I came to América a little more than six years ago, dreaming about freedom and prosperity after living through the downfall of Venezuela’s economy and society under the heavy weight of socialism.
Oct 05, 2022
If you had told me seven years ago, as I was looking to leave Venezuela, that I would be speaking at the Reagan Ranch Center and visiting the ranch where former President Ronald Reagan lived, I wouldn’t have believed you.
But that’s exactly what I did last week when I spoke to more than 100 college students at the Young America’s Foundation Road to Freedom Seminar at the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, California.
In my speech , I told students about what living under socialism in Venezuela was like, and I broke down which socialist policies destroyed Venezuela’s economy. Venezuela is the most relevant example of socialism for America because it’s the only socialist country that wasn’t taken over by a coup or invasion – the people democratically elected the socialist leaders who destroyed a once-rich nation.
By the time I was in high school in Venezuela, I couldn’t fit enough cash in my wallet to pay for lunch in my school cafeteria. I had to stand in line for hours to buy essentials, live at the mercy of an unpredictable black market for goods, and suffer constant blackouts and water shortages. Living in Venezuela lit up my interest in economics, and I learned that socialism was the root cause of the crisis I was living through. I also discovered there were countries and leaders elsewhere doing things differently. One of those leaders was Ronald Reagan.
I learned about Reagan at a young age. My dear grandfather, an immigrant from Spain in Venezuela, was an avid reader and a fan of American cowboy novels and movies, and he knew of Reagan from his acting days. I started watching old YouTube videos of Reagan’s speeches, debates, and, of course, his famous jokes. I was inspired by Reagan’s relentless advocacy for the freedom of all those who lived under socialist regimes like me, and by the success of his economic policies, which prioritized simpler and lower taxes, free trade, and fewer regulations. Without Reagan, I don’t think I would have been moved to come to América.
As I walked around the ranch last week, I thought about all the people who took steps on the property before me. There, Reagan met with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev as he sought to win the Cold War and bring peace and freedom to the world; he rode horses with Queen Elizabeth II; and he had many walks with his friend and our ally former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. I imagined what it must have been like to be at the ranch almost exactly 41 years ago when he signed his historic tax cuts in front of his home.
Inside Reagan’s home, I was surprised to find how frugal Reagan was – though perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Instead of buying a queen or king bed for him and his wife, Reagan tied together two small twin beds. He was so tall that his feet didn’t rest in the bed, so he placed a little table at the end of his side of the bed to lay them. Likewise, instead of buying a fence for his ranch, he and his friends collected old cable posts and made a recycled fence with them.
I also learned just how much his Secret Service agents admired and enjoyed working for him. Agent Mike McMillin remarked that he “absolutely loved the man … he was just an absolutely extraordinary person.” He was not alone: Agent Paul Dudash said Reagan “was what you saw, and an unbeatable person.” This is a common theme among those who knew Reagan. He was well-known for his kindness, humor, and goodwill. Reagan wasn’t just a great president – he was a great man.
I am grateful for what YAF does to preserve this piece of American history, and I recommend that all college students take the opportunity the organization offers to visit the Reagan ranch and learn about the values that make America great. For this Venezuelan immigrant who grew up under socialism, the Reagan ranch was an unforgettable experience.
Read More: Washington Examiner – From Venezuela to the Reagan ranch: How I left socialism to pursue economic freedom