The one thing that President Reagan never forgot

Published 7:30 am Sunday, February 20, 2022

My love of history turned me into a collector of books about historical events and people whose lives changed the world. Years ago, one of the many historical topics of interest to me led to my collecting Presidential campaign memorabilia.

This collection includes candidates in Primary Elections and, though I consider myself conservative, my collection is bi-partisan. Campaign buttons, bumper stickers, license plates, yard signs and other unique items like a gold-looking lapel pin of an elephant wearing black glasses. Can you guess which candidate that represents?

My family somewhat jokingly asks me when I am going to open my museum. Well, I might consider a traveling exhibit. One of my favorite presidents is Ronald Reagan, our 40th President. On November 5, 1994, five years after leaving office, then 83-year-old Reagan announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in a letter to Americans.

“I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.”

His “long good-bye” lasted almost a decade. Even as his memory began to fade, his devoted wife, Nancy, wanted to make sure he could still maintain the dignity of going to his office in Century City. Several times a week, Reagan would go to his office, even though there was not much he could do there. People from time to time would come by to visit him.

Conversations about the past became more and more frustrating as Alzheimer’s began to erase his memories as a movie star, Governor of California, and President of the United States. The story is told of one memory, however, that remained with Reagan almost to the end of his life.

Visitors would try talking to him about the pictures of his life displayed in his office. People reportedly would ask, “Now, what’s the picture of that river over there, Mr. Reagan?” He would smile and say, “Oh wait! That’s Rock River in Illinois. That’s where I was a lifeguard. That’s where I saved 77 lives.”

Considering his lifetime of accomplishments that had faded from his memory, the one thing Ronald Reagan never forgot was the lives he had saved from drowning the seven summers he worked as a lifeguard. In the words of author/minister Ron Hutchcraft, “And so it will be for all of us who follow Jesus. When every other achievement in our life has faded to dust, one will remain – the lives we have saved.”

The apostle Paul tells believers that we are representatives of Christ, “as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Hutchcraft goes on to say, “This is a life-or-death message, and He’s entrusted you and me to deliver it” – the good news of Christ to people who need to be saved through the forgiveness that can only come through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

By the way, the gold-looking lapel pin of an elephant with black glasses…that’s from Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.