Walk into the better days of tomorrow by looking at days past.
1939. Loud, violent German tanks storm into Poland. War drums beat once more in Europe. Across the Atlantic, it is quiet. A father takes his 9-year-old son to the movies. A ticket costs twenty-three cents. Ushered to their seats, the lights dim and the projector flashes.
“Code of the Secret Service”
A “B-Movie.” Never intended or destined to win any Academy Awards. Even if nominated, what chance could it have against the Juggernaut? Gone with the Wind spellbound audiences and critics alike. The closing scene provides the backdrop for the most memorable line in Cinema:
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Code of the Secret Service has no such lines. Running 58 minutes, it has faded from cinematic memory. The young 9-year-old boy, munching his popcorn, never forgot it. Like many young boys at the time, he could have wanted to be like Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Whatever the aspirations our 9-year-old had before the movie, they had changed forever. He wanted to become a Secret Service Agent. 23 years later, he became the oldest cadet in his class.
March 30, 1981. Three months earlier, the President swore into office. He gives a speech at the Washington Hotel. At the speech’s conclusion, he exits for the Limousine. Six shots ring out. Chaos ensues; people swarming. Another attempt on a President’s life. The results of which were unknown to everyone. Our Agent, now 51, covers the President and rushes him into the limousine.
No one in the limousine can confirm if a bullet hit the President. Meanwhile, the limousine is en route to the White House. Our Agent checks the President for gunshot wounds. The President coughs blood; bright crimson. A delirious President assumes a cut lip. Our Agent assumes worse. He tells the driver to change course to George Washington University Hospital.
“I’m having a hard time breathing,” mutters the President as he collapses in the Emergency Room. Nurses choke back tears. Medical personnel reconcile that the newly-elected Commander-in-Chief could have minutes to live. A bullet indeed pierced the President’s flesh, burying itself in his lung; collapsing it. The bullet stopped 25mm from his heart. If the limousine had gone to the White House, Lady Death would have taken him. Every decision mattered. The nine-year-old who dreamt of becoming the bulwark to the President, grew up to save the President’s life.
The President: Ronald Reagan.
Who played the role of Brass Bancroft in Code of the Secret Service? The movie, released 42 years earlier that inspired the young boy? Ronald Reagan.
Let that sink in. Take your time.
If you’re reading this, you are in the middle of or starting a quest for better fitness. You never know who is watching. Your decisions can inspire someone and stir up a courage in their hearts. Your decisions have consequences beyond your personal success. Finding success isn’t difficult. Reaching significance is more complicated. There is no ladder tall enough to reach that apex. The realization of significance is in the positive impact you make on others. This includes those you never intended to affect. Your audience can be a nine-year-old or a ninety-nine-year-old. We need more inspired and courageous hearts.
The nine-year-old was Jerry Parr, born 1930 in Montgomery, AL. He received multiple accolades for his role in Reagan’s assassination attempt and years of service. He was a technical advisor on the Clint Eastwood film In the Line of Fire. He died on October 9, 2015, from congestive heart failure.
White House Press Secretary James Brady, Agent Tim McCarthy, and Officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded that day in March. All survived but Brady was permanently disabled as a result. He died on August 4, 2014. The “Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act” or “Brady Bill” was named in his honor.
The failed assassin, John Hinckley, Jr. was tried and found not-guilty by reason of “insanity.” He remained under psychiatric care until 2016. At the time of this article, he is 63 and lives with his mother in Virginia.
Joe DiMaggio played for 13 years in Major League Baseball, all for the New York Yankees. A decorated player, his most notable achievement is the famed “56-Game Hitting Streak.” It is widely considered the most respected record in all professional sports. His teammate, Lou Gehrig, the “Iron Horse” retired in that fateful year, 1939, after his diagnosis of ALS.
Gone with the Wind was a romantic drama set during the Civil War and Reconstruction. It won 8 Academy Awards, including Hattie McDaniel, the first Black Woman ever to win an Oscar. The film was not without controversy for its depiction of Black people. Adjusted for inflation, it is the highest-grossing film of all-time; 3.6 Billion dollars.
Code of the Secret Service was the second of a four-part series on Agent Brass Bancroft. The series was an answer to the movies of the 1930’s that glorified gangsters like Little Caesar starring Edward G. Robinson, The Public Enemy starring James Cagney, and Scarface, produced by Howard Hughes. Reagan, speaking about the movie considered it “The worst picture I ever made.”
President Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States. He served two terms from 1981-1989. He died on June 5, 2004, from pneumonia; a complication from Alzheimer’s Disease. He was President during the first 8 years of my life. I still weep when I hear him say, ” Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” I remember my mother and uncles screaming in jubilation when German citizens on both sides began dismantling the Berlin Wall. I was too young to grasp the significance. This was November 9, 1989.
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