Closure

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wanted to take one more post to close out some of his thoughts on Ronald Reagan.

Earlier in the week, your Maximum Leader recounted his one minute with President Reagan. Then the made a few more observations. Then he admitted that he shed tears during the state funeral when Dick Cheney (of all people) spoke. He also said he was going to go to DC to pay his respects to Reagan.

Well, your Maximum Leader did go to Washington, to the Capitol, and did pay his respects to Ronald Reagan. It was a very moving experience. It was also sort of fun. Your Maximum Leader met a number of interesting and engaging people. None of the people he met were from the greater Washington DC area. They were from California, New Jersey, Tennessee, South Carolina, and so many other states. They were from all different political persuasions. (For example: your Maximum Leader’s new friend from California, Renee is by no means a Reagan Reublican - heck, she’s not even a Republican. NB to Renee if you are reading this: if you can get that tape of us in the Rotunda to your Maximum Leader, he would appreciate it greatly. And he hopes your flight back to Calif. was a without incident.) But everyone who came shared a few common thoughts on the experience. They wanted to be part of history, and they wanted to pay respects to a man who changed America. (You may judge for yourself the positive or negative qualities of the change, but there was change.)

Your Maximum Leader made it through the line if five hours. If you happened to be watching C-Span around 1:30am on Friday, June 11 you would have caught a glimpse of your Maximum Leader filing through the Capitol Rotunda near the flag-draped coffin of President Reagan. For all the time we waited, there were few if any complaints. The lines moved almost continuously. There was plenty of water (most of it warm) along the line to combat the hot muggy temperature.

When your Maximum Leader finally got into the Rotunda he had a feeling of the place being small. He has been through the Capitol Rotunda hundreds of times. It is a grand soaring space. It tends to dwarf people. Of course, like the baroque architecture of the old world, the Rotunda is supposed to dwarf people. To make you feel smaller compared to the grandeur of the American Republic. The statues of great Americans (like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and King) are larger than life. They all look down from their pedestals at the visitor. (Except Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, which is large, but at eye level.) If you look up, you see the great fresco of “the Apotheosis of Washington.” It shows George Washington being greeted by the heavenly hosts. It is an awesome place. Indeed, your Maximum Leader remembers feeling proud and awestruck being there on other occasions.

But this night it seemed a bit small for the occasion. The first thing one saw after climbing the stairs from the west front of the Capitol was the President’s casket on the catafalque. It seemed very large in the space. Then your eyes moved to the honour guard. Silent. Motionless. Emotionless. The soliders and sailors who performed that duty were magnificent. Then your eyes traveled around the Rotunda. Hamilton, Lincoln, Grant, Garfield all looking down at the casket in the center of the chamber. Washington, Jackson, Grant, looking distantly over the casket and the mourners. Then you looked back to the casket. As one regarded it, it seemed very large. It seemed to fill the space, and make it seem smaller.

Slowly we all filed past. We received our visitation cards. Then the crowds dispersed into the night. It was somehow a fitting start for the beginning of the last day of public remembrance.

The national funeral service was excellent. Margaret Thatcher’s eulogy was superlative. George H.W. Bush’s eulogy was also superb. Unfortunately, President George W. Bush’s speech was rather forgettable. One would have thought that he might have had some of the old Reagan people help a little on it. And President Bush has delivered good speeches in the past. But in this case, he was overshadowed by all the other speakers. Your Maximum Leader cried during Thatcher’s videotaped speech. And he continued to do so through former-President Bush’s eulogy. He was able to control himself during Mulroney’s and President Bush’s remarks.

As far as the eulogies are concerned for the week here are your Maximum Leader’s thoughts on them. Your Maximum Leader thought that Margaret Thatcher’s was by far the best. Thatcher’s is followed closely by Ron Reagan’s (even with the jibe at President Bush) and George H.W. Bush’s. The came Vice-President Cheney’s remarks. All of the others were not very memorable. (And frankly, in a few months, Cheney’s may not be all that memorable.) Thatcher’s eulogy put Reagan into a historical context and illustrate the greatness of the man. George H.W. Bush’s and Ron Reagan’s put a human face on the man and showed how Reagan could change people. Cheney’s struck a number of different chords and wasn’t as political as the others delivered at the state funeral. And the others were rather plain.

The “private funeral” in California was a masterpiece of imagery. It looked spectacular. Your Maximum Leader is sure that the two lasting images he will forever have in his mind of the past week’s events are looking at the casket under the Capital dome; and seeing the casket, on the bier at the library in California - bathed in the shimmering gold light of the sun setting over the Pacific. If 1984 was “Morning in America,” this was surely sunset in America. It was a fitting sunset indeed.

Now our official mourning is ended. We can go back, and we have gone back, to thinking about all of the issues we thought about before last Saturday. As more of Reagan’s papers are released and reviewed we will gain even more historical perspective on this great man. Your Maximum Leader hopes that we will one day be able to find a national leader who embodies the optimistic spirit that Reagan did.

Carry on.

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