Years ago when I was a young teacher and Ronald Reagan was governor of California, my favorite aunt needed to be put in a convalescent home due to a severe illness. It was a new experience for our family since anyone who was sick or in need was always cared for by family.
After returning from a weekend away, my parents and I went to visit her and were horrified by what we saw. She was sitting in a chair outside of her room, her hair tidily put back in an old fashioned bun. But in her room, which was shared with several people, was visible dirt including feces smeared on the walls. No wonder she chose not to sit inside the room or lie in bed.
Supported by my parents, I went to the nurses station and announced that we were taking her home and needed her meds.
“Sorry, I can’t give them to anyone without doctor’s orders,” the nurse answered.
“Then I’ll take her without the meds,” I replied.
“Call him,” I repeated.
Reluctantly she complied and the medications were promptly given to us.
As we left the facility, an elderly lady approached me, confirming what I thought. “This is a terrible place to be,” she said hopelessly.
When I reached home, I decided to do something I had never done before. I sat down and wrote a letter to then Governor Reagan, telling him my disgust with what I had seen and blaming the Republicans, of which I was one, for their lack of compassion. It was scathing but respectful.
As I mailed it the next morning, I was convinced he’d never read it. Wasted time, I thought, but I had to do it.
A few days later, I received a letter from Gov. Reagan. Surprised but skeptical, I opened it. First thanking me for calling this to his attention, he made it clear that he did not want the Republican party to be characterized by lack of compassion.
Then he asked if I would write down all the details and send them to him. He signed his name. Just a stamp, I figured as I licked my finger and managed to smear his authentic signature. It was real. So was his next letter.
He proceeded to send a team of men down to Southern California, who then called me, inspected the facility and made things right.
Few people in my life had ever seemed so authentic as this man who would later become our president. There was indeed a time when a man in that Oval Office was fit to be there; a man of character and compassion. As a young person in her early twenties, I gained respect once again for this country we live in and the man who represented us at the top. He made a lifelong impact on my life.
There have been other great leaders in this country, but let us always be aware of who we put in office, particularly the highest office in the land. Their impact on young lives and indeed on this country will be deep and long lasting.