Over Mother’s Day weekend, I was continuing to celebrate my own mother’s 100th birthday while simultaneously celebrating my wife Gena’s amazing motherhood.
At one point in the weekend, we were watching a news story about how President Biden’s National Day of Prayer Proclamation this past week didn’t even mention the term “God” in it. My centenarian mother said as she watched, “It would never be like that in the old days of America when I was growing up.”
As Fox News reported, even Trump’s proclamations trumpeted faith: “Trump’s 2017 proclamation mentioned God five times, his 2018 proclamation mentioned God five times, his 2019 proclamation mentioned God seven times, and his 2020 proclamation mentioned God 11 times.”
It got me reminiscing about my favorite president who also became my friend: Ronald Reagan. He didn’t need to wait for sacred occasions. Reagan was like America’s founders. He was never ashamed to mention God, whether in Rose Garden speeches, National Prayer Breakfasts or anywhere he was. His Easter and Christmas proclamations were overtly and unabashedly Christian while respecting other religions.
I recently read a great post about how Reagan’s mother proved his faith. My readers will love this.
A few years ago, the Washington Post ran an inspiring story on Reagan’s mother, Nelle Wilson Reagan, who is credited by most historians for his foundation of faith. She was a devoted Christian. In 1910, just a year before Ronald was born, she was baptized into the Disciples of Christ church.
In a 1937 letter to the family of her former pastor, Nelle assured them that her radio- announcer son, who just landed a seven-year movie contract with Warner Brothers, would not be influenced by “such a wicked place as Hollywood.”
The letter is well worth reading in entirety, as it echoes the stalwart moral and religious foundation of the 40th president (1981-1989). Here it is:
May 26, 1937
How is our young mother and her new baby getting along? I imagine little [illegible] is thrilled over a little brother, but I am awfully sorry he has the “wheezes,” as you call it. Let me hope he will outgrow this asthma; he’s so young to have to suffer with that.
I am inclosing some clippings regarding Ronald. I hardly know how to explain “our feelings.” But when people ask me if I am not “afraid to have him go to such a wicked place as Hollywood,” all I can answer is, that I feel I can trust him anywhere. He has never lost his high ideals of life. And when he called us to tell us the news, [one of the first early broadcasters in Illinois, who gave Ronald his first audition in radio] Pete MacArthur talked to me too and this is what he told me:
“I’m going to tell you something that your boy won’t tell you. When the wire came from Hollywood and we were all overjoyed at Dutch’s [name given to Ronald by MacArthur] good luck, we missed him from the office and sent one of the fellows to look for him. He soon came back saying he had discovered Dutch in one of the smaller studio rooms on his knees, praying. He didn’t let Dutch know that he saw him; and when he told all of us there in the office, we cried like babies.”
Friends, he does love God and he never forgets to thank Him for all his many blessings. And when we visited him, he told me of all the nice things he would be able to do now for Eureka College if he won the seven-year contract with Warner Brothers.
You know he has been a wonderful son to us. His father hasn’t had any work since the 15th of June, last year, and during all that time I have rec’d a $60.00 check the first of each month and another one of the same amt the 15th of each month. And if he signs the seven-year contract, then he is going to send for us. That is the thing that makes me so happy, to think I can live my last days, making a home for him, it’s almost more happiness than I ever expected in this life. …
Thanks for all your kind wishes for “me and mine” and we hope you’ll write again.
P.S. Remember, if you do plan to come to Dixon, our latch key is on the outside, you’ll find a warm welcome awaiting you all.
My best to Elizabeth and her little ones.
Ronald Reagan not only survived his Hollywood film career but also thrived to become one of the most influential presidents in U.S. history, leading to the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union.
And Reagan did it with the bedrock faith exemplified by his mother. That is why he could share such pivotal patriotic thoughts about America as he did at the August 1984 Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast in Dallas, Texas.
The following is just a small but powerful example of that speech, something that should be read or watched in entirety in every classroom and living room in America. And right now it would even serve as a great reminder and patriotic training for those presently occupying the Oval Office.
We establish no religion in this country, nor will we ever. We command no worship. We mandate no belief. But we poison our society when we remove its theological underpinnings. We court corruption when we leave it bereft of belief. All are free to believe or not believe; all are free to practice a faith or not. But those who believe must be free to speak of and act on their belief, to apply moral teaching to public questions.
I submit to you that the tolerant society is open to and encouraging of all religions. And this does not weaken us; it strengthens us, it makes us strong. You know, if we look back through history to all those great civilizations, those great nations that rose up to even world dominance and then deteriorated, declined, and fell, we find they all had one thing in common. One of the significant forerunners of their fall was their turning away from their God or gods.
Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.
If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.
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