By Brian Tully, Ryan Hiller and Beth Bazan
Aurora University opened its Arts and Ideas lecture series Monday Sept. 19 with Douglas Brinkley, who touched on the topic of Ronald Reagan’s enduring legacy and how it has served to shape America. Brinkley is the author of “The Reagan Diaries” and a professor at Rice University.
Calling Reagan a visionary, Brinkley cited the world’s safety being greater after Reagan’s presidency. “We are living in the age of Reagan,” Brinkley said, citing the way in which today’s politicians all strive to compare themselves to such an iconic figure that pushed for the values of hard work and the American dream.
Brinkley was introduced by Aurora University President Dr. Rebecca Sherrick. “We wanted to invite someone to engage us, and we are lucky to have someone who has captured the attention of colleagues and the public,” said Dr. Sherrick.
Brinkley devoted much of his speech to President Reagan’s 1984 speech at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France. “Reagan loved this story because it was about World War II when we were all in this together. World War II unifies America,” said Brinkley on Reagan’s reasons for addressing the war after so many years.
Brinkley noted Reagan’s top achievements during his presidency, including arms reductions and Reagan’s memorable quote, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
But Reagan’s best-remembered quality was his “sunny, blue-sky optimism,” said Brinkley. Following in the footsteps of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Reagan’s political influence on America was rooted in his unification of America and rhetoric of encouragement.
The event gathered a crowd from the local community, some of whom attended to “learn a little history,” said Jackie Lamphere, mother of Aurora University’s own Dean of Students Amy Lamphere. Brinkley also held a small question and answer session with students earlier in the day at Perry Theater.
Many in the audience at the evening lecture appeared to be community members who would have more recollection of the Reagan presidency. One such person in attendance was Roger Tucker, a board trustee and president of the alumni board. “I have always been a fan of Reagan and am interested in what Mr. Brinkley has to say about Reagan,” Tucker said. “I always saw him as the common man president that kept America’s values.”