is home now. He is free. In his final letter to the American people,
dad wrote, I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset
of my life. This evening, he has arrived.
will record his worth as a leader. We here have long since measured
his worth as a man. Honest, compassionate, graceful, brave. He was
the most plainly decent man you could ever hope to meet.
used to say, a gentleman always does the kind thing. And he was
a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. A gentle man.
as he was, he never tried to make anyone feel small. Powerful as
he became, he never took advantage of those who were weaker. Strength,
he believed, was never more admirable than when it was applied with
restraint. Shopkeeper, doorman, king or queen, it made no difference,
dad treated everyone with the same unfailing courtesy. Acknowledging
the innate dignity in us all.
idea that all people are created equal was more than mere words
on a page, it was how he lived his life. And he lived a good, long
life. The kind of life good men lead. But I guess I'm just telling
you things you already know.
something you may not know, a little Ronald Reagan trivia for you,
his entire life, dad had an inordinate fondness for ear lobes. Even
as a boy, back in Dixon, Illinois hanging out on a street corner
with his friends, they knew that if they were standing next to Dutch,
sooner or later, he was going to reach over and grab ahold of their
lobe, give it a workout there. Sitting on his lap watching TV as
a kid, same story, he would have a hold of my ear lobe. I'm surprised
I have any lobes left after all of that.
you didn't have to be a kid to enjoy that sort of treatment. Serving
in the Screen Actors Guild with his great friend William Holden,
the actor, best man at his wedding, Bill got used to it. They would
be there at the meetings, and Dad would have ahold of his ear lobe.
There they'd be, some tense labor negotiation, two big Hollywood
movie stars, hand in ear lobe.
was, as you know, a famously optimistic man. Sometimes such optimism
leads you to see the world as you wish it were as opposed to how
it really is. At a certain point in his presidency, dad decided
he was going to revive the thumbs up gesture. So he went all over
the country, of course, giving everybody the thumbs up.
and I found ourselves in the presidential limousine one day returning
from some big event. My mother was there and dad was of course,
thumbs upping the crowd along the way, and suddenly, looming in
the window on his side of the car was this snarling face. This fellow
was reviving an entirely different hand gesture. And hoisted an
entirely different digit in our direction. Dad saw this and without
missing a beat turned to us and said, you see? I think it's catching
was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made
the fatal mistake of so many politicians wearing his faith on his
sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and
nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God
had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that
as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference.
as he was, he never would have assumed a free pass to heaven. But
in his heart of hearts, I suspect he felt he would be welcome there.
And so he is home. He is free.
of us who knew him well will have no trouble imagining his paradise.
Golden fields will spread beneath a blue dome of a western sky.
Live oaks will shadow the rolling hillsides. And someplace, flowing
from years long past, a river will wind towards the sea. Across
those fields, he will ride a gray mare he calls Nancy D. They will
sail over jumps he has built with his own hands. He will at the
river carry him over the shining stones. He will rest in the shade
of the trees.
cares are no longer his. We meet him now only in memory. But we
will join him soon enough. All of us. When we are home, when we