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  • Ronald Reagan: Our Greatest American

       June 26, 2005

    I caught the end of the Discovery Channel's Greatest American show tonight. We voted Ronald Reagan as our Greatest American over (in order) Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

    As regular readers know, George Washington won our greatest American competition, although both Reagan and Lincoln gave him a run for his money in the "Politicians" category.

    I love Reagan, but I would have voted for Washington. I feel like he was punished for owning slaves, even though he freed them all by the time he died. Of course, I can't condone that, but I hate to see a "greatest American" competition come down to the same old anti-"dead white male" crap that started the whole PC and campus diversity movements.

    Anyway, back to Reagan. I think he's certainly worthy of consideration as our greatest citizen. He was, in my opinion, the greatest President of the 20th century, as Washington and Lincoln were the greatest Presidents of the 19th and 18th centuries respectively.

    Don't let people mislead you into thinking that Reagan's greatest accomplishment was something like "restoring optimism to America". He did that, but he also freed 50 million people trapped behind the Iron Curtain, revitalized America's economy, effectively advocated the virtues of small government and promoted individual freedom. And, beyond all of that, he was a good and decent man. He wasn't perfect, but America is lucky to have had him in our midst.

    I guess all those Reagan voters really did win one for the Gipper this time ;-)

    Posted by at June 26, 2005 09:17 PM

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    #  June 26th, 2005 10:45 PM      Squibbly
    I watched the "Greatest American" show as they counted down the top 100. I was so disgusted with it that I didn't watch the final program. Why was nearly everyone who commented on the program an actor or musician or movie director? I think Tom Brokaw and John McCain were the only ones to comment who had any credibility (not just popularity). I mean, come on... a guy from Moby commenting on what makes world leaders great? Sharon Osbourne commenting on why someone is or isn't a great American? Was I the only one annoyed by this?

    And another thing... they didn't quite have all the facts right with at least one story. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormon Church). I didn't appreciate them not even getting the name of my church right in their story. (They called it the Church of Latterday Saints) I know it seems like a small thing... but this is the Discovery Channel. I sort of expected them to have correct facts.

    I thought I was going to be watching some kind of factual show about the Greatest Americans in History. I felt like I was watching a VH1 popularity contest. I think at least 50% of the top 100 were actors/actresses. Was this just a sad social commentary on what is important to Americans today?  
    #  June 26th, 2005 11:01 PM      Laura
    In a word, yes.

    But I'm still optimistic enough to think that having the show at all was a good sign. Half a loaf and all that. At least it sparked the Dummocrats version, which had more substance in my opinion.  
    #  June 26th, 2005 11:05 PM      Squibbly
    I agree... the Dummocrats version was much better. Kudos!  
    #  June 27th, 2005 12:28 AM      ThatWouldBeMe
    (commentary on Ronald Reagan snipped for amicability :) )

    I didn't see the series -- I don't watch much tv -- but personally, for Greatest American, I've always had soft spots for Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Neither one was a particularly wonderful role model in their personal lives, by today's standards, but both highly effective and significant contributors.  
    #  June 27th, 2005 9:02 AM      BrianH
    What do you mean Benjamin Franklin wasn't a good role model????

    He was a sucessful business man, he was an inventor, he was instrumental in the nation's fight for freedom, he was a briliant statesman. And he knew how to have a GOOD TIME! What better role model could you want!
    #  June 27th, 2005 11:27 AM      ThatWouldBeMe
    I said "personal life" :) -- professionally as a statesman, inventor, writer, etc., he's serious mojo. (What can you say about the only person to sign all three of the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris in which Britain recognized the US, and the Constitution???) But I read a bio of him some time back which noted his talents at being a good husband and raising children left something to be desired.

    It was a library book so unfortunately I can't provide the citation.

    Overall, though, he is definitely one of my heroes. I spent a lot of time in the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia growing up.  
    #  June 27th, 2005 2:41 PM      Rob
    I didn't watch the show -- figuring it would be a liberal lovefest and mostly irrelevant -- but when I read the final results this morning, I had to wonder how that was handled by Matt Lauer. Did his head explode? Did he have a mild stroke? Was he babbling incomprehensibly, with strings of drool dripping from the corners of his mouth? I have to believe that someone of his ilk found the selection of Ronald Reagan as our greatest American somewhat akin to selecting the Anti-Christ to succeed John Paul II as Pope!

    Personally, I didn't have a big issue with the "Top 5" -- the final order of which good people could debate and not be "wrong" in their beliefs. I thought many of the Top 100 on the original list were just plain silly -- but the "voters" did a pretty good job of weeding out the most ludicrous ones. I would have thought an inventor or scientist (like Edison or Einstein or Salk) might have made it into the Top 5, but our schools don't spend much time these days teaching about the tremendous accomplishments of the greatest minds this country has nurtured, so I suppose such achievers weren't foremost in most people's thinking. It was still pretty amazing to me that a man who was the bane of the liberal media establishment and the laughing stock of the "Intellectual elite" in this country would have been selected by the American public as our greatest American ever. I'll bet the producers of this show will take steps to make sure that such "disturbing" results can never happen again if they set out to confirm some preconceived notion that they undoubtedly have! Just my opinion...
    #  June 29th, 2005 2:41 PM      lynn_fv
    No matter what your issue is with WHO won, I think we all have got to start thinking about HOW he won...

    If Reagan won with 24 percent, it means 76 percent of voters were against him for first choice; so we can’t be sure that this poll really reflects public opinion. For example, given their respective records on civil rights, Lincoln (the second place candidate) would quite likely have been preferred over Reagan by most supporters of Martin Luther King Jr. So basically if the majority of voters—not a simple plurality—had to come to a consensus about the “Greatest American,” Reagan might very well not have won. We’ll never know of course, but either way we need a better system that captures the true consensus as to who the Greatest American is.

    Next year, AOL should use instant runoff voting (IRV), the same system used to decide nominations for the Oscars. Sen. John McCain and DNC Chairman Howard Dean all currently support IRV.

    (For more on IRV see:  



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