I finished my dinner and climbed into my 1974 Buick LaSabre, to drive to an evening ensemble rehearsal. The DePaul University Music Campus was a five minute walk from the cafeteria, or a three minute drive for the indolent or the overburdened with books and musical instruments. I usually fell into one of the two driving categories, and that night it was fortuitous that I did. On the car radio a man was speaking, addressing what sounded to be an enthusiastic crowd. What he was saying captured my interest so much that I spent the next thirty to forty minutes parked in the Music Campus Student Lot, with the key turned to accessory, listening to the radio, and missed my class.
I had tuned in after the introduction, so I didn't know who was speaking; what I did know was that this man was talking about public policy, and making more sense than anybody I had ever heard. When he finished, a radio announcer cut into the applause of the audience, to say that the speaker was Ronald Reagan, announcing that he would seek the Republican nomination for President. The year was 1979. I was 18 years old. I was astonished. All I knew about Ronald Reagan up to that point was that I used watch him on TV hosting Death Valley Days, and that he was "a right-wing war monger." I decided that I had better learn about the real man. From that day, I began devouring any information I could find about Ronald Reagan, and the more I learned, the more I liked him. I was proud to cast my first vote in a Presidential Election for Ronald Reagan.
Reagan's faith in the goodness of America and in the power of human liberty, spawned policies that changed America and changed the World, in ways that few believed possible when he ran for President with a vision of reviving the stagnant U.S. economy by cutting taxes and reducing regulation, and rolling back the Soviet evil empire by building up our military and confronting the Soviet threat in Europe and Communist expansion around the world. Reagan's fabulous success in both of these goals has earned him a place among America's greatest Presidents, and made him one of my personal heroes (our third son, Isaac Reagan Naselli, is named in honor of President Reagan); but there is another special way in which this great man affected my life, and I'd like to tell you about it.
As I sought out information about Ronald Reagan, beginning in 1979, one thing that surprised me was his faith in God. As a thoroughly secular young man myself, I had no hostility to religion, but I didn't think it much mattered in real life either. Reagan, a man whose character and leadership I was coming to admire, confessed a constant dependence on God, and specifically a personal faith in Jesus Christ, and this made a deep impression on me. If a great leader like Ronald Reagan took God seriously, perhaps I wasn't quite as wise as I thought I was to ignore Him.
I began asking questions about God of everybody I knew, and I found that although many of my friends and acquaintances attended church, none of them had a personal relationship with God. Instead, help came to me from the most unlikely quarter, the Liberal Media. Through Reagan's first year as President I found the Network TV News broadcasts so revoltingly biased against the President that I went searching elsewhere for news and information. This was before Rush Limbaugh, before the rise of cable news networks, and before Al Gore invented the Internet. On my brother's recommendation I tuned in CBN (The Christian Broadcasting Network) News on The 700 Club, and found high quality news programming without the supercilious Liberal bias of the major Networks.
Along with CBN's News broadcasts, I soon found myself getting interested in the testimonies of people who claimed that their lives had been changed by an encounter with God. I began staying tuned after the news to hear these stories, and the message of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. During those same years, 1981-1983, I watched President Reagan stand like a rock against the tides of political pressure that assailed him over the Air Traffic Controllers' strike, the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe, and his income-tax rate cuts. Reagan's steadfastness against the kind of pressure calculated to make politicians fold, made me concede that there must be a special power at work in his life. Knowing that he confessed faith in Christ helped me to open my theretofore closed mind to my own need for Jesus. In September of 1983 I gave my life to Christ and received forgiveness of sins and a new life in Him. That transformation is, without rival, the best thing that ever happened to me, and has shaped the whole course of my life since then.
While Ronald Reagan was saving America from malaise and Stagflation, and saving the World from Soviet Communism, God was also using Reagan's simple testimony of faith in Christ to change the life of an obscure young man, and by extension, the lives of my wife and children, and generations to come in our family (God only knows how many others could tell a similar tale). So, my deepest appreciation goes to a great man, for his heroic leadership of a great nation, and for his unashamed testimony that turned my attention to Jesus Christ and helped change my life for eternity. I look forward to shaking Ronald Reagan's hand in heaven one day, and telling him "thanks" in person.
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16