The weeklong grieving process for former President Reagan gave me ample time to think about him and his presidency. I lived in Dixon, IL, his hometown, when he was first elected president. His election had a serendipitous effect upon Dixon. It brought new life and excitement to this small town in America's heartland.
Friend and foe all agreed that Mr. Reagan was the Teflon president-nothing negative ever seemed to stick to him personally. He winked at America during the Iran-Contra scandal, and America winked back. At any other time and with any other president, that gathering storm could have swept an entire administration out of Washington like a tornado on the plains of the Midwest. However, America gave him a pass on this and was willing to move on.
Even though many people saw Mr. Reagan with this presidential protective coating, I see him as the serendipitous president. He surely benefited from many unintended consequences. Today, many tout him as the man who won the Cold War. In a way, his arms build-up and especially the Star Wars initiative ultimately bankrupted the Soviet Union even though neither he nor anyone else saw that in the Cold War tealeaves. At the time, Reagan merely was involved in an uncontrolled arms race with the Soviets. It just happened that no one knew the dire financial straights that the USSR found itself. In the final analysis, they weren't able to maintain that monetary drain on their economy.
During the week of tribute and mourning, what struck me was the pain in the face of Nancy Reagan. Very few second marriages ever reach fifty-two years. They surely shared a long and loving relationship. America's outpouring of love and emotion have comforted her in these numbing days of grief and loss.
Compounding the death of our former president has been the tragedy of his Alzheimer's disease. For 20% of their time together, they dealt with the effects of that terrible illness. It is the ultimate tragedy that they couldn't have lived out their lives as they surely had wished-reminiscing upon all that they did and experienced. Imagine all those hollow hours.
It is an irony that the outpouring of affection for him may present for this serendipitous president one final unintended benefit. Had Bush allowed for unfettered stem cell research, who knows, President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan might have been able to enjoy their golden years as they well deserved and desired. However, it wasn't that way for him or the millions affected by this debilitating dementia.
In addition, it is a cruel irony situation that the same government that Mr. Reagan served for so many years is the very same government that is holding up stem cell research that might have prevented his last decade of life being spent in a mental stupor.
My guess is that Nancy will press her feelings about stem cell research as her final loving tribute to her beloved Ronnie. It is too late for Ronald Reagan, but it doesn't have to be for those two million other Americans suffering from this debilitating disorder. Perhaps, Reagan will inadvertently be the one credited for winning the war against Alzheimer's disease. Maybe the Gipper in death will enable Superman to walk again and allow my friend Caleb to enjoy his wife and family. Hopefully, millions of others will benefit from our serendipitous president.
You go Nancy, time is a 'wasting. Perhaps, she can paraphrase your husband, "Mr. Bush, tear down this wall...that deters stem cell research!"
If that day comes soon when Alzheimer's is finally conquered, we can all echo Reagan's farewell address to the nation: "All in all, not bad, not bad at all."
The blue center is a colony of human embryonic stem cells.