Doug Gamble- Contributor
Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and
in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]
celebrations and Reagan…
[Doug Gamble] 7/5/05
Californians in cities and towns all over the state turned
out yesterday for 4th of July parades, many holding a hand over
their heart and feeling a lump in their throat as the Stars and
Stripes went by. I was at the annual Independence Day parade
in Coronado, one with a pronounced military flavor reflecting
the presence in the San Diego-area city of a naval air station
and an amphibious base, where the Navy SEALs are trained.
While parades and fireworks stimulate our pride, there was
a time not long ago when the special feeling of heart-on-your-sleeve
patriotism, now experienced mainly on this day or in the aftermath
of a terrible event like 9/11, permeated the country much of
the time. It was during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. When
he said in the 1984 presidential campaign that he saw an America
where every day is the 4th of July, he meant it.
It’s possible we may never again have a president who
will be such a champion of patriotism. From his inaugural speech
in January, 1981 to his farewell Oval Office address to the nation
in January, 1989 and many speeches in between, Reagan constantly
used his bully pulpit to remind Americans that theirs’ is
the greatest country on earth.
Certainly no president since Reagan has had
the ability to invoke such swells of patriotism within us on
a regular basis.
In the case of George H.W. Bush, it wasn’t that he didn’t
want to but that he was uncomfortable showing his feelings. He
would routinely excise emotional phrases from his speeches because
he knew if he spoke them he was likely to cry.
As for Bill Clinton, whereas Reagan always kept America at center
stage, Clinton used America as the stage itself. While the Reagan
presidency was all about
America, Clinton’s was all about Clinton.
And while George W. Bush used some Reaganesque
rhetoric to help heal the wounded heart of a distraught nation
in the days
and weeks following 9/11, he has not frequently tapped the vein
of patriotism as Reagan did. While Bush often speaks of freedom
he usually does so without Reagan’s depth of feeling, and
usually minus the inspirational anecdotes about average Americans’ tragedies
and triumphs Reagan used so effectively to inspire us.
Reagan was aware America had reached a post-World
War II peak of patriotism during his years in office, and wanted
In his goodbye speech as president he warned that the “new
patriotism” that swept the country in the 1980’s
would fade away unless it was reinforced by constant reminders
of America’s past and present greatness. He called it “reinstitutionalizing
He said the educational system “must do
a better job of getting across that America is freedom -- freedom
freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise -- and that freedom
is special and rare.”
Unfortunately Reagan’s words have not been heeded, as
most educators refuse to recognize that patriotism or love of
freedom has any role in American life. How can students who do
not learn about the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers,
our greatest presidents, our role in World War II, etc. truly
appreciate this country’s greatness and why they are so
blessed to live here? If those who forget history are condemned
to repeat it, those who refuse to teach U.S. history condemn
America to diminished patriotism.
If there were such a thing as a “state of our patriotism” address,
it would likely conclude that U.S. patriotism continues to shine
but does not burn as brightly as it did two decades ago. A controversial
national election in 2000, the war in Iraq and political partisanship
that sometimes descends to hatred of opponents has tended to
push our love of country into the background.
Reagan, giving credit to “we the people” for the
country’s accomplishments during his presidency, said we’re “an
extraordinary breed we call Americans.” We are. And the
greatest tribute we could pay to our 40th president a little
more than a year after his passing is to resolve to never take
our freedoms for granted and to appreciate America as though
every day were the 4th of July. CRO
California-based Doug Gamble contributed speech material to
Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and writes a twice-monthly
column for the Orange County Register and CaliforniaRepublic.org.
2004 Doug Gamble