…on President Reagan’s funeral. I have no special insight, but a few things have struck me.
The crowds: This is what is most striking. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. The outpouring of respect and affection from millions of Americans has been stunning. Seeing the crowds, it is apparent once again how universal President Reagan’s appeal was. His opponents’ efforts to diminish him have availed remarkably little.
Nancy Reagan: Watching her, the phrase that keeps coming to mind is Semper Fi. Have we in our lifetimes seen such an example of faithfulness, to the end?
Today’s service at the National Cathedral: The Battle Hymn of the Republic was other-worldly. I mean, literally.
The drizzle: Did you notice the soldier who walked behind Nancy Reagan, holding an umbrella over her head, while a Major General took her arm? What a tribute from a grateful country.
Margaret Thatcher: What a heroine. Told by her doctors following a stroke that she should no longer speak in public, she recorded–what, a year ago?–a tribute to her friend, Ronald Reagan. Then she attended his funeral, and, I take it, to everyone’s surprise, got on the airplane with the family to fly to California for the burial. What’s the worst that could happen, she could die? Her husband Denys passed away a couple of years ago; she really has nothing to lose, and no better object than to pay tribute to her friend, with whom she turned back the forces of evil for a generation.
President Bush: A good job; what struck me was the religious tone of his eulogy, especially at the end. No ironic distance or secular fastidiousness. That, really, is why some hate him.
The former President Bush: What a graceful performance from a former rival and subordinate. George H. W. Bush is so incontestably a good man–have two better men than Reagan and Bush ever inhabited the White House?
The spectacle: What would I make of it if I were a terrorist? Or, perhaps, a Frenchman? Don’t screw with these people, I think is the lesson. We can bring more power and coordination to bear on a funeral than they can bring to a war. They think we are divided; they think we are weak. How many times will this happen? Why is it that America, like Ronald Reagan, like George W. Bush–and like George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, and like countless millions of young men and women from small towns all across North America, who never meant to be soldiers but who stormed beaches, scaled cliffs, shot their opponents out of the air, captured cities, overthrew dictators, freed peoples–is so persistently underestimated? I don’t know. But if I were an enemy and saw today’s ceremonies, I would think twice.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill