as Tommy Trojan at USC) is a former Republican leader of the California state assembly, and is now the president of Justice Fellowship in Washington, DC. His Justice e-report, a free e-mail report on constructive and restorative justice issues is available. Here is his remembrance:
Reagan: A Kind and Good Man
Reflections on a Pre-president Reagan
By Pat Nolan
June 7, 2004
In the summer of 1968, between my high school graduation and my freshman year at USC, I was a volunteer in the Reagan for President campaign at the Republican National Convention in Miami. Two years earlier I had worked very hard to elect Ronald Reagan as California’s Governor, heading up the Burbank Youth for Reagan. And now I was excited that his upbeat conservative message would resonate across the other states as well, and lead him to the White House.
The convention hummed with excitement for Reagan. As our bus pulled up at each delegation’s hotel, the Reagan rallies were packed. Long before he would make his dramatic entrance chants of “Rea-gan, Rea-gan” thundered and echoed throughout each venue. Then you could hear the applause start near the door, and wild whoops would erupt as Ronald Reagan slowly worked his way forward, shaking hands and patting delegates on the back as he approached the podium. His smile seemed to light up the room as he confidently strode across the stage, tanned and trim.
He electrified the audiences as he delivered his message of belief in America’s basic goodness; that our best years were ahead of us.
After the rallies we would mingle with the delegates while Reagan met with the leaders from that state. A disturbing refrain met us at each stop. Many of the delegates told me how much they admired Reagan and wanted to vote for him, but they were bound by previous commitments to other candidates. Some even shook their heads and cried as they told me how disappointed they were that they couldn’t cast their ballot for the man they thought would be the best nominee. A post-convention article in Time Magazine summed it up well, “Their heads were with Richard Nixon, but their hearts were with Ronald Reagan.”
The night of the nomination, I sat in the convention arena with three other Reagan youth volunteers; two were Reagan Girls from the Miami area and the third was a young law student from Indiana, the son of the Dean of Notre Dame’s Law School. We kept tally as the states cast their votes for Nixon, Rockefeller, Scranton, Romney and Reagan. For a while it looked like no candidate would receive a majority, necessitating a second ballot. That is exactly what they Reagan troops wanted. On a second ballot the delegates who had been pledged to Nixon would be free to vote their conscience, and we knew Reagan would sweep the convention.
Alas, it was not to be so. Nixon inched his way over the top and won the nomination. It was a crushing blow to all of us Reagan kids. We were stunned and stood in silence for several minutes. Then we began making our way to the exit, stepping over burst balloons, discarded signs and mounds of confetti.
As we stepped into the hot and humid night, it was raining lightly. We stopped to get our bearings so we could head back to the headquarters hotel. The letters on our hand-painted Reagan signs were starting to run as the rain came down, and the girls’ mascara was doing the same due to their tears. A white Lincoln Continental pulled out of the fenced area surrounding the press trucks, and drove past us. As the car went by, I saw the lone figure in the back seat reach forward and tap the driver on his shoulder. The car stopped, and backed up to where we were. The rear window slid down. It was our hero, Ronald Reagan. “I want you to know how proud I am that you young people would support me,” Reagan said as he reached out and shook our hands. “Don’t be discouraged. I promise you, you’ll have another chance to work for me. Our day will come. We’re not finished yet.”
It was a gesture typical of Ronald Reagan: thoughtful, encouraging and forward-looking. At that moment of defeat, he took the time to stop and make sure four young volunteers weren’t discouraged. And from that very moment of defeat, he had steeled himself for the task of running again for the presidency. He kept his promise, and I had the opportunity to volunteer for him again. It took him two more times, but he became the 40th President of the United States. As he told us so often in his speeches, America had a “rendezvous with destiny” to lead us toward the “shining city on a hill.” (end of Nolan piece)
Was President Reagan a Believer?
Dr. D. James Kennedy, of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, answers that question in this way:
“In 1980 I and several other evangelical leaders met with him when
he was running for president. ‘Governor,’ I said, ‘I would like to ask you a
very important spiritual question and that is: If something were to happen
to you and you were to die and stand before God, and God Almighty said to
you, “Why should I let you into my Heaven?” What would you say?’
“He was silent for a long time. Finally, after about 30 seconds he answered
in somber tones that I shall never forget, ‘I don’t deserve to go to Heaven.
The only thing that I could say would be, “For God so loved the world, that
he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not
perish, but have everlasting life”‘ (John 3:16).
“Now this great man has discovered the truth of those words of Christ. He
has ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth,’ and now gazes in the face of God.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Nancy and his family as they
remember this wonderful man and mourn his passing.”