I never had the good fortune to meet President Reagan, but several years ago I met Mikhail Gorbachev when he was in town to give a speech. I spent only a little time with Gorbachev, but he seemed to be a genuinely nice man. Commanding, but nice. (On the other hand, his daughter, who was born to wealth and privilege, was insufferable.)
Gorbachev gave an excellent speech. I don’t really remember much about it, though, except for one thing that made a deep impression on me. Gorbachev said that every time he came to America, he went to California to pay his respects to President Reagan. This time, he said, he wasn’t sure that Reagan still recognized him. Nevertheless, Gorbachev said, as long as Reagan lived, whether Reagan knew him or not, he would never come to America without going to see him. It’s funny how, after a few years, I’ve forgotten everything Gorbachev said about policy matters, but I’ve never forgotten that human tribute.
I happened to be sitting next to Gorbachev on the dias. When he finished his speech, he sat down and turned to me. “Did I talk too long?” he asked, anxiously. I assured him that his speech had been exactly right. What do I know? Nothing. But I think Gorbachev is a good man, and that night, I felt like I could see how he and Reagan had formed what turned out to be a friendship.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill