Georgians came from near and far to Valdosta last week to meet Michael Reagan as he joined the Southwest Georgia Republican Women in celebrating the centennial birthday of his father, former President Ronald Wilson Reagan.
The crowd of nearly 500 included high school and college students, politicians taking a respite from the legislative session in Atlanta, military retirees who served under Commander-in-Chief Reagan and other Reagan supporters.
Also in attendance were Ted Harris of Midway, one of two Georgians who served in the honor guard of Reagan’s funeral in 2004, and Nick Herndon, 10, of Thomasville, who brought the cover of his school report to show Michael Reagan. Nick, who goes to Thomasville Christian School, said he was given an assignment to write about a good, Christian man. He chose President Reagan.
Barbara Schmader, president of the Republican Women, first conceived the idea to host the event.
Michael Reagan was introduced by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who said his first vote was for Ronald Reagan in his campaign against Georgia’s Jimmy Carter. Kemp said he studied Reagan and shared the late president’s conservative beliefs.
Michael Reagan touched on the highlights of his father’s presidency. He said President Regan always wanted the opportunity to say “nyet,” which means “no,” to Mikhail Gorbachev, who always began his discussions with Reagan by issuing a list of things America needed to compromise on in order to get the Russian leader’s signature on the nuclear arms treaty.
The president’s son said his father and Gorbachev met three times to discuss the treaty that Americans had written. All three times Gorbachev demanded America give in to the Russians’ demands. Three times, Reagan said, “nyet.”
The fourth time they met, Gorbachev brought a treaty he claimed to have written. President Reagan reportedly said it was the same treaty the Americans already had presented three times, down to the last comma, exclamation point and period. The Russian leader made no demands in the “new” treaty, Michael Reagan told the audience. Reagan signed the treaty, Gorbachev claimed victory and Reagan said, “You can accomplish great things if you don’t care who takes the credit.”
Nick Herndon’s mother, who had just arranged that afternoon to attend the function, said her son was thrilled after Michael Reagan talked with him at length about the former president. Michael Reagan gave Nick a Challenge Medal from the USS Ronald Reagan, which had been deployed two days earlier.
After dinner was over and the president’s son had spoken, Michael Reagan signed copies of his latest book, “The New Reagan Revolution: How Ronald Reagan’s Principles Can Restore America’s Greatness.”
The event in Valdosta was the only one planned in Georgia during the yearlong National Centennial celebration in honor of President Reagan’s 100th birthday.