We all know that story about way back when—probably one of the first Republicans was running here in the South for office, out soliciting votes, and he was rejected by one gentleman who said to him, ‘I’m a Democrat, always been a Democrat, my pappy was a Democrat, and my grandpappy was a Democrat.’ And the candidates made the mistake of saying, ‘Well, if your pappy was a jackass and your grandpappy was a jackass, what would that make you?’ And he says, ‘A Republican.’ ”
~ Ronald Reagan, Remarks at a Fund-raising Luncheon for Senator Jeremiah Denton in Birmingham, Alabama, June 6, 1985. Read the full text here.
President Reagan will be remembered as one of America’s most popular and beloved presidents. But history will also remember him for his outstanding sense of humor, which formed a critical part of his bond with the American people.
He used humor to address a wide array of issues, ranging from his relationship with Congress and the press to dealing with Democrats, bureaucrats and Communists. He also used a lot of self-effacing humor, a strategy that increased his popularity and helped him defuse specific issues such as his age and the accusation of not being a very hard worker—to which he used to respond with this characteristic jibe: “Hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?”
I must confess that his sense of humor is one of the reasons why I’ve always been a big fan of him. As Mark Twain once put it, “Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.”