When Ronald Reagan entered office in 1981, he was two weeks shy of his 70th birthday. When he left in 1989, he was almost 79. People have called him a hero because he allowed some Americans to indulge again in the post-World War II American dream of a house in the suburbs with all the Norman Rockwell trimmings of patriotism and apple pie. However, beneath his polished public image lay a ’50s style conservative in a post-cultural awakening America.
This was the man that demonized the achievements of progressive American students of the ’60s and ’70s and left the rising students of the ’80s and ’90s alienated and apathetic. Reagan called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire,” but his “love it or leave it” mentality proved him to be a divider, not a uniter. His Environmental Protection Agency appointments set the environmental movement back 20 years. He was simply off his rocker with his policies combating the “communist threat” in Nicaragua. And his testimony at the Iran-Contra hearings showed him to be losing his grasp on reality.
He was simply antiquated, a product of a different America. And as he turns 90, he should remind us that in this new century, we should let go of the old America and strive to create a new one envisioned by the progressive students of the last 40 years. It is time to close the Reagan chapter in American history and move on together.