Greetings NSSSA Members! As you may know by now, your Executive Board has undertaken an initiative to communicate more regularly with the membership and to encourage more intellectual and collegial traffic on our NCSS webpage (i.e. this blog). To this end, over the next several months, board members will post discussion prompts, queries, or news stories of general interest to social studies leaders and teachers. This is my contribution to this collective effort. I hope you will enjoy it. Please feel free to participate. All comments are welcome.
Americans have embarked upon the interminable process of electing our next president, and as is common during each presidential election year, history lessons everywhere are being contextualized with current events. Of course, generally speaking this is a good thing because such consciousness serves to heighten students' historical and political awareness and enrich their attention to making real-world connections with the past. Similarly, we see candidates making these connections during the endless cavalcade of debates, town hall meetings, and 24-hour news network sound bites. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, for instance, regularly reference the positions and policies of predecessors who have, for many, become timeless faces of the Democratic Party. This list includes Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and of course Barack Obama; each of whom provides a measure of legitimacy and a connection to longstanding Democrat ideals.
Of course, Republicans engage in similar practices. Interestingly, regardless of where the major GOP candidates positions themselves on the conservative spectrum, each one... from Cruz to Katich to Trump... has gone to great lengths to align himself, both politically and personally, with former president and party hero Ronald Reagan. Each of these candidates, perhaps more than at any previous time, seems determined to validate himself and legitimize his own nomination-worthiness by recalling Reagan’s grandeur. As the bastion of conservatism and face of the "Party of Lincoln," Ronald Reagan has, for many, become an iconic representation of better times, better leadership, and a "greater America." His overlapping personifications of all-American boy, actor, cowboy, defender of faith and family, and of course, vanquisher of 20th century communism all seem to make him the quintessential American; a life worthy of our heroification.
I am currently writing a book chapter on this evolving political and nostalgic image of Ronald Reagan, and as I discuss this topic with friends and colleagues, I sense that there is great public interest in this conversation. So, I am sharing part of it here with NSSSA members in an effort to generate a timely discussion among experts in the field. In your observation, how has President Reagan's image or legacy changed over the past quarter century? Is he worthy of this exalted status? Why or why not? Some have suggested his face should join Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore. What are your thoughts on this sentiment? And finally, are there other American political or historical figures who have enjoyed similar posthumous exhalation in contemporary political or social arenas?