Presidential Legacies: Ronald Reagan & Other Greats

The United States Presidency holds a mystique all its own. Few who have occupied that vaunted office have fared so well in the collective memory—indeed, even in his own lifetime, possibly due in part to his decline with Alzheimer's disease—as Ronald Wilson Reagan. Lifeguard who saved dozens of lives as a young man, union organizer, army captain, actor, politician, ranch owner, horseman, orator and president who many claim as the single biggest reason for the end of the Cold War—Reagan's life seemed charmed, like an overdone macho American dream. Yet, he was the consummate gentleman, even to detractors, who could not help but sense the uplift that admirers the world over experienced when around him.

His faith, all rolled up like a flag with his patriotism and so exemplified by his vision of America as "a city on a hill," kept him steadfastly on a path of conservative governance, public piety and strongminded statesmanship—at least that's what the eulogies were often about. But more than that, the public, his friends and even enemies eulogized (and elegized) a caring, daring man of great wit and integrity and determination. Not everyday stuff, even for a president.

His own rhetoric, which many from the "Evil Empire" (former Soviet states) claim helped free them, portrayed Reagan's ideals best:

Unfortunately, as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage.

In closing let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your President. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.

Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.

Ronald Reagan

Others have filled that office of President of the United States admirably, and we highlight a few of them in our Special Focus. You'll also find interesting links to round out your understanding of the Presidency itself, including a link to a site cataloging hundreds of presidential speeches. Perhaps they speak best for themselves from down the years. Ronald Reagan sure did.

—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe


Featured Articles: Ronald Reagan In Memorium

Variously known as Dutch by close friends, Ronnie, the Gipper and The Great Communicator, President Ronald Reagan's legacy will be remembered with respect and admiration even by foes. The outpouring of adulation and honor for America's 40th President has been historic. We honor him here briefly.

Providential President
Professor Paul Kengor
Long before Ronald Reagan was leading crusades against Soviet communism and American abortion, he was a boy in Illinois discovering a spiritual "inheritance" that would be the foundation for his later convictions.

Reagan At Rest
Bob Jones, World
Mourners pay respects to Ronald Reagan: a "real American," a man of "faith and courage and backbone," an optimist who nevertheless understood the fall of mankind—and the need to restrain government power. The same unbending moral vision that earned him the scorn of foes during his presidency is now fondly recalled as the mark of a great leader.

Other Great (and One Underrated?) President

Abraham Lincoln: Leader for all Ages
Edwin Meese
The former U.S. Attorney General considers the leadership of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

Bully Pulpiteers
Janet Marsden
Book review of The Roosevelts: An American Saga. "The truth is that, once you get past Washington and Lincoln, few if any Presidents can be believably presented as spiritual directors of the national soul. While Theodore Roosevelt might not have been comfortable with talk about sacralizing the presidency, he is the one who dubbed the office a bully pulpit.... Franklin apparently had no doubt that he was supposed to distinguish himself in what was in more innocent days called 'public service.'... And he had no doubt that the criterion of distinction was TR."

Faith & Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty
Chapter One: We Hold These Truths

Benjamin Hart
Hart introduces the book with a brief account of George Washington's heroic role in the formation and governance of the American experiment in self-rule. Hart goes on to trace the roots of the Declaration of Independence and how its underlying philosophy—based on Christianity at its core—has been eroded.

Faith & Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty
Chapter Nineteen: Bloody Footprints in the Snow

Benjamin Hart
"Faith & Freedom" examines the birth of the United States of America, exploring the rise of freedom and democracy in America. This chapter presents the Revolutionary War period, during which which the first president, George Washington, loomed gigantic.

My Own Private Rushmore
James Nuechterlein
How would one go about ranking all of the Presidents in American history? It is a task that has been done by various panels for the last fifty years. The author, having been selected to serve on one such panel, shares his rankings in this article.

The Life of Calvin Coolidge
Dr. Michael Platt
Calvin Coolidge, often scourged by modern historians, may have been one of the most decent and wisest men ever to occupy the White House.

Presidential Speeches

Evil Empire Speech
Ronald Reagan
President Reagan speaks out against totalitarianism, particularly the Soviet Union's form of it, in this speech before the House of Commons.

The Gettysburg Address
Abraham Lincoln
No better way to highlight a great American than to provide the text of his seminal speech. This most famous of Lincoln's speeches considers the principles in the Declaration of Independence in light the American Civil War. His fellow speaker on the occasion, classical scholar Edward Everett, remarked that he hoped to have said as much in two hours as the President had in two minutes.

Farewell Address
George Washington
In this most famous address, Washington states, among other things, that religion is necessary for political prosperity.

Presidential Speeches Archive
Compiled and maintained by Rick Matlick
Contains links to a vast catalogue of presidential speeches, from Washington's First Inaugural in 1789 to President George W. Bush's State of the Union address in January, 2004. Even has word counts for all speeches! (Note: Please excuse the pop-up ads on this otherwise worthy site.)

Presidential Resources

The American Presidency
Compiled and maintained by Rick Matlick
"Selected Resources An Informal Reference Guide, including bibliographies, biographies, speeches, quotes, trivia and sundry other source materials from the World Wide Web." A wide variety of government links, commentaries, articles (the best at the bottom, on what makes great presidents) and at the very bottom, each president's page listed by name. (Again, excuse the pop-up ads; some get by Google's ad-blocker.)

Presidential Libraries Page
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
Quick reference to various presidential libraries' Web sites, other information.

Official Site: The White House
The official Web site of the White House as currently run by the Bush administration. Several informative links featuring video tours, kids' stuff, historical facts, operational information and traditions: Ronald Reagan memorial (, the Oval Office (, Life in the White House (, Air Force One (, many more.