One Person’s Plea for Political Engagement

June 4, 2014 11:00 am

by Jon Richards · 16 comments

Thursday marks the tenth anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s death. He has been out of the public eye for 20 years, and it has been 30 years since he was re-elected as the nation’s 40th president in a landslide vote. 50 years ago this fall, he delivered his famous speech, “A Time for Choosing.”

Yet, even now, Reagan continues to inspire.

I first met Kevin Ford at a golf tournament several years ago. Kevin, his wife and another young couple had started a 501-c3 charity with the goal of improving the quality of life for children with a variety of challenges, including everything from cancer to child abuse. Think of it as a Georgia based version of the Make a Wish Foundation, but run by volunteers. Because he had worked at Disney World, he named the charity Kingdom Kids and he was a hole sponsor looking for donations.

Like many in the millennial cohort, Kevin became involved in community service, but I had never known him to talk about politics. This week, while in California, Kevin visited the Ronald Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara. His visit inspired him to write the following Facebook post, which is repeated here with permission.

Ok….deep breath…..so spending time at the Reagan Library today really got me thinking about politics – something most people RUN from when they see on Facebook. So, if you are getting the urge to move on since I said that word, PLEASE READ ON because that’s kind of the point!! I personally believe that’s why we are in this mess and by not making adjustments, we must live with the consequences that apathy causes. So many voting Americans are uneducated, even many people I consider dear friends – not academically….but politically uneducated because it’s become an unfashionable thing to talk about. No one reads the paper anymore. No one I know watches the major news networks because no one knows which one, if any, to believe. No one really understands how it all affects them and their life today or next week. No one wants to add stress to their already stressful lives. No one has time for it all. No one wants preaching and I get all of that. But that IS the problem!

Today, as I watched Ronald Reagan’s speech given 16 years before he was even president (“A Time for Choosing” in Oct 1964), I found it alarming how similar our concerns of 40-50 years ago were to where they are RIGHT NOW. We were worried about nuclear war and terrorism, worried about the economy, worried about unemployment, worried about the government infringing on our freedoms, and just what it meant to be American, and mainly about solutions – how we turn things around. Obama is basically the anti-thesis to everything Reagan said (including the most recent negotiations with terrorists – namely our most hated enemy). And that quite frankly scares the hell out of me for my daughters future. What’s worse is, she won’t have one if we continue down this path. As Reagan’s friend put it, “at least back in Cuba, they had somewhere to escape to.” Americans don’t. Obama scares me. But what scares me worse? The majority of voting Americans who put him into office in the first place.

America is the world’s last hope for democracy and freedom. And we are destroying it – by allowing those we place into office to do so. Yes I said WE. WE are destroying America. WE who dont want to listen to political debates and place an educated vote. WE who change the station on TV or Radio when politics comes on because “ehhh they’re all crooked anyway”. WE who vote (or don’t) to place people into these positions and then only complain when they don’t govern the way we want. WE who don’t stand behind a party of any sort because Republicans and Democrats are all crooked. WE who don’t vote in November because we would vote Libertarian and they’ll never get a majority vote anyway so why waste my time. WE, the people, have the power in a democracy. That power gives us Responsibility = the ability to choose our response.

Its the same WE who can change everything. Its WE who can impeach. Its WE who can vote differently next time around. Its WE who can create petitions. Its WE who can do something about it. Just like the founders of this country did. And its WE who have the RESPONSIBILITY as Americans to do just that. Or its WE, who all need to shut our mouths from complaining about that which we created and yet choose not to unite and change.

This was my first real Facebook rant. Hopefully you made it this far. If you agree with me or don’t on political views, I really don’t mind. I just want you to be passionate and proactive one way or the other and to educate yourself politically on the US, our current state, this President, the world, and how our position in the world is changing faster than most realize – militarily, economically, geopolitically, etc. I don’t mind someone having other views than me due to different perspectives, life experiences or education….

What I do have a problem with is totally capable people who choose to not educate themselves on politics or US/world issues yet still complain, or much worse – vote.

I urge everyone to invest in yourselves and your future – your kids future. Listen to what Reagan said in this speech and determine for yourself if you agree. Decide if these words are applicable in your life today. Decide if you want to raise your kids in the type of society we are in. I don’t. And I hope there are enough people getting as pissed off as I am, to actually make the changes we need.

RONALD REAGAN – OCT 27, 1964 – “A Time for Choosing”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

David C June 4, 2014 at 11:25 am

Yeah, if there’s one guy who stands for never negotiating with terrorists, or giving them things in exchange for captive people, it’s Ronald Reagan.

George Chidi June 5, 2014 at 9:33 am

Plus ∞

Chris Huttman June 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Oy – stick to the charity pal. Helping sick kids is (apparently) more fulfilling than say educating yourself by reading the Iran Contra wikipedia page (just to pick one example).

On another note – I really don’t understand these people who think living in today’s times are so terrible. For the average middle class Americans, taxes are lower than they have ever been and technology has made life easier and more fulfilling than anytime in history. I can only conclude that when people rant about stuff like this it just boils down to a more polite way of expressing that you don’t like gay people because I honestly can’t imagine what your beef with modernity is if it isn’t cultural.

Max Power June 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm

You know as well as I do that for some the past will always be a better time than it actually was, even I find myself nostalgic for the 70s even though I know almost every aspect of our lives is better now. I find it odd how young conservatives deify Reagan often not because of the facts of his presidency but the legend that conservatives have built around it. But perhaps it’s not so surprising, if you look at the GOP presidents we’ve had in my lifetime, Nixon was a crook, Bush I was seen as a betrayer of the conservative cause, and Bush II well it’s too much to list. That just leaves Reagan.

Max Power June 4, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I would suggest that if Kevin were that concerned about political ignorance he might start by educating the man in the mirror.

Chris Huttman June 4, 2014 at 12:40 pm

The impeachment stuff…bless his heart. He might want to start by talking to some of the unwashed/undeducated masses and ask them – why did you vote to re-elect a President who didn’t have that great of a record to start with? In other words, you can make a good argument that Romney should have won, but what is it that makes the Republican party so unpalatable to a majority of the American population these days?

It’s funny – the minority running around screaming about how uneducated the majority is – maybe you should take some time to educate yourself about why exactly the majority isn’t interested in voting for your side even when history says they should be.

Will Durant June 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm

You guys are demonstrating your own ignorance by taking this down the partisan road rather than paying attention to the actual message.

Chris Huttman June 4, 2014 at 1:04 pm

His message includes a call for impeachment and a glossing over of Iran Contra. I’m sorry what road are we supposed to go down?

His “message” is classic dorm room ranting and I’ve read so many of these from the left and the right (depends on who is currently in power) that there’s honestly nothing special about it.

Will Durant June 4, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Your viewpoint is just as narrow as Harry’s if not more so. Yes, the call for educated voters is not new but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. Several years ago I took a co-workers sample test for citizenship around the office and found that 80% of natives would have failed. With the Supremes finding that money is considered free speech the dangers of our becoming an Idiocracy is now even higher than ever. The Left should be more concerned than the Right over the situation.

Chris Huttman June 4, 2014 at 2:07 pm

To each their own opinion – I like to think my political ideology runs a little deeper than against whatever one particular man is for.

George Dickel June 4, 2014 at 1:21 pm

The “actual message” is nothing but partisan ranting at it’s very core . Pointing out how wrong the guy is at every turn isn’t.

Yesterday some random caller into talk radio got turned into a post. Today, we get an extremely uneducated facebook rant. Posts with such a tenuous grasp on reality should be left to however many of this guy’s 588 friends who haven’t put him on ignore yet. Hopefully at least one of them teaches the guy about Iran-Contra.

David C June 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm

I can only imagine tomorrow we’ll have a stirring ode to someone from the Youtube comments section.

Chris Huttman June 4, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Why go to the trouble of reading a YouTube comment when AJC comments are so much more convenient and better?

seenbetrdayz June 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I’m kind of surprised this guy came to the conclusion that we’re in this mess because people don’t watch the news, or read papers.

I think it’s the other way around. The blonde in the box says candidate ‘x’ has the best chance to win and everyone goes out and votes for candidate x. We’d be better off if people stopped watching so much news.

greencracker June 4, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Reagan “has been out of the public eye for 20 years?”

But not off their walls, my friend!

I don’t know where they sell those bright abstract-ish Reagan portraits that appear on every GOP wall in Georgia, but they appear to be standard issue, like the Successories poster of the political office.

Maybe there is a Jimmy Carter one for Dems.

The rest of the post? TL;DR

George Chidi June 5, 2014 at 10:22 am

I agree with the conclusion of Kevin’s message, if not the particulars about how he arrived there.

I voted for Obama, twice. I did so not because I believed strongly in Obama the man, but because I believe the nation’s interests and my own would endure marginally less harm under his administration than one administered by John McCain or Mitt Romney. I held no real animosity toward either McCain or Romney. While I feel a sense of fellowship with Obama, I would have voted for a better (viable) candidate, had one emerged. My vote was well informed and dispassionately made.

But it’s so much easier, I suppose, for people to dismiss political disagreement as the work of ill-read idiots.

We labor under political illusions in this country. One of them is that the “president” is a person. This is true only at the edges of practical policy — a single human being has to shake hands with foreign leaders and stand up in front of Congress to deliver a State of the Union address.

The president is a product of a political process. It’s true for Republicans and Democrats alike. Any person elected to the presidency is almost certainly beholden to political forces that will shape decisions and limit options, formed by coalitions of interest groups, each funded by relatively wealthy donor bases. Neither a Democrat nor a Republican could effectively govern without the machinery of modern politics behind them.

I want to remind people that the awful results derived from modern American politics – the deficit, our military posture, our eroding competitive position in education, innovation and industry, the unemployment rate, weak economic and social mobility, a creeping sense of repression – are not the product of these men and women we elect as individuals, but of the system that allows them to emerge as our best choices at the ballot box.

I believe neither party — and no president or candidate for the office — wants to continue these policies. I also believe neither knows a way to rid themselves of it without causing their party and their political interests to pay an unacceptable political price. It is to our detriment that we are not choosing between more politically imaginative people, but between organizations which elevate men and women who have the typical overachievers’ aversion to personal risk.

Should we vote? Absolutely. It’s idiocy not to.

But real change will come when we the public starts reshaping the forces that lead men to office in the first place, the interest lobbies and the identity politics … and the money. Obama isn’t the problem. The system is the problem.