During a recent road trip driving on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike it reminded me how beloved the former President is in Florida. In my hometown of Miami, Florida, President Reagan is beyond loved, he practically a saint and is regularly memorialized for his legacy. (I think my tias regularly cross themselves each time they say his name.)
Growing up in South Florida, as the child of a Cuban Exile, there are a few things you know for certainty.
- Communism is bad.
- People who hate communism are good.
So given this basic logic, a person who vowed to destroy communism and was somewhat successful in that attempt is considered a Superhero, a Saint among men. (Read: “A Slobbering Love Affair—Cuban Americans and Ronald Reagan” by Humberto Fontova)
Beyond President Reagan’s stance against the evil empire, his optimistic view of the world and hope for the future drafted a generation of believers in his conservative cause, including the members of my family.
He believed in the greatness of people and the individual spirit. He understood the strengths of coalitions and bringing people together for a common cause.
As a child, my mother was heavily involved in a national Latino organization. President Reagan saw potential in the group, and knew that more conservatives needed to get involved to create balance in opinion in the national Latino debate. A member of the Regan Administration knocked on our front door and told my mother they needed her to ramp up her efforts and get more involved, and so she did.
President Reagan knew that through the debate of ideas and the ability to find common ground, we could create a winning inclusive coalition. After all, it was President Reagan that said, “Hispanics are Republicans, they just don’t know it yet.”
Now as we celebrate President Reagan’s 100th birthday we look back on his legacy.
Unfortunately too many seeking to emulate Reagan get lost in translation. Too many selectively choose what “being Reagan” means. Not enough know the difference between being inspired by a legend and trying to interpret a legend.
I think my mom put it best with a recent post on her facebook page:
“It is disturbing to see the lack of vision and understanding of what Reagan stood for and how he brought about the positive change that is now America. He did what he had to do, not what was popular…”
I think the best we can hope for in future candidates, is not the next Ronald Reagan, but the best candidate who is inspired by Regan principles and brings something new to the public square. A leader, who believes in American exceptionalism and has an optimistic future of our nation and its’ people. We need an individual that can unite the America and the Party. Goodness knows we need a leader to bring the GOP together if we have any hope of winning in 2012.