Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.
What a moving sight it was last week when 87-year-old Nancy Reagan returned to the White House, her former home, on the arm of the current president—a man whom, according to her son, Mrs. Reagan very much admires. There to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birthday of her beloved “Ronnie,” Mrs. Reagan clearly enjoyed the company of another “great communicator.”
Ronald Reagan was a likable guy. His public persona, which he honed as an actor and adapted to his role as a politician, was one of sincerity, conviction, and optimism. However, he was very much a product of his time, seeing the world as it was during World War II, divided into two great camps: good and evil, right and wrong, “us” and “them.”
For the most part, Reagan aimed his considerable rhetorical arsenal exclusively at the American people, talking about but rarely to the leaders (and never to the people) of other nations. Reagan got a lot of credit for the eventual détente and arms reduction treaties between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. However, it was Mikhail Gorbachev—winner of the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize—who first extended the hand of friendship.
President Obama communicates with the world. Within hours after his meeting with Mrs. Reagan, he was abroad again—this time in Cairo, Egypt—speaking to an audience largely composed of young followers of Islam. His words of respect and understanding resounded throughout Muslim countries, greatly diminishing the distrust and animosity that have enabled terrorists to recruit new followers. Then, as always, this great communicator did not speak down to his audience but shared with them human hopes, dreams, and aspirations for a new world order of peace and prosperity.
Today we are in the midst not of a revolution but rather a cultural evolution. As with the evolution of species, change and adaptation of society does not occur at a measured, geologic pace. Things happen that cause a society—like a species—to leap forward. The change that has come to America in the past several months is such an event. For those willing to let go of the old paradigms, it is now possible to envision a world in which people of good faith can work together in harmony toward common goals.
Despite all the work that remains to be done, it is now possible to relinquish old habits of hatred, fear, and despair and genuinely embrace the notion that life everywhere—everywhere on Planet Earth—really is “one grand, sweet song.”