The Corner

Reagan@100: For All the Pilgrims

On election night in 1980, I was getting into make-up at the Gainesville Little Theatre, a few blocks form the University of Florida. I was playing Tony Kirby in You Can’t Take it With You. We were going to go out after the show and watch the election returns come in.

Less than a minute before we went on, one of the stage managers practically shouted through her tears: “It’s over! Oh, God, we’re all gonna die!”

“What’s over?”

“The election! Ray-Gun won! He’s going to go to war with Russia!”

Even then, in my most rebellious, least informed, most liberal, least coherent days, I thought that was laying it on a little thick.

I spent the eight years of his presidency dismissive of the senile old idiot who didn’t have sense enough to raise taxes. I’ve spent the last eight years laboring to atone for those eight, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Unlike so many of you, I never had the chance to enjoy the man while he was in office. But I did turn back towards the light before he died, and living in Los Angeles, I have been to several events at the nearby Reagan Library.

I always find a few moments to step out, alone, and stand there, head held low, muttering apologies. I wish I could have met him — just to thank him, perhaps shake his hand, or have some other tangible memory of him, like so many of my colleagues are so fortunate to have. Don’t take that for granted.

I cannot think of my own journey without hearing his voice and seeing his smile as he talked about our common country, and can’t read — let alone speak — my favorite Reagan quote without choking up.

“And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

Not all of us pilgrims come from overseas. Some journeys take place in the heart.

Bill Whittle is a commentator for PJTV.

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