“I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”
-Ronald Reagan, Alzheimer’s Letter
President Ronald Reagan was a larger-than-life personality and a figure of vast historical significance. History will not only remember him, but remember him kindly. Behind Reagan, there were thousands upon thousands of Reagan Revolutionaries—True Believers who wielded the same ingenuity and passion as Reagan, without the limelight.
One such revolutionary was Amy Ridenour, the founder of The National Center for Public Policy Research (“NCPPR”)—a conservative think tank— as well as a wife and mother of three children. Born in Pittsburgh, Ms. Ridenour ascended to deputy director of the College Republican National Committee before being graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in economics.
Under the leadership of Ms. Ridenour, NCPPR became a part of the constellation of think tanks that helped President Reagan withstand attacks from the political and cultural establishment surrounding D.C. The following anecdote deserves to be quoted in full:
On March 7, 1983, the day before a major nuclear freeze movement rally was to take place in Washington, D.C., Amy and other pro-defense leaders countering the freeze movement met with President Reagan at the White House.
The president confided that he feared his effort to rebuild America’s defenses and win the Cold War could fail because the media was against him.
Amy gave the president a pep talk and outlined a strategy she’d used to go around the mainstream media to reach the American people using alternative media, including talk radio, local community newspapers, and religious media.
President Reagan took her advice and that very afternoon personally added 13 lines to a speech he was scheduled to give to the National Association of Evangelicals the next day.
That speech would become known as the “Evil Empire” speech. It rallied support for the struggle against totalitarian Communism by framing it in moral terms.
To this point, everything that I have written could be found in other publications, written by much more prominent writers than myself. Yet my connection to Ms. Ridenour is of a more personal nature.
In 2009, NCPPR allowed this aimless seminary graduate to be their intern for a season. In that capacity, I got to know Amy’s (similarly formidable) husband, David. Together, they wielded the energy borne of the Reagan years for conservative causes.
One of the mainstays at NCPPR and friend of the Ridenours, David Almasi, helped me direct my academic writing into more digestible form and get published. He also posted the write-up about Amy quoted above. Through NCPPR, I was able to take my soon-to-be-bride to attend a gathering of Reagan-era activists in honor of Paul Weyrich. Long after my time at NCPPR, I was still welcome at annual gatherings of NCPPR alumni with the Ridenours. They were always gracious.
While I did not know Amy nearly as well as so many others, she was a mentor to one of my heroes—my sister, Jennifer Biddison, who has worked for NCPPR for about a decade now and had a close working relationship with Amy. Amy helped my sister establish herself as a working mom and encouraged her along the way. Amy was not only a warrior for conservative causes, but for people. My sister is not an emotional person, but when Amy told her that she had cancer, my sister wept.
The best tribute to Amy’s personal side came from her husband on the day of her passing: “Amy wasn’t only my wife, the mother of my children and the love of my life. She was my mentor, my sounding board, my co-CEO, my rudder and my best friend. She was the best part of me and without her I will never again be complete.”
Conservatism lost a warrior in Amy Ridenour, and so did her husband and their three precious children. May the same God who strengthened Amy in her last battle on this side of Heaven now strengthen her family and friends. They alone know that Amy was even greater than the legacy she leaves behind.
Amy Ridenour died on March 31st at age 57. RIP.
Stephen Roberts is an Army Reserve chaplain, writer and evangelist living near Milwaukee. He is a regular contributor to Political Storm.