I remember where I was when Ronald Reagan died almost twelve years ago. I was more ambivalent than sad to receive the news from the radio. I was born during the last twelve months of the Reagan’s term. The first president I remember was Bill Clinton, who my blue collar parents voted for. Why would I identify with someone I did not remember?
To tell you that, I first have to tell you how my family became conservative.
In the nineties, my parents eventually soured on the Clintons, shocked that these people were going to take over their healthcare. As a couple years went on, and scandals blossomed into impeachment hearings, the Howard house, like so much of Missouri, came to distrust Democrats. A couple years later, we awoke to see New York and the Pentagon on fire, and suddenly the President that was barely better than Al Gore became someone special to us; George W. Bush became someone we trusted as we were saddened and sobered by the realities of terrorism and war.
While I was still too young, the rest of my family voted for Bush in 2004. We weren’t conservative ideologues, but we knew America wouldn’t be in safe hands if it were left to John Kerry. In 2005, my dad gave us a treat, and added us to his XM radio package. At 17, while the news cycle was spinning, I turned on Sean Hannity to hear a different perspective on the coverage of Hurricane Katrina, when the media was attacking President Bush as if he personally caused the disaster.
I was hooked, as talk radio opened my world to a new perspective on what was going on around me. Sean Hannity was just the gateway drug. Mark Levin filled in for him that Christmas Eve, before Levin himself had been nationally syndicated, and suddenly I was listening to him every night online; he started out on just four stations. From there, I even started listening to Rush Limbaugh, finding that the reproach on talk radio was not valid, but a product of others’ disdain.
These men, derided as entertainers, introduced me not only to my conservatism, but to the best President of their lifetime, Ronald Reagan. The first time I heard Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech was on the Mark Levin Show. Like the generation before me, I was blown away by his common sense, humor and belief in preserving American freedom, under assault by foreign ideas believed in both distant capitals, and our own. Without Mark Levin, and his belief in the Reagan legacy, I probably would not have heard it.
Ronald Reagan, as a public figure and as President, influenced these men in numerous ways, giving them the courage and confidence to devote their lives to a greater ideal, America. Not the America that the left caricatured as a horrible place, but the real America, where hard work pays off and success is attainable, not immoral.
I didn’t have to hide under my desk in Cold War era drills or live in fear of nuclear annihilation. I wasn’t drafted to stand guard against a communist invasion, or be sent to a warzone where communists were trying to subjugate the next country. More to my circumstance — I had articulate people on the radio to offer me an alternative to so many misguided interpretations of my surroundings, because the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” that muzzled alternatives to liberal media was gone. I have President Reagan to thank for that.
In this election, so many of Millennials’ minds are held captive by socialism, the envious notion that was imported from Europe by the American left. In this time for choosing, the only way to break the bonds of their captivity is to show them that the freedom they crave is incompatible with a state that would manage their lives. In order to do that, they need to choose from bold colors, not pale pastels, to quote Reagan’s speech to Young Americans for Freedom in 1975.
To this day, none of my household supports left-wing candidates anymore. The ripple effect of the Reagan legacy matters. If it could change the course of my life, it could change the course of other millennials too.
Dustin Howard is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government.