The British refer to young people who grew up from 1979 to 1990 – during the time Margaret Thatcher was prime minister – as “Thatcher’s Children.” We could easily say the same of the approximately 30 million Americans who were born during the Reagan years, myself included.
We would be a decent generation to consider ourselves Reagan’s Children. For every young person needs heroes. This generation has had few, and Ronald Reagan was the greatest.
As a 13-year-old, I wrote a letter to President Reagan: “I have certainly been inspired by you and that which you stood for … I will stand firm for America by going out and winning one for the Gipper.”
I read Ronald Reagan’s autobiography “An American Life” in the fifth grade, and I considered him a hero after that. To this day, my bedroom wall displays a large poster of Reagan standing beside a pillar along the West Wing corridor, a 1984 “Americans for Reagan” campaign banner, and a poster with this quote by the Great Communicator:
Freedom is not something to be secured in any one moment of time. We must struggle to preserve it every day. And freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
But can Reagan’s Children preserve freedom for America? Can we carry on the mantle of greatness Reagan inherited from Washington and Lincoln and Cleveland and Coolidge? Can we still possess that genuine faith in God and country that gave breath to the Reagan Era?
Reagan’s trademark optimism inspires me to answer nothing but an unequivocal yes, though the challenges are immense. Our culture, our government and our sense of identity are at times and in places confounded. Still, our heritage and our hope remains.
“The future of our nation will be determined, more than anything else, by the character of our children,” Reagan declared in 1982.
We have character problems indeed. But there is a strong and vital corps of young Americans who are committed to the simple, permanent things – the things of the spirit that define the American character. These are Reagan’s Children who will keep America going.
Recent surveys show that Generation Next has more conservatives than any generation since statistics were available. The Harvard Institute of Politics reports that 31 percent of college students identify as Republicans, compared to 28 percent who are Democrats. And according to a Higher Education Research Institute report, 24 percent of college freshmen consider themselves liberal while an all-time high 21 percent say they are conservative. Even the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers who were Youth for Reagan in 1968, 1976, 1980 and 1984 could not rival with the energy and passion of what Rolling Stone and the New York Times have recently called, “young Hipublicans.” These are Reagan’s Children.
And Reagan’s Children are lining the ancient sands of Babylon, fighting for the peace and freedom of Iraq, or they are defending liberty in Afghanistan, or they are at home on military bases struggling to prevent another terrorist attack.
Reagan’s Children are the faithful corps of conservative college students, fighting against the leftist establishment in the dark realm of higher education, and studying eternal truths where that establishment has neglected to invade.
Reagan’s Children go to church, plan for marriage and family, despise the deadly intellectual and moral poisons propagated by the Left, and commit to a life of purpose and honor.
And Reagan’s Children are optimists about the future. We are deeply divided at the moment, and civil wars of spiritual proportion are not out of the question, but it was only after the Civil War that America became the nation she is today. Reagan never ignored the reality of our circumstances and the inevitability of our struggle, but he never despaired. Likewise, Reagan’s Children are both fighters and dreamers.
“If you take away the dream,” warned Reagan, “you take away the power of the spirit. If you take away the belief in a greater future, you cannot explain America – that we’re a people who believed there was a promised land; we were a people who believed we were chosen by God to create a greater world.”
We must, at this moment and in this generation, renew our faith in America’s future, for that is the best tribute we could pay to the legacy of Ronald Reagan. May Reagan’s Children dare to dream, struggle to preserve the sacred fire of liberty, and “go out and win one for the Gipper.”
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