Lou Cannon | Thinking About Ronald Reagan: On 100th Birthday, He’s Remembered for Good Reason
On the eve of Ronald Reagan’s election as president of the United States in 1980, a radio reporter asked him what it was that Americans saw in him. Reagan hesitated and then replied: "Would you laugh if I told you that I think maybe they see themselves and that I’m one of them?"
[Thirty] years and four presidents later, Americans still see themselves in Reagan. In a Gallup poll in 2009 they ranked Reagan as the best president, just ahead of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
This highly generous assessment is based on more than likeability. Reagan left the world safer and the United States more prosperous than he found it. Even some liberal scholars who disdained Reagan when he was in the White House now acknowledge his effectiveness as a leader, especially his role in ending the Cold War. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, his partner in that enterprise, said at Reagan’s funeral that the U.S. president was "an extraordinary political leader" who had "decided to be a peacemaker."