Encouraging Students to Lead Like Reagan

Dr. Henry Nau, professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, worked with President Ronald Reagan as a senior staff member on his national security council. He was one of seven speakers who brought life to President Reagan’s legacy Friday at Regent University’s Ronald Reagan Symposium. Looking back at Reagan’s words in a 1982 speech to British Parliament, the panelists provided a voice to Reagan’s beliefs, that global freedom is the answer to preserving peace and pushing past problems.

“From the day I met him, I knew, it was about the policies that he was implementing,” said Nau. “It wasn’t about him. He decided over a long period of time what policies he wanted to pursue, and he implemented those policies. He was going to let them work, and eventually they did work, and he was happy to let history pass its judgment.”

“When it was delivered, Americans, in particular, in the media and also in the academy, made light of it,” said Dr. Jeffry Morrison, professor in the Robertson School of Government (RSG), Regent University. “In fact, there was some gentle mocking of it. The president was seen as naive; he was seen as a light-weight in foreign policy. Less than ten years later, his prediction that the Soviet Union would end up, as he said, on the ash heap of history came true, and the pundits and the professors were both shown to be wrong about Reagan’s grasp of current events and the near future. We thought that would make an appropriate and relevant theme for this year’s symposium.”

This year’s symposium is the 10th time that experts on Reagan and those who worked with the man personally gathered in the communication building. It all started when Dr. Robertson challenged deans to start a spring symposium to complement Clash of the Titans. The now-annual Reagan Symposium is inspiring its guests and RSG students to take on today’s world with what are said to be Reagan’s proven principles.

“He unleashed the creative American spirit,” said KT McFarland, Fox News national security analyst. “Not only did we believe in ourselves again, but the world believed in us. What Reagan was able to usher in, in an eight-year presidency, was a generation of peace and prosperity, not just for us, but for the whole world, an era of democracy in the whole world. I challenge any young person, turn on the evening news tonight and watch your political leaders. Turn off the evening news, go to your computer, and pull up on YouTube an old Ronald Reagan speech. That’s all you’ve got to do. Once you hear Ronald Reagan, you realize that’s what a leader is really supposed to be like.”

“I’m a glass half-full kind of lady as well, so a lot of what KT McFarland was saying was really resonating with me,” said Sara Garth ’16 (RSG). “It’s all about the people seeing what is going wrong today and the fact that we need to actively engage in changing our policies, our initiatives and our leaders, and the people who are running our government.”

“People around the whole world looked at what we had and thought they wanted to be like America,” said McFarland. “I think we are at one of those moments again today. We have all of the ingredients. We have the economic prospects of cheap energy and innovative technologies. We have the ability militarily to be strong but not to use our military, to encourage our allies to fight their own fights, but finally, you go around the country, and Americans want to believe in themselves again. We know we have a terrific system, but we’ve been told by every American intellectual elite leader that it’s over. That America was a once-great nation, and we’re on decline. We’re not. We just need some people who believe in us, so we can vote for who can convince us that we are who we are.”

The symposium continues to seek to convince Americans of who they are by remembering an American president who put his faith in the people. Organizers are already looking forward to 2017 and are preparing to honor the 30th anniversary of Reagan’s speech at the Berlin Wall.