Cheerfulness can get almost anything done. One of President Reagan's great strengths was his commitment to big ideas and his willingness to remain cheerful no matter what the difficulties were. It made him likable and approachable and easy to support. Despite being the son of an alcoholic father, entering the job market in the Great Depression, and watching his career in movies fade out, Reagan remained a steadfast optimist. That disposition was a tremendous, politically potent change from the angry pessimism of traditional conservatism.
Beliefs matter. Watching Reagan stand for the same principles from October 1964 through the end of his presidency 24 years later was an amazing lesson in the power of consistency. He did not swing back and forth with each flurry of news stories or polling data. Instead, Reagan was willing to define a big vision of a bright future and keep repeating it until the country came to share his vision. Reagan did not change nearly so much as the country changed. Our approach to issues such as welfare reform, tax cuts, balancing the budget, military and intelligence strength, and how to govern as a majority were learned from Reagan.
Politics is like vaudeville. No matter how often the entertainer performs, each crowd is seeing him for the first and perhaps only time. This morally obligates the performer to give his best. It was this understanding of a very old tradition that enabled Reagan to be so stunning day after day and event after event. He could take the same cards out of his coat pocket, reshuffle them, and give a speech he had given 30 times but turn it into a sparkling moment for this audience at this moment in this hall. It was that sense of doing your very best in the here and now combined with the depth of thought and preparation behind the cards that made him so powerful a public speaker.