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Ronald Wilson Reagan Case Study

AS SEEN IN USA TODAY NEWS SECTION, FRI-SUN, JUNE 11-13, 2004, PAGE 2A

Cuban-American praises influence on both Cuba, America

Reagan's staunch anti-communism meant continued chilly U.S. relations with Fidel Castro's Cuba. The fiercely anti-Castro Cuban exile community in Miami revered Reagan and formed a solidly Republican voting bloc.

On May 20, 1983, President Reagan visited Miami for a celebration of Cuban Independence Day. He addressed thousands of Cuban- Americans and ate lunch at a restaurant in the city's Little Havana district. A sandwich and a street were named in his honor.

Pedro Rodriguez, 57, remembers that visit well. He also remembers another visit, after Reagan had left office, when the former president spoke to 20,000 cheering Cuban- Americans at the Orange Bowl. "He

was wearing a white guayabera shirt," says Rodriguez, a self-employed naval architect. "It's a very cool shirt."

Miami's Cuban-Americans found Reagan a champion of their loathing for Fidel Castro, the communist dictator of the island nation. But that's not why Rodriguez counts himself among the thousands of Cubans who were among Reagan's most fervent supporters.

"My first memory of him was when he was the governor of California," Rodriguez says. "When he got the governorship, the state was a bit messy. When he left, he left it with a surplus. My initial impression was that he was a person of conviction. He would do what he thought was appropriate to fix things."

Rodriguez, a board member of the Cuban American National Foundation, a powerful lobbying group, says he feels that Reagan helped America hold up its head again.

"When he ran against Mr. (Jimmy) Carter, the economy was in shambles, we had 21% interest rates, we had the trouble with the Iran hostages," he says. "I felt like he (Reagan) was a person who could restore the faith in our country, what we believe."

He also liked Reagan's handling of striking air traffic controllers. "He told them, 'You have a federal job with national security involved. In your contract, you said you were not going to strike,' " Rodriguez says. "They struck, they were fired."

By Larry Copeland

Father fears that son's sacrifice in Beirut will be forgotten

On Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide truck bomber destroyed a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. The attack killed 241 Americans serving as peacekeepers in Lebanon. The United States withdrew

its troops from months later.

Lebanon five

A flagpole stands outside the condominium where Jack and Judy Young live in Moorestown, N.J. Jack put it up when they moved in, natural enough for an Army vet and the father of two Marines.

"It is mean-spirited, I know," the

father says. opens wounds."

"But

this

just

The barracks bombing was a huge embarrassment for the Reagan administration and devastation for the families of the 241 men killed.

The peacekeeping mission prompted by the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut six months before

  • ended with the remaining U.S.

troops leaving Lebanon.

failures after the Beirut bombings were a precursor to those raised 18 years later by the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Youngs and other Beirut families have tried to help the families of Americans killed in subsequent terrorist attacks. Judy, now 64, started a support group for families of those killed in Lebanon. She is now a vice president of Gold Star Mothers, women whose children

have died the military.

while

serving

in

Today, as ceremonies continue for Ronald Reagan, the American flag will fly from the top of the pole. Jack Young, whose son Jeff was killed in the 1983 suicide bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, won't lower it to half-staff.

"I'll respect (Reagan) as a president," says Jack Young, 68, a retired manager for a grocery store chain. "But this is part of history that should be told, and it should be told on the front page."

In 1999, the Youngs laid flowers at the site of the Marine barracks. "It's just like those that go to Ground Zero," Jack Young says. "We wanted to do that from Day One."

The questions of intelligence

By Martha T. Moore

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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