In their digital newsletter, The American Patriot’s Daily Almanac, William Bennet and T.E. Cribb recount President Ronald Reagan’s words when he was nearly killed by an assassin’s bullet on March 30, 1981. Reagan became the only president to survive being shot while in office, and in the process he taught the nation something about meeting a crisis with grit, grace, and humor.
Ronald Reagan had only been president for 69 days when, while leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., a deranged young man fired six shots at the president as he walked toward his waiting limousine. White House press secretary, Jim Brady, was seriously wounded, and a police officer and Secret Service agent were also shot. Another agent shoved Reagan into the limo, and the car sped away. At first no one realized the president had been shot. Reagan thought he had broken a rib, but he soon began coughing up blood, and the limo headed for the hospital. As he walked into the emergency room, his knees turned rubbery, and he went down.
At the time no one realized how close the President came to dying. One of his doctors said, “He was right on the margin,” as the assassin’s bullet ricocheted off the limo, pierced his side, and lodged close to Reagan’s heart. But that night a relieved country laughed as it learned that Reagan’s first words to First Lady Nancy were, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” He borrowed that line from boxing great Jack Dempsey who a half century earlier had said that when he lost the heavyweight championship.
Reagan’s sense of humor never lagged. As the doctor wheeled him into the operating room, Reagan said, “I hope you’re a Republican.” The 70 year old President made it through his surgery and returned to the White House a few days later. He was weakened, but resolved to rededicate himself to his God and country. A few words in his diary speak volumes about his determination and the role of faith in his life: “Whatever happens now, I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.”
I am reminded of the Apostle Peter’s words in 1 Peter 4:7-11 when he says, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray….Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ….” That is how we should live, for all of us owe our life to God.
Live for Him as you serve people well,