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Remembering President Ronald Reagan

An event in the United States eclipsed matters in the media recently, and that was the passing of President Ronald Reagan.

I was privileged to have been appointed to three posts by President Reagan: first as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, then as Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations as Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council and lastly as the Under-Secretary-General for Political and General Assembly Affairs of the United Nations.

Several years ago, I was privileged to accept on behalf of President Reagan, here at Kyung Hee University, the Great World Peace Award.  It was an honor and a privilege.

Ronald Wilson Reagan—father, husband, actor and dedicated public servant— restored the pride, optimism and strength of the United States and earned the deep respect and affection of his fellow citizens. When he passed away, we witnessed an outpouring of solemnity, sorrow and reflection in our country. In the view of many people, President Reagan remains the most significant United States President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was a man who changed the course of American politics, culture and world history.  He was right on the most important questions of his era: the role of government and the defeat of the Soviet Union. The structure of the American economy was altered profoundly by his term. Top tax rates have never returned to their previously punitive levels. America’s current standing in world affairs is also a direct result of President Reagan’s calling the Soviet Union’s bluff in the 1980s and restoring US military power and self-confidence. This was not evident at the time. Everything President Reagan did was challenged. He was a polarizing figure more disdained in Europe than President George W. Bush is today. For at least half his presidency, he was unpopular at home as well, as most effective Presidents are.

With his Californian optimism, President Reagan transformed conservatism into a progressive force, into a political philosophy that took risks and changed things. President Reagan took conservatism into a reformist unapologetic governing philosophy. That achievement endures in the United States.

I feel blessed to have been appointed to posts in public service by President Reagan. He inspired; he amused; he gave conviction a sunny disposition. Because of him, millions live in freedom where they once labored under tyranny. Because of Ronald Wilson Reagan, America was recharged and freedom reborn. In life, it is rare to live under a political leader who evokes love as well as respect.

President Reagan’s extraordinary political gifts carried him through his talents as a communicator, his intuitive understanding of the average American, his unfailing geniality even after being hit by an assassin’s bullet, his ability to build and sustain friendships across partisan lines. Those gifts and his conviction that words counted for far more in politics than mere deeds enabled him to convince large majorities that as long as he was in charge, it would remain “Morning in America.” I believe the cool eye of history will place Ronald Reagan in the list of the great Presidents.

President Regan believed that America was not just a place in the world, but the hope of the world. He came to office with great hope for America. He was optimistic that a strong America could advance peace, and he acted to build the strength that this mission required. He was optimistic that liberty would thrive wherever it was planted, and he acted to defend liberty wherever it was threatened. And Ronald Reagan believed in the power of truth in the conduct of world affairs When he saw evil camped across the horizon, he called that evil by its name. Who can ever forget President Reagan in Berlin calling “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall?”

Ronald Wilson Reagan belongs to the ages; a great American story has closed.

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