As some commentators are noting, today is the 28th anniversary of the day President Reagan was shot. I remember the day vividly. The college dean for whom I was working told me the news. “I’m sorry your President was shot, Bob,” he said, sucking deeply on his cigarette. Then he added, “Of course, my wife wonders why assassins on our side are always such bad shots.”
The deranged young man who shot the President outside the Washington Hilton actually didn’t hit him directly. His bullet seems to have ricocheted off a wall and entered the President’s chest. The Secret Service agents who tackled the gunman had acted with heroism and speed.
Reagan was taken to George Washington University Hospital. He was in intense pain, but he managed to give a game smile to photographers. Only inside the emergency entrance did his knees buckle. He was rushed into surgery. His doctors later reported that they’d never seen a 70-year old man with such well-developed chest muscles. The bullet lodged less than an inch from the President’s heart. His internal bleeding was massive, life threatening. His Presidency—less than three months old—could have ended at that moment.
Reagan was the first U.S. President ever hit and not killed. That very day, while an anxious nation watched, his comments to Nancy were broadcast worldwide. “Honey,” he said, “I forgot to duck.” Even at the point of death, Reagan could not resist a quip. It was an historic one, at that. That line was the one Jack Dempsey had used when he lost the World Heavyweight boxing title to Gene Tunney—fifty-five years before!
The nation bonded with Ronald Reagan that dreadful day. He became our American hero in a way he had not been before. His humor and his courage inspired millions. His approval ratings soared. He used his tremendous popularity to help push his program through a resisting Congress. It is this historic program that is, even now, being bulldozed by President Obama and his compliant cohorts on Capitol Hill.
We came so close to losing the Gipper that day. When we think of all he accomplished—lifting a crushing burden of taxation from American families, fighting for freedom for millions in Eastern Europe, expressing public concern for the fate of millions of unborn children, and above all, humbly acknowledging that we are “one nation Under God”-we can once again realize what a treasure each human life is.
America should be the land where dreams come true. Ronald Reagan took care to clear the paths of laudable pursuit not only for others like himself, but he also defended the rights of millions yet unborn. Today, we can thank God Ronald Reagan was spared to do his great work. His story can encourage us to do ours.