One of the unmitigated joys for an American living in London is to be part of the great Anglo-American friendship that transcends all political, religious or other differences. The Ronald Reagan Centennial Banquet on Monday night at Guild Hall was a glorious celebration of that historical and magical link. Festooned in Union Jacks and the Stars and Stripes, with the 800 year old walls adorned by the larger-than-life statues of Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, William Pitt and Sir Winston Churchill, the Guild Hall was the perfect setting to celebrate the greatness of two nations. The seven hundred guests were led by Foreign Secretary William Hague, Defence Secretary Liam Fox and former Prime Minister John Major. The generosity of Britain in celebrating our former President made this American grateful and proud of our shared values and shared history.
To provide such an evening in celebration of the man who, as Margaret Thatcher once said, "ended the Cold War without firing a shot," was generous and lovely and powerful. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a beautiful speech about the freedom that was won when the Berlin Wall came down, about how unlikely it was when my generation was born, about how the generation being born now that might not understand how hard it was and about how it truly changed the world. William Hague gave an inspired speech about our nations standing together to reject oppression and to give optimism to people around the world. It was all together a wonderful night.
And yet, for this American, there was one glaring problem: No official of the Obama administration was present, not even the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James. It seemed so small, so wrong, so characteristic of the Obama Administration.
President Obama's early act to remove the statue of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office, his first press conference in London where he was asked if he believed in American exceptionalism and said yes, "just like the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism," and the Obama doctrine as described by one of his officials in The New Yorker as "leading from behind" all stood in stark contrast to what the British celebrated last night in the Guild Hall. The British seem to understand better than the White House the vital role of America in the evolution of the world. With gratitude and pride they stood up to celebrate all that we share and achieve together as nations, our pride in our power to alter the course of human affairs for the better. Every speech, gesture and trumpet sound resonated with the belief that America and Britain will always be great together. Ronald Reagan inspired us that night with the memory of how we can change history with the power of our ideas and an unflinching commitment to the values and principles that have always made Britain and America great. In the eye of history, Ronald Reagan was not a Republican or a Democrat. He was a great American President who truly changed the world.