Part I, by Brian Janiskee
As soon as we heard that a visitation of President Reagan's body was possible, Jen and I packed up our three daughters to go pay our respects at the Reagan Library. Local officials advised us to get there Monday morning--so we left for a hotel for Sunday night.
Rising before 6 a.m., we arrived at Moorpark College for the shuttle buses that would take us to the Reagan Library. When we arrived the parking lot was filled with media trucks, reporters, photographers, and cameramen. We were interviewed by the A.P., local papers, NPR, and other media outlets. I guess they were working the early arrivers in order to get the story out. The buses were scheduled to arrive at the Reagan Library about 11 a.m. Since the lot was not that full, we began to doubt the advice we had received about crowds. But by 10 a.m. there were thousands in line. It was remarkable.
They had plenty of portable restrooms and water available, and we had packed our own food as well. The kids, believe it or not, had a great time. They ran around and played with other kids that were in line with their families. We finally got on our bus at 11:30 a.m.
The Secret Service wanded everybody and went through bags before we were allowed on the bus. We rode the bus out to the library, which is at the top of a large hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Ours was the second bus in line. When we got to the library at the top of the hill, the scene was incredible. Hundreds of media personnel were on hand. There were dozens of cameras from all over the world. There were security personnel and military people everywhere. We got off the bus and got into a slow-moving line that made its way into the lobby where President Reagan's body was. There was an honor guard from each armed service encircling the flag-draped casket. They moved us around his casket in a circle. It was a very powerful moment. The soldiers were at attention in such a formal manner that Lexi was surprised to learn on the way home that they were real soldiers and not statues.
Even after we had left the viewing area, the line remained quiet until we got back on the bus for the return trip. As we returned, we noticed that those who were just then making their way to the college to catch the shuttle were waiting in a traffic jam that stretched for five miles at least, and I am probably underestimating it. They will be running shuttles around the clock until Tuesday afternoon.
While we are all tired and glad to be back home, we are glad to have had the chance to pay our respects to such a great man and to have a small part in a historic event, even though our time in the library was measured by a few minutes. Our kids held up really well and, hopefully, they will remember this some day and have a greater appreciation for Ronald Reagan and also for our nation's history.
On Friday, when Reagan's body is returned for a sunset burial back at the Library, a few colleagues from Cal State and I plan to wait along one of the spots of the published motorcade route and pay our respects one last time. It is the least we can do to show our appreciation of one of the greatest Americans.
Part II, by Ken Masugi
I. Reagan's Legacy: His Fellow Americans
We thought visiting President Reagan at night might offer a special insight into the type of people he moved. (It might also allow us to get in faster, we hoped.) But once again we underestimated the President.
Despite Brian Kennedy's aggressive driving, it took us three hours to get to the College parking lot--yet a far better time than the six hours other mourners from the Los Angeles area cited. (Ordinarily, at that early a.m. hour, the drive from Claremont would take a little more than an hour.) Brian pulled into the lot just in time to be interviewed by phone by Claremont Institute Washington Fellow Bill Bennett on his Mornings With Bill Bennett radio program. After several minutes, we were off to join the longest line we had ever seen. With about a 4:30 a.m. start, we finally reached the flag-draped casket about 9:40 a.m. for less than two minutes of actual observation. Reagan's identity was one with the flag draping his remains, guarded by representatives of the different armed services.
Of course much of the pleasure of this entire proceeding was the company of fellow mourners. But to call our fellow Reagan admirers mourners is to miscast the crowd, whose mood was merry yet focused. At that early hour there were the hardy but also the elderly using walkers and young children, too young to be kept up for so long--though they were having fun. Nary a crying babe. While some in the long line sported coat and tie, most were casually dressed, as for a pleasant outing. With only a few political t-shirts and buttons, and albeit frequent patriotic regalia, this was still far from a Republican Club event. The Reagan fans reflected the diversity of California.
The groups before and behind us in line shared their food and coffee. A family that walked from their home down the street could refresh themselves and their new neighbors in line with such delights as blackberries from their backyard. Some walking past the lines tried to make a buck by selling water and refreshments, while others gave away donuts and cake. (Both reflected different sides of the spirit of Reagan.) As dawn arose, so did giddiness, weariness having taken its toll. But this was no sleep-deprivation ga-ga demonstration. The Reagan optimism fueled the crowd and the Reagan Library volunteers. It was as unusual a display of crowd discipline I had ever seen; the only thing comparable, in a way, was the audience of The Passion.
An ex-marine who served in the '80s drove all night from Sacramento and shared his pride in Reagan's build-up of the military. Another recounted his youthful boldness in planting himself at the exit of a presidential fundraising dinner and getting a handshake from the President. Others knew little of Reagan but wanted to be part of something historic. Tables full of flowers, jelly beans, and letters reflected the admiration and thanks of children, men and women, people from around the world. Here was a man who lifted up the hearts of his people. To take note of the education a great man produces in others' souls is part of the solemn obligation in honoring him at his death.
My own physical ordeal of staying up so long was lessened by having just returned the previous day from Turkey, where my mornings and evenings were reversed according to real, California time. My eleven days abroad let me contemplate two other commemorations and thus two legacies--Sir Winston Churchill's and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's--worthy of comparison with Mr. Reagan's. Churchill the defender and chronicler of the West and Ataturk the founder of modern Turkey both instruct us on the meaning of Reagan.
II: Reagan's Legacy: His Children
Sir Winston's plaque in Westminster Abbey reminds us of his place in British and western civilization. An adventurer, a strategist, an historian, and above all a statesman, Sir Winston's was perhaps the greatest life of the twentieth century. Yet today's "cool Britannia" is so lacking in Churchillian virtues as to be scarcely recognizable. Tony Blair's spiritedness in defending the West's interests in the Middle East may cost him, as it cost Churchill, his political life. Churchill's anachronistic ways reflect the virtues of aristocratic man and order, and something of their necessity in democratic times, but they also indicate the limits of its effects.
The infectious smiles of Turkish children light up the weary eyes of our tour group. The bolder ones among these 12-year olds attempt some English with us, and carry it off well. Here at Hittite ruins (circa 1300 B.C.) we see the shards of a civilization with no apparent attachment to contemporary Turkey. The great achievement of Ataturk (1881-1938) was to detach Turkey from the baggage of the Ottoman Empire. The mosques remain but in a western, European setting.
Ataturk gained prominence by virtue of being commander of the Turkish forces that beat the British and French at the Dardanelles. The British First Lord of the Admiralty was none other than Sir Winston, whose naval strategy has won him ridicule (and also some trenchant defenses; see Jeffrey Walliln's By Ships Alone). With this strong hand strengthened by successful war against the Greek settlements in Turkey (known as the Turkish War of Independence), Ataturk helped found the Republic of Turkey with Ankara as its capital and with him as its President. His numerous and perpetual reforms included the abolition of imperial institutions, social reforms (e.g., rights for women), a new civil law, and a new Turkish alphabet, based on Latin script. Crucial to all this was the diminished role of the clerics and Islam in political life. It is signified today in the secular military, which intervenes should the parliament pass laws which would undermine the secular character of the Turkish regime.
Ataturk's monument and tomb (not of his design) in Ankara glorify not only his political and military accomplishments but also his personality--his cars, clothes, and so on. He looms larger than his people, in neo-Mussolini style. But the contemporary legacy of Ataturk bears strains--is the secularism necessary for liberty or is it a burden on religious liberty (meaning, practically, Islam)? Does the emphasis on state activity, reminiscent of American Progressivism, stultify the beneficent effect of markets? We can only wish Turkey the best in these efforts, as the leading example of a successful blend of Islam and the West.
Ronald Reagan was particularly acute at dealing with these very themes. A Democrat New Dealer, he later denounced the New Deal as being inspired by fascism. His speech on religion and politics before the 1984 Republican Convention in Dallas was a paean to religious liberty and the significance of religion for the American polity. And those who recall his speeches on the "evil empire" should note that they denounce a moral relativism destructive in personal and social matters ranging from abortion to race relations. While Ataturk changed the Turkish language, Reagan changed the political language of America, making it politically impossible to identify oneself as a liberal, without a preposterous amount of qualification. Reagan brought us back to our roots in a way that both Churchill and Ataturk found impossible in their regimes--the problems being Britannia's exhaustion and Turkey's want. In other words, he made America feel youthful, not on the verge of collapse. To be young is to be full of hope.
Are those smiling Turkish children in that sense Reagan's kids? Let us pray God they are, and not the product of some hateful madras. And what a joke he would have made about being as old as the Hittite architect who designed the city.
The tomb he designed for himself and Nancy is a few feet from his Library. Railtracks enable the casket to be slid into a cave facing the ocean. This is no Barbarossa myth but a sign of a contented life. In designing his own funeral, I think he must have known it would bring out our smiles, and this would be politically important to us. He put us back on the road of self-government.