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A few days ago, I pondered the timeliness of Reagan’s death. After Friday’s internment in California, my pondering changed to certainty: America needed Reagan’s funeral.
For one week, we took the full measure of a great man who lived in our lifetimes: a man who strode across history’s plane with steps that challenged, but didn’t surpass, the founders. We needed to cry, to laugh, to reflect on a life well-lived. And we did.
We needed to know that people would drop their business for days to stand in long, hot lines to view a wooden box draped in a flag. We needed to reaffirm our cultural norms and mores that Reagan so exemplified: standing when a lady enters a room, holding the door for others, holding funeral services for a child’s goldfish with such aplomb that the child is moved to release its other goldfish from the surly bonds of earth. We needed to learn that deeply religious man can pray and perform acts of Christianity off camera. We needed to reflect on how great, good men did things.
With all due and some undue respect to our current president, reviewing Reagan’s life reminds us all how small the men who’ve followed seem compared to Reagan. He was larger than life. I see images of President Bush standing with Laura at Reagan’s casket and can’t but wonder what’s going through George’s mind. Ron, show me how you did it. Make me feel what you felt. Let me believe what you believed. Kneel down so I can climb onto your broad, powerful shoulders and see the horizon that you saw.
Then I think: at least our president is humble enough to think such humbling thoughts. Would his opponent take the measure of man like Reagan and find himself wanting? Never. Would Clinton? No. But they need to more than Mr. Bush does.
And Americans need to.
Anyone who really reflected on Reagan and really measured himself against the man is better for it. The exercise produces an odd mixture of humility and confidence, loneliness and fulfillment. Most of all, it produces hope. The shining city on the hill is will glow forever. And we are the lights in its windows.