Eleven years ago, when Cerebus ended, Dave Sim decided to answer all of his back mail. A month or so later, he had his "Jeff Seiler Day" in which he answered multiple letters I had written over the previous year. After I received that letter, I decided to keep writing, and he kept his promise to answer every letter he received. And now, I have a foot-high stack of letters written and received over 10 years or so. I will be posting full paragraphs or pages of interesting excerpts from those letters every Saturday.
Here's my letter to Dave Sim from 14 June, 2004:
I'm jumping out of order today, as I have not yet received your reply to most recent letter. I wanted to send you the enclosed copy of Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's eulogy for President Reagan as soon as I could, as I thought you might enjoy it.
I remember Mr. Mulroney somewhat vaguely from the 1980s as a good PM, one who was perhaps a lesser light in the firmament of the conservative stars of that time. Certainly, he did not work as closely with Reagan as did Thatcher, but my memory of his was as a valuable ally in the efforts to eradicate communism.
I saw him on Charlie Rose's show Friday night and I was impressed all over again my what a phenomenally vibrant personality he is. He still has that "coffee-smooth" voice, to borrow a phrase I heard said by someone about Reagan. Whoever planned Mr. Reagan's funeral certainly made a sage choice in asking Mr. Mulroney to be one of those who eulogized him.
I'm curious as to what your views of President Reagan were when he was president and how they have changed over the past 20 years. I seem to recall that you were quite a bit more liberal in your politics back then, or am I mistaken?
Speaking of politics, I continue to follow the Canadian ones from afar, thanks to The Economist. It is certainly getting interesting. The Conservatives may just pull it off, eh?
Well, this was a short one. Just wanted to pass along that article, as I was curious as to how Canadians in general and you, specifically, responded to the passing of such a great man. Looking forward to your next letter/s, I remain,
Yours beyond 300,
From KOMO Staff & News Services, June 11, 2004
WASHINGTON, D.C.-- A text of former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's tribute to President Ronald Reagan.
In the spring of 1987, President Reagan and I were driven into a large hangar at Ottawa Airport, to await the arrival of Mrs. Reagan and my wife, Mila, prior to departure ceremonies for their return to Washington. We were alone, except for the security details.
President Reagan's visit had been important, demanding and successful. Our discussions reflected the international agenda of the times. The nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union and the missile deployment by NATO; pressures in the Warsaw pact; challenges resulting from the Berlin Wall and the ongoing separation of Germany; and bilateral and hemispheric free trade.
President Reagan had spoken to Parliament, handled complex files with skill and good humor--strongly impressing his Canadian hosts--and here we were, waiting for our wives.
When their car drove in a moment later, out stepped Nancy and Mila--looking like a million bucks. As they headed towards us, President Reagan beamed, threw his arm around my shoulder and said with a grin: "You know, Brian, for two Irishmen, we sure married up."
In that visit--in that moment--one saw the quintessential Ronald Reagan--the leader we respected, the neighbor we admired and the friend we loved--a president of the United States of America whose truly remarkable life we celebrate in this magnificent cathedral today.
Presidents and prime ministers everywhere sometimes wonder how history will deal with them.
Some can even evince a touch of the insecurity of Thomas d'Arcy McGee, an Irish immigrant to Canada, who became a Father of our Confederation. In one of his poems, McGee, thinking of his birthplace, wrote poignantly:
Next time: Dave Sim's thoughts on Ronald Reagan..."Am I remembered in ErinI charge you, speak me trueHas my name a sound, a meaningIn the scenes my boyhood knew?"
Ronald Reagan will not have to worry about Erin, because they remember him well and affectionately there. Indeed they do, from Erin to Estonia, from Maryland to Madagascar, from Montreal to Monterey. Ronald Reagan does not enter history tentatively--he does so with certainty and panache. At home and on the world stage, his were not the pallid etchings of a timorous politician. They were the bold strokes of a confident and accomplished leader.
Some in the West during the early 1980s believed communism and democracy were equally valid and viable. This was the school of “moral equivalence”. In contrast, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet communism as a menace to be confronted in the genuine belief that its squalid underpinning would fall swiftly to the gathering winds of freedom. Provided, as he said, that NATO and industrialized democracies stood firm and united. They did. And we know now who was right.
Ronald Reagan was a president who inspired his nation and transformed the world. He possessed a rare and prized gift called leadership--that ineffable and sometimes magical quality that sets some men and women apart so that millions will follow them as they conjure up grand visions and invite their countrymen to dream big and exciting dreams.
I always thought that President Reagan's understanding of the nobility of the presidency coincided with the American dream.
One day, President Mitterrand, in referring to President Reagan, said, "Il a vraiment la notion de l’Etat." Rough translation: "He really has a sense of the State about him." The translation does not fully capture the profundity of the observation: what President Mitterrand was that there is a vast difference between the job of president and the role of president.
Ronald Reagan fulfilled both with elegance and ease, embodying himself with that unusual alchemy of history, tradition, achievement, inspiration, conduct, and national pride that define the special role that the President of the United States must assume at home and around the world. "La notion de l’Etat"--no one understood it better than Ronald Reagan and no one more eloquently summoned his nation to high purpose or brought forth the majesty of the presidency, and made it glow, better that the man who saw his country as a "shining city on a hill".
May our common future and that of our great nations be guided by wise men and women who will remember always the golden achievements of the Reagan era and the success that can be theirs if the values of freedom and democracy are preserved, unsullied and undiminished, until the unfolding decades remember little else.
I have been truly blessed to have had a friend like Ronald Reagan. I am grateful that our paths crossed and that our lives touched. I shall always remember him with deepest admiration and affection and I shall always feel honored by the journey we traveled together in search of better and more peaceful tomorrows for all God’s children, everywhere.
And so, in the presence of his beloved and indispensable Nancy, his children, family, friends, and the American people he so deeply revered, I say "au revoir" today to a gifted leader, historic president and gracious human being. And, I do so with a line from Yeats, who wrote:
"Think where man's glory begins and endsAnd say--my glory was that I had such friends."