Like most of you, I loved Paul Ryan’s speech last night. He dismantled the Obama presidency like few others can. Yet, his speech and all the other speeches of this convention leave me longing for the master. Although he is gone, Ronald Reagan still looms large over our party and our country.
So with that, here is the full version of Reagan’s impromptu speech at the 1976 Republican National Convention.
Most of you probably know the story of the 1976 convention and the animosity between the Reagan and Ford delegates. Ford barely held off Reagan to win the nomination. He needed to unite the party before the convention ended and invited Reagan to the podium to say a few words.
Neither Ford nor anyone else could have imagined that Reagan would step to the podium with no teleprompter and no notes and electrify the crowd as no one else had. It also left many of the delegates a bit sad and depressed, because once they heard Reagan’s speech, they all knew they had nominated the wrong man.
So while I am excited about the Romney-Ryan ticket and have enjoyed the convention speeches, looking back at the 1976 Reagan speech reminds me that leaders like Reagan come around maybe once in a lifetime. Like Paul Ryan I grew up with Ronald Reagan as president. I suppose that when one grows up with one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world as your president, expectations for future presidents will be unrealistically high.
I look forward to watching Paul Ryan for years to come. He can articulate the conservative argument like few others. Last night’s speech was a great speech, but I believe Ryan can do better. As he continues to hone his message, I suspect that sometime in the future conservatives will reminisce and long for the days of Paul Ryan giving great convention speeches in much the same way we long for Reagan today. In Paul Ryan we might just be watching the development of one of those great leaders who come around once in a lifetime.