Before taking office, in 1976, Reagan gave a speech called “To Restore America”. In this speech, Reagan closed with the following passage: “Recently on one of my campaign trips I was doing a question-and-answer session, and suddenly I received a question from a little girl—couldn’t have been over six or seven years old—standing in the very front row. I’d heard the question before but somehow in her asking it, she threw me a little bit. She said, why do you want to be president? Well, I tried to tell her about giving government back to the people; I tried to tell her about turning authority back to the states and local communities, and so forth; winding down the bureaucracy. [It] might have been an answer for adults, but I knew that it wasn’t what that little girl wanted, and I left very frustrated. It was on the way to the next stop that I turned to Nancy and I said I wish I had it to do over again because I—I’d like to answer her question.
Well, maybe I can answer it now. I would like to go to Washington. I would like to be president, because I would like to see this country become once again a country where a little six-year old girl can grow up knowing the same freedom that I knew when I was six years old, growing up in America. If this is the America you want for yourself and your children; if you want to restore government not only of and for but by the people; to see the American spirit unleashed once again; to make this land a shining, golden hope God intended it to be.
In the closing days of his tenure as president, Reagan was asked what he would like his legacy to be. He said: “I would like to be known as the president that gave the government back to the people.”
It is often said of Obama that he is a true believer. Like him or loathe him, they say, he believes in what he is doing and what he is saying from the stump. Like Reagan, and unlike Clinton and his Dick Morris style polling, Obama has an Alinsky/Keynes core set of beliefs that he believes will win out in the end. Obama was a Constitutional Law professor, and a Harvard Law graduate, so nothing he says or does should be viewed as happenstance.
If faced with a six-year old girl, and the same question, one is left to wonder what Obama would say. If he was off camera, and he never had to pay politically for the revelation of his true beliefs, what would he say? Would he talk about taking authority back from states and local authorities, would he talk about winding up the bureaucracy? Would he say I would like that six-year to know an America as a place of restorative justice, where there is such thing as too much money (i.e. too much freedom). I would like her to know an America where there is no such thing as failure (and by contrast success or too much success). I would like her to know an America where you cannot trust private enterprise, but you can sleep easy at night with the knowledge that government legislation and bailouts can prevent them from ever harming you in your daily life.
What would Obama say if he were faced with the same question Reagan faced in his final days, regarding his legacy? Would he say: “I would like to be known as the president who took the government back from the people.”?