Although every president to serve our great nation has faced criticism, conservatives remember our fortieth fondly. To this day, we idolize his achievements and the way in which he viewed government as we seek to model the way in which he lived. He taught us that while presidents and history come and go, principles endure. Aside from political principles, President Ronald Reagan taught us about life.

“Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God.” – Ronald Reagan

To Dream Big:

President Reagan grew up in a small town in Illinois in a small apartment without indoor plumbing or running water. He played football in high school, served as student body president, and worked as a lifeguard. In college, he became a three-sport athlete, representing Eureka College in football, track, and swimming. Post-graduation, Reagan’s first position was as a sports announcer, which he did until becoming an actor and appearing on-screen in more than 50 movies over the next 30 years. Poor eyesight made the future president ineligible for combat in WWII, but he served the Army by making training films.  Two years after making a speech endorsing Republican politician Barry Goldwater, Reagan defeated the incumbent governor of California, Pat Brown Sr., by nearly 1 million votes.  In 1980, Reagan claimed the presidency with an electoral landslide and, in 1981, took office at the age of 69, making him the oldest president to take office.  In 1984, President Reagan secured his second term, capturing the highest number of popular and electoral votes of any American presidential candidate in history. He grew from humble beginnings, and proved that hard work and determination can and will provide opportunities for achievement.

To Forgive:

On March 30th, 1981,  John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan as he left a speaking engagement at the Washington, D.C. Hilton Hotel, just 2 months into his presidency. President Reagan suffered a punctured lung and internal bleeding. Although the president had already forgiven Hinckley in his heart, he sought to meet him face-to-face in 1983, a plan he was advised strongly not to follow.  But Reagan’s remarkable forgiveness of the man who shot him stands as a testament to his character and to his devout faith.  By forgiving what most would consider unforgivable, Ronald Reagan compelled us to seek compassion.

To Love:

Earlier this year, our nation mourned the loss of former First Lady Nancy Reagan. In doing so, many reflected on the Great American love story of Nancy and “Ronnie” — as she endearingly called him — a romance that extended far beyond the White House. Throughout their 52 years of devoted marriage, the Reagan’s exchanged numerous letters, many of which provided solace to Nancy as her husband declined with Alzheimer’s during his final years. Media coverage captured “the gaze” that exemplified Nancy’s love and admiration of her husband. Ronald Reagan denied a presence of “you” and “I” in marriage, emphasizing the “we” attitude of their relationship. The President and Mrs. Reagan taught us to cherish one another and to cherish the time that we have together.

Rebecca Huffine is a student at Longwood University.