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Providing his daughter with a firsthand account of presidential

June 18, 2004

history

I took my 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Isabella, to the Reagan Library on

Monday so she could witness a page of history.

"Ray gun inside?" she asked, "behind the flag?"

"Yes," I answered, "Reagan behind the flag."

As we approached the entrance, she commented on the quiet and

said, "It's like church, Daddy." I agreed with her, and she responded

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with her favorite prayer from one of her many books, "Rise and

shine." At the door is a statue of Ronald Reagan, and she reached out

to touch his hand.

"I shake hands, Daddy," she said.

It was very solemn inside as we walked around the U-shaped rope

line. A dignified and respectful silence filled the room. No one was

there to hurry us through or tell us how much time to spend with the

former president. I saw a man across from us raise his hand in a

salute to the flag-draped casket. I decided to do the same and,

without any prodding, so did Isabella. The soldier in the corner

facing us saw what she did and made eye contact with me and barely

blinked his eye in a wink of recognition.

The members of the armed forces stood ramrod straight and proud in

their crisp uniforms.

"Reagan behind the flag," Isabella whispered.

"That's right," I whispered back, "President Reagan is behind the

flag."

She slowly said, "Rise and shine."

At the end of the line, we paused for one last glance and then it

was over. We walked out in less than a minute and it was well worth

the 3 1/2-hour wait.

Isabella is lucky to have a social studies teacher for a father.

One day, I will share with her the memorial service handout we

received from the library that day, with the newspaper headlines

announcing the death of the 40th president. I will tell her how good

she was, waiting patiently in line with tens of thousands of people

who did not push or shove or cut in. She will know that she, too,

paid her last respects to Ronald Reagan.

She listens attentively to me now when I tell her that she is

watching something important. She has heard me, and one day she will

understand me. I know my students understand me. I shared with them

the events of Monday night, and I also told them of President Reagan.

I volunteered on his 1980 campaign to earn extra credit. I liked

what I saw. It wasn't that difficult when compared to President Jimmy

Carter and malaise, inflation, gas lines and the Iran hostage crisis.

He was the first president I ever voted for, in 1984. Twenty years

later, I suggest from my profession that history demands answers to

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