Commentary: Memories of Ronald Regan

By Ken Joseph Jr.

Baghdad, Iraq - It was October of 1989 - just days before the fall of the Berlin Wall and President Ronald Reagan was in,  of all places, Tokyo, Japan where I was born and raised.

 Days before I had given a speech at Chuo University, in Tokyo. following the terrible San Francisco Earthquake .

 After the speech I challenged the students to do something. 38 students, formed a team and were preparing to leave to San Francisco to work with the Salvation Army, in a trip that was to become the first private,  overseas Disaster Response in Japanese History.

 Suddenly in the middle of the preparations to leave,  we received a telephone call. President Reagan was staying the nearby Okura Hotel, the caller said,  and had seen a note about the team going to San Francisco from Japan to help with the earthquake. He wanted to meet the team and help send them off. Would it be ok?

 Thinking first it must be a joke, we confirmed, and in fact it was the President who was in Japan to give a speech.

 It was a excited team of Japanese College Students, that got all ready and went the few minutes to the nearby Okura Hotel.

 There, in his own hotel room, President Ronald Reagan greeted each Japanese College Student, individually, shook their hands and thanked them for preparing to go all the way to San Francisco to help with the earthquake disaster

 No press was there. Nobody knew. It was just a quiet, private moment with a great man and a group of young people.

 Sitting in Baghdad, at another time, another place and another disaster, watching the tributes to President Reagan, I remembered that moment.

 Great men are great men because it seems God give them something that changes their hearts and makes them `great` all the time.

 They are not `great` when the cameras are running and then, quickly frisked away? No, they are great all the time - great enough to take time with a couple young people, who may become `great` too one day.

 I think President Ronald Reagan was thinking on that bright, October morning in Tokyo, Japan, nearly 15 years ago that he could pass on a bit of that `greatness` to those kids . . . well, he did!

 That team of 38 students went on to form The Japan Emergency Team, Japan`s only non-government related disaster response team and currently, the only Japanese NGO operating in Iraq!

 To date nearly 1,000 students, doctors, office workers and people from all walks of life have participated in 73 disaster response operations in nearly every natural and made disaster since that time!

 The twinkle in President Ronald Reagan's eye that day, as he spoke to each student must have been the `twinkle` of knowing that the `greatness` was transferring to each . .   and they didnít even know it!

 I think somewhere in heaven, Ronald Reagan is looking down with a big smile on his face and saying to himself `not bad, not bad!`

 After all, he had learned the real secret of greatness - the ability to pass it on. . .

 But it all started from a quiet hotel room in Tokyo, Japan . .

Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. is an Assyrian, directs, and is completing a book about his experiences entitled 'I Was Wrong.'