Sunday, April 3, 2011

Feeling 80ish

I was a product of the 80’s growing up. Walkmans, Atari, Air Jordan and other stuff helped to define the 80’s. “Gag me with a spoon” was a commonly used phrase and big hair and mullets were the norm. During Homecoming it would be the 50’s, but today’s high schoolers celebrate 80’s day!
The products, movies, fashion trends and songs of the 1980’s kind of define who I am as a person. I like Nike shoes; I enjoy most songs from the 80’s and can listen to whole albums without getting bored. Video games passed the time away while mom and dad watched 60 minutes or Dallas. I couldn’t get enough time in watching Larry Bird battle against Magic Johnson.
1980 came in like boom (literally). May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted spewing ash into the atmosphere. It was a Sunday and we were working in the garden wondering what the boom was. We found out later in the afternoon when the sky became dark and ash started to accumulate. Mom had to leave for church because a party was taking place for the senior class. Later that year I remember going with my grandfather to pick apples in the canyon. He said that those were the largest apples he had ever seen on wild trees.
I also remember our sitting president, Jimmy Carter in 1980. I can’t understand why a farmer would hate farmers so much. His grain embargo of the Soviet Union created a downward spiral that didn’t end until after the mid 80’s. And not just the grain embargo, his policies as well.
Interest rates soared to numbers never seen before. Farms were going under one after another around the country. Land prices reached all time highs and inflation made the dollar about as useful as toilet paper. I remember these items because it affected my family. I read the papers and watched the news (when I wasn’t shooting hoops in the shop or playing the drums downstairs) and understood the consequences.
While in 6th grade putting my rocket together for the rocket shoot my teacher came to me and told me to get my things. My grandfather was in the hospital. I remember putting my things away with tears in my eyes. We traveled to the hospital and he was gone. The end of an era.
However there is something more that helped to define not only the 1980’s and me, but America as well…Ronald Reagan! I was in 6th grade when Ronald Reagan was running for president. For a class assignment I was one of the few chosen to be a presidential candidate. I wanted to be Ronald Reagan but wound up as the Independent candidate John Anderson. I can’t remember the details of everything, but Ronald Reagan won the class election. I came in 2nd.
During that time the United States had hostages in Iran, 52 to be exact. They were released after President elect Reagan took office in January 1981. This story dominated the evening news and newspaper headlines. I don’t really remember why it happened, but I remember how it ended.
1981 was a big year. Not only did Ronald Reagan get sworn in as president and the release of the hostages happen, but the first space shuttle launch took place in April. I remember sitting in the grade school gym watching a small TV from the back (6th graders had to make room for the rug rats) and feeling proud of my country’s achievement. GOD BLESS AMERICA!
While in high school, I remember gathering around another TV in 1986 to watch another space shuttle launch, but this time it blew up. We were watching because Christa McAuliffe was to become the first teacher in space. Her alternate was from Idaho, Barbara Morgan who eventually became the first teacher in space in 2007.
From 1984 to 1987 I went to the state basketball tournament, all four years. During that time we took fourth place twice (1984 & 1986) and won the state championship twice (1985 & 1987). Also, we went undefeated in 1987 starting the longest basketball winning streak for all classifications in Idaho.
I also remember going into the accounting room to work on the first computers in the school. They were a novelty and required learning programming to run. Not knowing it at the time, it is amazing how this “gadget” really changed me and people all over the world.
Back to President Reagan and his accomplishments. He took office during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Communism was running rampant and was not far from our doorstep. Cuba was entrenched and the Contras were fighting the communist Sandinistas in Honduras. Reagan very much disliked communism. Those might not be the words he would use; he would probably say he was for freedom and democracy.
For eight years I was able to call Ronald Reagan my President. Eight years during my transition from little boy, to young man, to adult (according to voting age of 18) I was able to live under his policies and learn how he brought people together to achieve great things.
President Reagan worked closely with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (the Iron Lady) and Pope John Paul II to undermine the Soviet Union. President Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate in 1987 was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. And to think I watched that speech, the greatest I have ever heard.
Then in November 1989 the wall came down. People used sledge hammers to make holes in the wall. People poured over the wall. Although Ronald Reagan wasn’t president, he was able to see the fulfillment of his dream, dedication, and hard work.  Ronald Reagan defied all of the nay sayers and held true to himself and his beliefs, for the betterment of all the people of the world.
And to think that those three people, Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II were the key. It is truly amazing when you realize it might not have happened. Both President Reagan and Pope John Paul II were shot and came close to dying. I don’t know if it is providence or Divine Intervention, but it definitely is remarkable.
The 1988-89 season is also when I first saw my future wife. I was walking into the gym at Walla Walla Community College to the locker room and volleyball practice was going on. School hadn’t started, but I was heading to get my locker and put my things in it. Anyway, there she was in the serving corner and she smiled at me. Talk about providence. We would finally date three years later at the University of Idaho.
The close of the 80’s also saw protests in China, Tiananmen Square. The vision of a lone man standing in front of a column of tanks was astounding. His courage and determination to defy oppression and stand up for freedom should be remember always. As of this date his whereabouts is not known.
Why am I being so nostalgic about the 1980’s? It defines who I am. It helped to shape my political thinking, my family, and my life. It also helps that I just finished a great book by Michael Reagan titled “The New Reagan Revolution.” I highly recommend it.
Ronald Reagan is my political hero. He saw what was wrong with America and the world and stayed true to himself. Because of that, he didn’t have to lie or put on any bravado…he was always himself. He held strong his conviction that freedom is the greatest thing on earth and worked hard to achieve that for those in the U.S. and the world.
Two friends replied to a Facebook posting a while back. I watched former USDA Secretary Yeutter speak. I could not get over how easy he smiled and how I envied that because I am too stoic. Two people that I respect greatly said the same thing, be who you are. Don’t try to be anything or anybody else.
I don’t think I can pretend to be someone else. I am who I am. I have great mentors today and was extremely lucky to watch one of my heroes be himself. The 1980’s helped to define who I am as a person and to shape my views today. Ronald Reagan led the charge for my fascination of politics. As for my future wife, she has my heart and helped shape not only me but my family as well.


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