Reagan@100: The Night I Met Ronald Reagan

In 1982 I was a college student at the University of Illinois, and President Ronald Reagan was coming to Chicago for a fundraiser for then-Senator Chuck Percy. It was being held at the Palmer House, and was much too expensive for most college students to even think about attending. However, as someone who was very active in the College Republicans, I naturally had a longing to simply be in the same room as my president. Thankfully, somebody bought a table at the fundraiser and reserved it for some College Republicans, and I was lucky enough to be one of them. My friends and I piled into the car in Champaign and made the almost three-hour drive to Chicago to see President Reagan speak.

Not only did I get to see Ronald Reagan speak that night, I also got to meet him. It was 1982 and the president had just cut taxes and was working to reduce the country’s dependency on the federal government. The country had also fallen into a recession. I will never forget President Reagan speaking that night about the need for the country to experience some temporary pain in order to sustain long-term growth and prosperity. By 1984 we knew President Reagan was right, and he won 49 of the 50 states in his reelection campaign. I always admired the president for speaking that night in terms of years down the road, and not the here and now. In a society that has become ever increasingly about living in the here and now, and pleasing only our instantaneous wants, there was the president looking further down the country’s economic road and seeing what was best for us.

Not only was President Reagan a mesmerizing speaker, he was also a leading thinker of his generation and for our country. We hear so many talk about why President Reagan was a great leader, and that night in Chicago I got to sit in the same room and experience why he was.

 — Rep. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann is a freshman congressman from Tennessee.

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