Ronald Reagan was one of my clients before he went into politics. He owned a horse ranch just a few miles from my clinic. I only saw him twice, both times when he was riding and jumping in his arena. I never spoke to him. I dealt with his ranch manager, a very nice gentleman who was a Lithuanian immigrant. I deeply regret that I did not take the opportunity to introduce myself and get to know the man. I did not do so because I am not a celebrity admirer and did not want him to think that I might be.
When he went into politics, and gave up the local ranch, I was skeptical. Why? Because, I must confess, I was and still am biased against the entertainment industry, especially in Hollywood.
I fervently believe that “Hollywood” (I mean the entire entertainment industry) does far more damage to our culture than it does good. In other words, the entertainment provided in no way compensates for the moral decay, the corrupt values, and the loss of decency that industry has caused.
Of course, there are exceptions. I have written before about the Western movie stars for example who owned ranches in my practice area, and how I found them to be courteous gentlemen, modest, unassuming, and conscientious. They paid their vet bills on time. I am referring to actors, most of them former cowboys or stunt men such as Joel McCrea, Roy Rogers, Ben Johnson, Rex Allen, Buddy Ebsen, Slim Pickens, and others. All were good people. Maybe the fact that, when not working as actors, they preferred a rural lifestyle, raising cattle or horses, explains their modesty.
Anyway, I wasn’t thrilled when Reagan, a movie star, went into politics. Significantly, when he became President of the U.S.A., he spent as much time as possible on his new ranch, Rancho del Cielo, in Santa Barbara county, with its modest home. There he rode his beloved horses and personally cut wood for the fireplace and did ranch chores by himself.
I gradually began to realize what an exceptional leader he was, yet it took decades even after his death, for me to fully appreciate him.
My biggest regret came after I had retired from practice and was on my way with my wife to a lecture engagement in Northern California.
As we drove north we came to an area where many vehicles were parked along the highway and traffic was moving slowly.
I pulled over and asked, “What’s going on?”
The bystander answered, “President Reagan’s funeral procession will be coming down the other side of the highway in about half an hour. We are all here to honor him.”
I looked at Debby and said, “Gosh, we ought to stop, but I have to speak this afternoon and we have a couple of hundred miles to drive.”
So I kept moving.
I have never lost the guilt for that decision.
What motivated this article was a TV movie I saw the other night about the life of Ronald Reagan.
I apologize Mr. President. I put my personal business ahead of an opportunity to honor you. It has taken many years for me to fully appreciate your integrity, judgment, patriotism, wit and humility.
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