Why is it that Americans seem able to be united only in times of tragedy or crisis? An experience like the terrible attempt on the life of President Reagan brings all people together in prayers for his recovery and outrage at the vicious attack on his life.

And that feeling cuts across the political spectrum. Even the most outspoken opponents of his economic program, including myself, like him as a human being, respect the office he holds, and abhor violence of any kind, especially violence of the sort we witnessed in Washington.

I want to back him when I think he is right. And I want to oppose him when I think he is wrong. I want the opportunity to educate him to my way of thinking and, if I fail, want to know that I must respect his views with the same tolerance with which he must respect mine.

And in a democracy, I do not want a man with a gun to deprive me of my president, for, right or wrong, he is my president and the symbol of my nation's authority and leadership. America chose Ronald Reagan to be its president, and all Americans want him to serve his term in the White House for the next four years.

The president is president of all of the people, and all of the people have a stake in his ability to discharge the functions of his office. We all have a stake in the stability of the government. We all realize that our freedoms are endangered when dangerous weapons in the hands of people with twisted minds replace the political process.

As one who has been the victim of a similar attack, I know what the president is going through, and he has my prayers and hopes for a complete recovery.