The fall of the Soviet Union, when discussed today, is often in a most dismissive and anti-factual tone.
“It was inevitable,” “The West had little role in it,” and the Cold War was not “won” but was instead “ended.” Most mainstream outlets and liberal colleges are loath to give any credit to Ronald Reagan and dismiss him as, at most, happening to be there at the end, as if he were a Chauncey Gardner character.
Thus, the notion that Reagan and Pope John Paul II had any influence at all is downright laughable to them.
Yet that is precisely what "The Divine Plan" by Robert Orlando and Paul Kengor has so artfully revealed. Orlando is a superb documentarian, a Renaissance Man, and scholar of longstanding. Dr. Kengor is one of today’s most important historians, especially with regard to Ronald Reagan and Reagan’s faith.
I have the distinct pleasure of being friends with both these individuals and when approached, to offer insight for their documentary, I was overjoyed. Not simply to work alongside two colleagues I respect, but to take part in revealing one of the most fascinating, important, and overlooked aspects of the end of the Cold War: the victory over Soviet communism, one of the greatest events of the last 100 years of human history.
The film follows the surprisingly interwoven history of Pope John Paul II and Reagan.
Both these men came from unremarkable and inauspicious roots. They leaned into their faith to guide them through the adversity of their youth, and earned positions of great power and influence. They both performed as actors at an early age. They both, separated by only six weeks, survived violent assassination attempts. While many of these similarities could be dismissed, it is what they did with their power that makes a divine hand difficult to deny. They knew the Soviets were evil and the West was good. And they believed it was their divine destiny to conquer and destroy an Evil Empire.
Seeing the brutal and violent threat to freedom that the false promise of communism posed to men and women around the world, both men actively used their power to liberate men and women robbed of that freedom. Despite criticism, from within and without, they were steadfast in their public convictions that the Soviet Union was an evil presence in the extreme.
The Soviet system was evil and it and those who promulgated the system needed to be stopped and the system smashed.
This film features some of the most prominent and respected intellectual leaders in both conservative and Catholic circles today. It was an honor to be counted among them. Even with my extensive background as a Reagan scholar, biographer, and historian, there were new and fascinating perspectives to be learned, from my peers. It was stirring to see that so many were still inspired by the work of these two great leaders.
My wife Zorine and I went to the premier in Fredericksburg and were elated to find the theatre sold out. The audience watched — enraptured. Then, an astonishing thing happened. Near the end, patrons teared-up watching footage of these two great men; they followed with a burst of spontaneous applause, at the conclusion.
Documentaries like this are intrinsically important, as history cannot be trusted to liberals. Liberals are incapable of reporting the facts without bending them to the service of power. The Washington Post, in the eight years of Reagan’s presidency, often, editorially took the side of Moscow over that of their own country, their own president. Same with the networks like NBC, which explains why the Post and NBC will never report on this important new film. No matter. They no longer count. They are remnants of an old and discarded form of collectivism, a national joke, if now an old joke.
"The Divine Plan" is also a reminder of the greatness that great men of integrity are capable of. In the worst of times they rise to the occasion, unlike many who strut upon the world stage today, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Reagan and John Paul II were full of great sound and powerful fury, signifying everything.
Pope John Paul II was righty declared a saint several years ago by the Vatican, having fulfilled his greatness, his divine mission. And Reagan, while not officially declared a saint by any institution, is nonetheless beloved by his countrymen for his great deeds. Good thing too, because the same ilk of liberals who run media organizations and academies also run the Nobel Prize. They did not possess the intellectual integrity to rightfully present the peace prize to either Reagan or John Paul II for freeing millions imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain. Instead, they gave it to Mikhail Gorbachev, who simply had the wisdom to get on his knees and surrender.
Like Reagan and John Paul II, "The Divine Plan" is important not simply for its views but for the time in which it expresses them. We need to be reminded of the greatness of the past as a lesson for the future. The role of faith in freedom is all but dismissed by many today. The “faith leader” in the world of politics is treated as an anachronism. Even prominent progressive presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s public avowal of faith and its importance to his life is treated as inconvenient at best, and deeply problematic at worse, by much of his own base.
In a time when many of our leaders seem adrift in a sea of cheap talking points and false narratives, now is the time that men and women must anchor themselves to the simple and honest truths of faith that can guide them through the most complex and corrupt of times. Faith and freedom go hand in hand, just as collectivism and slavery go hand in hand.
"The Divine Plan" reminds us that even the most evil of empires can be toppled when two men anchor themselves to the honest truths of faith. Kudos, plaudits, and accolades to Kengor and Orlando for having today what so few in the liberal kommentariat have: intellectual integrity.
Craig Shirley is a Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian. His books include, “Reagan’s Revolution, The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started it All,” “Rendezvous with Destiny, Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America,” "Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years," and “ Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan." He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, “December, 1941” and his new 2019 book, “Mary Ball Washington,” a definitive biography of George Washington’s mother. Shirley lectures frequently at the Reagan Library and the Reagan Ranch. He has been named the First Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, Ronald Reagan’s alma mater and will teach a class this fall at the University of Virginia on Reagan. He appears regularly on Newsmax TV, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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