When I was a kid, politics didn’t really interest me. I found most policy talk boring, most messengers of that talk unable to connect with people. I found most politicians tedious, monotonous, and unable to sell the ideas they claimed to love so much.
And then one day I saw video of Ronald Reagan speaking. “He gets it,” I said to my dad. “That guy really gets it.”
I grew up in a performing arts household. My mom had been an actress when she was younger. I did my middle-school homework to the background sounds of my mom teaching Improv classes in our living room. I would run monologues when I needed a break from long division. It was impossible for me to watch movies as a child without feeling compelled to analyze the casting and whether or not the leads were really “in the moment.” I learned quite early that the camera tells you who’s lying pretty quickly.
I didn’t put my heart and soul into the acting business for reasons that make no logical sense to me today (What can I say, 20-year-olds don’t always have all the answers.). But I never lost my appreciation for delivery and for connecting with people. I never lost the understanding that honesty shows its face on camera and on debate stages, and that policy is a product that has to be sold to people; you either sell it well and win elections or sell it badly and lose.
Ronald Reagan wasn’t afraid to be funny. He wasn’t afraid of wit, charm, or charisma. He wasn’t afraid to wrap his policy in a package that would get people to pay attention. So many Reagan Democrats were born because they were inspired by the messenger to listen to the message.
The truth is that I wasn’t born interested in politics. I was the audience that needed good delivery to be inspired to hear that message. And I’m thankful that Ronald Reagan showed up–not because I agreed with him on everything, but because he got me listening. He got me laughing. And he got me thinking about where I stood on a wide array of issues I had never cared to think about before.
On his birthday, I thank our 40th president for that. And I remind folks on the right to take a look back at his videos and remember that good leaders have the power to change hearts and minds and the ability to sell their message to people who didn’t even know they were shopping.
Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila