In his 1981 Inauguration Speech, Ronald Reagan asked, “How can we love our country and not love our countrymen?” He was talking about his vision of Americans moving forward, all Americans, and he went on to talk about the way that he would work to revive our economy, at that time in crisis, and how he would do it with the help of the people. Much of the first portion of his speech was about the people, We the People, and he counted himself among us. Speaking about the role of the federal government, balking at the way it had grown and threatened to overtake not only states’ rights but the rights of the people, he asks, “If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”
Listening to Reagan, to his love for this country, his dedication to reinvigorating our economy, to rebuilding our great nation, and to his role as Commander-in-Chief, I get a lump in my throat. It’s so refreshing, so (excuse me for a moment) friggin’ awesome to hear a man who is the leader of a country he loves and takes pride in, to a leader who recognizes his stature as President of the United States of America yet does so with great humility. Reagan speaks of former presidents, former great deeds performed by other men in other decades, in other centuries. He speaks of America as if the things that were then wrong (and there were many) were surmountable not because he held himself above us, but because he saw himself among us, with us, fighting for us and for our collective future as Americans who live in a constitutional republic, trying to pull us all up and not drag anyone down.
I can honestly say that listening again to this Inaugural Address made me cry, literally sob. That is the America I love, the America that I will fight for with my dying breath, the America that I fear we are losing bits of each day. I cry for our loss not only of a great leader but for what we are left with now and the path we are being herded down. I cry because the question I most want to ask this country’s current president is: How can you love your countrymen if you do not love your country?