Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del Cielo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have about five years of college credits, but I only have an AA degree. However, I believe that my life experiences and study of American history are the equivalent of at least a master’s degree in both life and American history. I do not consider myself an expert in either subject, just well-educated. Let me recap my story as briefly as I can.
I was born in Oak Park, Illinois, across the street from Chicago. My family was conservative Republican and I was weaned on the world’s greatest newspaper (self-proclaimed), the Chicago Tribune. When I reached adulthood, I added the Wall Street Journal to my daily reading. I believed the editorial pages of both papers were gospel. Over the years, I began to notice that the editorials never changed even though events did. That discrepancy caused me some unease, but I remained a conservative Republican.
In my late 50s in the late 1990s, I wondered if Ronald Reagan had been a great president. I was not willing to take anyone else’s word, and decided that I would make my own decision. I decided to research the answer by reading a biography of each and every president. I am about two-thirds of the way there, but I have already decided that Reagan was near-great, not great. There is a black hole in American presidential history filled with mostly one term presidents between Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt. The principal exception being Lincoln.
I did not limit myself to the biographies of presidents. I added the US Supreme Court to my reading list and prominent Senators and members of Congress. Over time I feel that I grew to have a more balanced perspective on US history, and my life experiences altered my strictly conservative views.
I have been poor and I have been relatively well-to-do. I have been subject to age discrimination, and I have gone through healthcare insurance hell. I have been in an auto accident where my vehicle was totaled by an uninsured semi driver. In my hospital career, I have dealt with gang members, billionaires, the homeless, people with AIDS and the uninsured. I like to think that I have seen it all, and I try to walk in another’s shoes before I judge them.
I am not always successful in not jumping to conclusions, but I am trying to do better. Rather than talking at each other, I believe that we should be trying to understand each other’s life experiences first. Then we can talk to each other with understanding. My life experiences have made me the person I am with the political views I possess. Someone else with a different life experience, will probably see the world differently. That does not make one of us right and the other person wrong.