President Ronald Reagan would have been the last to claim that he single-handedly halted the brutal expansion of communism. That achievement required the joint efforts over several decades of countless freedom-loving leaders, as well as unsung heroes on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
But there can be no doubt about the significant role that Reagan played in stopping the spread of communism.
Most importantly, he implemented a long-overdue strengthening of U.S. military forces to counter the aggression of the Communist Soviet Union. But he also used his rhetorical skills to call repeatedly for freedom for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who lived under Marxist dictatorships.
It is true that the Berlin Wall didn't fall until his successor, fellow Republican President George H.W. Bush, was in office. But Reagan had laid the groundwork for that symbolic victory and for the defeat of communism.
So it is touching and appropriate that various nations that used to live under the harsh rule of the Soviets have placed statues of Reagan in prominent locations this year to mark 100 years since his birth.
In Poland, former President Lech Walesa, a staunch anti-communist himself, unveiled one such statue on a street in Warsaw.
"I wonder whether today's Poland, Europe and world could look the same without President Reagan," Walesa said. "As a participant in those events, I must say that it's inconceivable."
Statues of Reagan have gone up this year in nations such as Hungary and the Republic of Georgia, too.
Those are fitting reminders not only of the tireless efforts that our former president put in to roll back communism, but of our country's need to remain vigilant against any domestic or foreign threat of totalitarianism.