Though I’ve been a Republican for most of my adult life, I have many Democratic friends. I respect them and everyone’s right to vote according to their convictions. I think we need to return to a more civil America where can agree to disagree agreeably, even on the tough issues. I think we need to protect rather than belittle others’ freedom of speech and opinions, even if they differ with ours.
My column here is my personal story about meeting two presidents and how they shared a few similarities. I think you’ll enjoy and might even be empowered by it.
After watching the Democratic National Convention in August, it made me think back to when a special person was campaigning for president of the U.S.A., but the Democratic Party was determined to make sure he did not make it to the Oval Office.
I remember when Ronald Reagan was running for the presidency. He was not a typical politician. That is why the Democratic Party was going to do everything possible to keep him from getting to the White House. However, the people of America, including me, felt Reagan would be a great president. We all saw him as an impressive person, a man of honor, and a man who cared for all the people.
When Reagan won the presidency in 1980, the Democratic Party couldn’t believe they lost, just like it was when President Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016. The Democrats regarded Reagan in the same way then as they view Trump today, not exactly with fondness.
While Reagan was the president of our great country, I had the pleasure of meeting him and the first lady. One day Nancy Reagan’s assistant called my office. My assistant answered and said I wasn’t there. Then Mrs. Reagan’s assistant explained that the first lady was having a tennis celebrity event at the White House, and she wanted to invite me. My assistant said she would call me and then let her know if I would be able to make it to the event.
When my assistant called me and explained Mrs. Reagan’s personal invitation, I replied that I definitely wanted to go. But then when I hung up the phone, I realized I had never played tennis in my life! So, I obtained a tennis teacher to give me 10 days of intensive lessons before I had to fly to Washington, D.C.
It was a lot of fun playing in the White House tennis event. I had a great time. I didn’t play so great, but I also didn’t embarrass myself!
After the event, those participating were all invited to a special evening at the White House, during which we would have the opportunity to meet President Reagan. When I met him in person, I immediately knew that he was not only a fine man but also a great leader for our country.
I remember when Reagan ran for his second term in 1984. The Democratic Party leaders again were trying their best to beat him with their candidate, Walter Mondale of Minnesota. But Reagan had done an incredible job in his first four years, so people from all political persuasions – Republicans, Independents and even Democrats – reelected him. And as history recorded, he went on to be an even greater second-term president, accomplishing things like bringing down the Berlin Wall.
I was again invited a few years later to an event at the White House. I again had the pleasure and honor to talk with President Reagan and the first lady. They were the most wonderful people I had ever met.
Now, let’s talk about the second president who was also not supposed to win: that’s right, Donald J. Trump.
Let me tell you how I first met Trump in 1974. Yes, 1974, when Donald was only about 28 years old. Even then he was doing well as a businessman.
I had won the World Martial Arts Championship in 1968 and held the title until 1974, at which time I decided to retire. When I informed the promoter of the World Championship that I was retiring, he made a huge deal out of it. I recommended Bill Wallace fight in my place. Bill fought and went on to win the world title, too.
The promoter told me that Trump was going to be in the audience to see the world championships. Even as a young man, Trump was very well-known and liked.
As I walked down from the platform, he was standing there and came up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Why did you retire so soon?!”
I replied, “I am 34 years old, have held the world title for six years, and I have decided it is time to move on with my life.”
Trump asked me, “What are your plans now?”
I explained that I had wanted to become an actor, and that I had filmed a movie with Bruce Lee in 1972 and really liked it.
Don looked at me square in the eyes and said, “I have a feeling you are going to do well as an actor.” Then, he simply turned around and walked off.
I never saw him again, but I really liked him.
As I was filming my action movies over the years, I was watching Donald Trump grow as a businessman. I would read articles about him and read a few of his insightful books. I was very impressed by his optimistic and positive attitude.
I look back now to when I first met him 46 years ago, in 1974. Then and now, he hasn’t changed a bit, except he’s got a whole lot wealthier and serves in the most powerful role in the free world!
Over the years, observing Trump grow in age and wealth, I was most impressed with how he cared for everyone. He was tough, sometimes far tougher than people expected or wanted. But he wanted people to excel, to be better than they were, and he was willing to risk everything to help them get there.
I remember thinking a few decades back that he is the type of person I would like to see run for president of our country. But of course, why would he do something like that when he had everything he wanted?
Then, years later, I see Trump running for the presidency. He didn’t come from “the establishment.” He was an outsider. As everyone knows by now, he’s not a typical politician who only cares for himself and getting reelected. Don really does care about people. That’s why he’s willing to serve as president without pay.
Democratic Party leaders swore that after Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 as a “non-politician,” they would never allow that to happen again. But it did. When Trump was competing against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democratic leaders were absolutely convinced that Hillary would win, but the people thought differently. Not only the Republicans but Independents and many Democrats elected Trump into office.
As I mentioned, I have thousands of Democrats I call friends across the country. Many of them have said that radicals and extremists have taken over their party and are very upset about it.
As I wrote in a recent column, I was a Democrat in my early years, but I switched to Republican when I saw Democrats mistreating Americans blacks in the 1960s. Black students could not go to a white person’s school. When they tried, Democratic leaders would chase the students away – and that was in Southern California!
The Democratic Party detests President Trump. Gone are the days when Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’ Neal would speak kindly of President Reagan. The present speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, loathes the president and won’t even meet with him. She and her colleagues will do everything humanly possible to oust Donald Trump from the White House.
Fortunately, Trump has stayed strong and continued to fight to make America great again. And we must do the same.
We are better than belittling and bullying, America. I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton in the 1990s, but I respected those who did. Then, Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich didn’t agree with Clinton either, but they all fought to better our country. They agreed to disagree agreeably because those are the foundations of our Republic.
A Trump supporter should not feel any less proud or patriotic than a Joe Biden supporter. We all need to vote our conscience, and even voice our conscience as the First Amendment protects our right to do, and not be belittled or bullied for doing so. Then, we let the chips (or votes) fall where they may in the November election. And afterward, we all press on not divided but united “as one nation under God, indivisible, with justice for all.”
In the March edition of the Whistleblower, Lee Edwards, the author or editor of 25 books and the Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies, wrote: “We shall come through this crisis as we have other challenges in our 241-year history, following the example of leaders such as Reagan, who reminded us in his first inaugural address just what kind of people we are. The crisis we face, Reagan said, requires our willingness to believe in ourselves, ‘to believe that together, with God’s help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.'”
Edwards’ thoughts remind me of the revolutionary giant Thomas Paine, who might as well have been speaking to our time in his work “The American Crisis,” when he wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”