Among the many in attendance included a large number of state senators and assemblymen including Assemblymen Michael Carroll, Anthony Bucco, Alex DeCroce, State Senator Joe Pennachio and a many others from the state legislature. Also attending was former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean. I had the fortune to sit with congressional candidate Anna Little, who has not stopped campaigning as she prepares to force Frank Pallone in to an long overdue retirement in 2012.
All across America, literally thousands of such events were taking place on this weekend, but thanks to Assemblyman Webber and the Young Americans Foundation, New Jersey’s celebration featured a keynote address by President Reagan’s son. As he noted in his opening remarks, “not the son who dances,”. The speech delivered on this night was by the Reagan son who represents conservative principles and maintains his father’s legacy……..Michael Reagan.
Reagan offered those in attendance, a peek into the personal side of Reagan, but it each personal tale quickly tied in to the political side of our 40th and demonstrated that President Reagan leadership was less politics and more principle. Ronald Reagan was not interested in playing politics. He was not a man who followed polls to determine his policies, he was a man who followed his beliefs in what he thought was best for the American people. And as demonstrated in the stories told by Michael Reagan, those believes were founded in Reagan’s commitment to the conservative values and principles that he helped to make the mainstream beliefs of the Republican Party.
One of the stories Mike Reagan told was about when as a young man in the early 1960’s, he asked his father for a raise in his allowance. Michael Reagan than explained how his father who was the type of person whom if you asked what time it was, would tell you how the watch that told you the time, was made, quickly broke in to a long dissertation about how much it cost for food, maintaining their ranch and how much in taxes the government took away from every dollar earned. Michael Reagan explained that by the time he was done, he offered his father back half of the allowance that he had given him. Then his father turned to him and said, “I don’t want half your allowance back, but I’ll make you a promise. When we elect a President who cuts taxes, I’ll raise your allowance”.
According to Michael Reagan, in 1964, after LBJ pushed through the Kennedy tax cuts, his father told him a promise is a promise and raised his allowance to five dollars. The only problem was in 1964, Michael was in high school and he told the audience, while his father may have thought that was a lot of money, as kid in high school, he sure didn’t. But he always remembered how his father kept his promises.
Reagan cited another example of promises kept when he revealed that the selection of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court was the result of a promise made to his daughter Maureen.
During the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan’s advisors were concerned with how Maureen’s outspoken support for the ERA would impact on Reagan during the primaries. So they along with her father, approached Maureen about it. Her response was, “I’ll pull back on the Equal Rights Amendment but only if you agree that if elected President, you appoint the first woman to the United States Supreme Court”. Ronald Reagan agreed. And when an opening became available, he appointed Sandra day O’Connor, the first woman on the highest court in the land.
It was this belief in promises being sacred that influenced the direction of the Reagan presidency. As Michael Reagan explained, his father once told him that one of the reasons he wanted to become President was because he was tired of the United States always sitting down with the Soviet Union and given something up in order form to them reach any agreement. As a result Ronald Reagan made a personal promise to change that by insuring that he would bring about a day when the Soviet Union would give up something instead. Ronald Reagan kept that promise.
There were many more insightful tales and a number of lighthearted but hysterical stories involving the Secret Service. All together, Michael Reagan delivered an address that reinforced the audiences admiration and appreciation for President Reagan and everyone agreed that they felt a strong bond to Ronald Reagan the person, not just the politician.
When it was over, Michael Reagan took questions. One member of the audience asked if he was leaning in a particular direction when it came towards a Republican nominee for President in 2012. Reagan offered no sign of favoritism towards any candidate. However he did have advice for Republicans in 2012.
Mike Reagan told the capacity crowd that he firmly believes no matter who the G.O.P. nominates, they should adhere to the 80/20 rule his father believed in. Ronald Reagan once famously stated “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.” It is that thinking which Michael Reagan told the audience to remember in November of 2012.
“Let me put it to you this way, who will you support….Sarah Palin or Barack Obama? Paul Ryan or Barack Obama? Rick Perry or Barack Obama?.
As for the opinions of some of the New Jersey elected officials in the room, I took an unofficial and off the record poll of where they stand right now regarding 2012. While I will not reveal who said what, I can tell you that like Michael Reagan, none endorsed any particular presidential contenders, but as for who they like as we go into the nominating process, names like Huckabee, Daniels, Romney, Giuliani and several others came up. So from the looks of it, there is not any early coordinated effort by the influential elected officials of the state to consolidate support for anyone in particular. That in my view is a good thing. It would be good for New Jersey to have as many as candidates as possible, come to the Garden State and spend their money here while also campaigning among us and earning our support based upon their ideas and abilities.
Now if only we can get our elected officials to change our primary system to a proportionate one rather than a winner-take-all contest. With New Jersey being stuck in between the New York and Philadelphia markets, campaigning here is more expensive than in most states. As such, if candidates for the nomination have no chance at picking up at least a few delegates, they are less inclined to invest any time or money here. That causes New Jersey to lose out. But that is for another day. As for this particular Friday and the New Jersey Reagan Day Dinner held on it, everyone was a winner. However the biggest winner of all was Jay Webber and his exceptional and professional staff and volunteers who pulled off a well planned, well executed, smooth running, memorably enjoyable evening that gave all of us the opportunity to celebrate one of nation’s greatest contemporary American heroes……President Ronald Reagan.