By Barack Obama
Ronald Wilson Reagan was a believer. As a husband, a father, an entertainer, a governor and a president, he recognized that each of us has the power – as individuals and as a nation – to shape our own destiny. He had faith in the American promise; in the importance of reaffirming values like hard work and personal responsibility; and in his own unique ability to inspire others to greatness.
No matter what political disagreements you may have had with President Reagan- and I certainly had my share – there is no denying his leadership in the world, or his gift for communicating his vision for America.
President Reagan recognized the American people’s hunger for accountability and change – putting our nation on a bold new path toward both. And although he knew that conflicts between parties and political adversaries were inevitable, he also knew that they would never be strong enough to break the ties that bind us together. He understood that while we may see the world differently and hold different opinions about what’s best for our country, the fact remains that we are all patriots who put the welfare of our fellow citizens above all else.
It was a philosophy that President Reagan took to heart – famously saying that he and Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill, with whom he sparred constantly, could be friends after 6 o’clock. It’s what led him to compromise on issues as contentious as Social Security and tax cuts. And it’s what allowed him to work with leaders of all political persuasions to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and security around the world, including reducing nuclear weapons and imagining a world, ultimately, without nuclear weapons.
But perhaps even more important than any single accomplishment was the sense of confidence and optimism President Reagan never failed to communicate to the American people. It was a spirit that transcended the most heated political arguments, and one that called each of us to believe that tomorrow will be better than today. At a time when our nation was going through an extremely difficult period, with economic hardship at home and very real threats beyond our borders, it was this positive outlook, this sense of pride, that the American people needed more than anything.
When the future looked darkest and the way ahead seemed uncertain, President Reagan understood both the hardships we faced and the hopes we held for the future. He understood that it is always “Morning in America.” That was his gift, and we remain forever grateful.