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Feb. 6, 1911 - June 5, 2004

My father used to take long horseback rides at our Malibu ranch — sometimes with me, but often alone. He began taking these rides when he was a young actor, perhaps using the time to decipher a character. Decades later, he relied on them when he faced weighty political decisions. He could leave the world behind and wander, drinking in the quiet around him and exploring the quiet within himself.

There is a calm confidence to people who know the importance of solitude. My father wasn't distracted by some pressing agenda. He didn't construct his life according to a blueprint. He knew the value of a good story, a good joke, and took the time to tell both with flourish. His eyes never darted around the room. He looked at whomever he was speaking to, and they knew he saw them.

I have met people who shook hands with my father 40 years ago, before he was president and only for a few moments. They recall how important he made them feel. Thousands of people standing along freeways as the motorcade carrying my father's casket passed by felt that too, even though most of them had never met him. He touched many lives. It's the best legacy anyone can leave behind. (After a long battle with Alzheimer's, Reagan died of pneumonia in Los Angeles.)

Originally posted Dec 27, 2004 Published in issue #799-800 Dec 31, 2004 Order article reprints

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