The wit and wisdom of Reagan

SEEKING a giggle and recalling the scorn poured upon the bumbling American president Ronald Reagan when I was younger, I sought quotes to remind me of his gaffes.

It didn't take me long to realise that I'd been wrong about him all these years.

Uncovering a rich store of Reaganisms, I found myself not guffawing, but smiling and nodding in agreement.

In the 80s I wondered how the American people could have been so stupid. He was elderly. He'd been a B grade actor. He seemed forgetful and a dangerous sabre rattler.

But wizened old Ronnie made them feel good.

And now I can see that in his simple rhetoric was the power to inspire. His oratory was perhaps not in the same category as JFK or Churchill, but it was inspirational.

Churchill's brilliant speeches encouraged a deprived and despairing nation to believe it could win a war against all the odds. When I read some of those speeches today there is a tear in the eye and a shiver in the spine. Kennedy's lit a fire of patriotic optimism with his warmth and apparent sincerity.

By comparison Julia Gillard sounds stilted, mean spirited and devoid of warmth. It's obvious many of her ad libs are well rehearsed. And Tony Abbott's robot-like delivery is even worse. Neither are capable of inspiring enthusiasm or convincing anyone other than diehard party hacks of the justness of their cause.

I'm sure many of Reagan's one liners were scripted too. But as an actor he had the ability to make them seem instantaneous, witty and smart.

You don't have to share his politics to recognise his skills as a great communicator. How good would it be to have a leader like him, to make us feel good?

Here are a few examples.

"One way to make sure crime doesn't pay would be to let the government run it."

"We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone."

"Don't be afraid to see what you see."

"Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives."

"No mother would ever willingly sacrifice her sons for territorial gain, for economic advantage, for ideology."

And my personal favourite "I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born."


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