Ronald Reagan was my favorite president, and I’ve gotten to see and live through a few of them.
Regardless of what you may think, this is not a political post, but a sincere toast to a man that I never for one second felt lacked in class in any way. Maybe also a sincere toast to a few of the men I’ve loved before.
My first love was Mr. President Gerald R. Ford. In 1976, I was proud to be an American, and participate in the greatest party of all time. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve been to a more fun party since. I’m talking about the 200 year Bicentennial celebration of our country. I can’t help but to remember standing in the mid-western market with my mom, buying ears of corn for a front yard BBQ on the Fox River, eyeing the Bicentennial posters (oh, if I could have one now!) and listening to my absolute favorite song coming out of a car radio speaker… Bohemian Rhapsody. (OK, my secret favorite song was 50 ways to Leave Your Lover and I still know the words by heart). I was 8 years old. I felt safe.
The following year, my heart would be absolutely crushed. Not by the boy who would swing his (or mine, more details below) metal lunch pail at me when I tried to kiss him at the bus stop leaving me with a black eye – there’s a picture somewhere), but by the fact that the man who made me feel so safe and alive in my country was leaving office. This incoming new guy’s name was Jimmy Carter. It was one of the first big changes in my young life. Could he live up? Does he have good quotes?
When I was in elementary school, I learned to love President Jimmy Carter, though my young heart still missing Gerald wanted to call this new guy Mr. Peanut. That was, of course because unfortunate weather caused a peanut drought in the very later part of the 1970’s and my mom and I went from small town market to market looking for just one jar of my sustenance. The magic ingredient between the bread and the jelly which was loving placed inside my beloved Speed Buggy metal lunch box. I remember having a conversation with my mom about not being able to accept the new president. She assured me the peanut drought would be over soon. (He’s got the biggest smile – swoon – and he will live to see the cure for Guinea Worm, of which he’s fought so hard for a cure (love).
We would soon have the second oil crisis of my young life, and I would learn the ins and outs of odd-even rationing. I was ten years old by this time, and developed a keen eye for license plate numbers. I preferred to watch people waiting in gas lines on the television (this was before sensationalism and #fakenews) than actually have to sit in the back seat of the Cutlas with my 6 year old brother in the midwestern humid swelter. Someone might see me for gosh sakes! I should have supported my mom more and waited in those lines with her. Looking back now, I’m sorry Mom, that wasn’t fair you waited in those long lines alone during a legitimate crisis.
But then we had an even bigger thing to worry about. It was 1981 and time to escape my safe rural suburban life northwest of Chicago and move to California, where I would of course meet the Beach Boys and become Miss America. And sure enough, we arrive, and not long after, the most wonderful man ever to run for office and run a country was elected as our POTUS and took office. I arrived in Los Angeles just in time to watch the inaugural celebration in my 6th grade classroom. The man had So. Much. Class.
I began to feel safe again. I lived through the peanut shortage, the two gas shortages, now there would be plenty of everything for everybody. It was the 80’s and The Gipper was my president! No wait, hold on. The Chicago Tylenol Murders just went down from the place I had just left. Was that laced Tylenol meant for me, and I just got super lucky on accident? I am never taking Tylenol again, I said to my now almost 13 year old self.
** It is 2017 and I STILL have not taken Tylenol. Lots of other things, sure, but you will never find a Tylenol bottle in my home. Superstitious much? Yes.
I’m in middle school now and they are putting me in debate class. Not all my friends had to live this punishment. I would never elect this class. I wondered if they took the absolute most shy kids they had and threw them into a debate class with the most aggressive 8th graders they had, just to see what would happen. They had to have.
My debate was going to be titled: “Why did you try to kill me with Tylenol?” but for whatever reason, the teacher at the time rejected my submission and gave me a new topic of debate. I was going to have to reach out to some very important people and get some help now.
Let me help you out there. The title of the debate reads:
“Should the United States Rule Out a Nuclear First Strike?”
What? Holly Heck!
Please note, my position was a resounding YES!
How I pulled that off, well, to this day I will never know. I reached out to everyone I could think of who was as terrified at the thought of a Nuclear First Strike as I was. I received personal letters (not form letters, mind you) from the following, who important at the time, continued to go on to do even bigger things: Senator Alan Cranston, Senator Pete Wilson (before he was Governor), California State Assembly Member Tom Hayden, Congress Member Mel Levine, Anne Higgins, who was the Special Assistant to the President, assuring me that President Reagan too wants peace, a very thoughtful and well written letter from VP George Bush and the piece de resistance… the speech given by President Regan to Scholars honoring Excellence in Education and Nuclear Arms Reduction made on June 16, 1983.
Less than 2 years later, the man put an end to the Cold War.
So, in closing, I ask you again. If President Reagan were alive today, would he take to Twitter himself? I think not. His Library, of course, (I love following the Ronald Reagan Library on Twitter!)
Post Scripts: I still collect Bicentennial quarters, so keep your coin purse out of my sight or I will take them from you. (Or come play coins with me). I’ve blocked out the name of the boy with the eye blackening swing – rats! I would have acknowledged him today. To my 12 year old daughter, stop watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix and go write your government officials about something important. Please. And to everyone else, if you are the rare individual who wants to read my debate from the 80’s and see and touch these amazing historical documents, HMU, K?
Much love from the GenXSociety,
Shawn Anthony Noetzli
You can also find me @ www.shawnnoetzli.com
And here’s a little something extra. A play list from this post, enjoy.