The sixth episode of the podcast - Ronald Wilson Reagan - Part I, 40th President, Actor and name sake of Regan Airport in Washington, DC. Enjoy!
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"If I could just make a personal statement of my own -- in these 3 1/2 years I have understood and known better than ever before the words of Lincoln, when he said that he would be the greatest fool on this footstool called Earth if he ever thought that for one moment he could perform the duties of that office without help from One who is stronger than all." - Ronald Reagan
If one quote can come close to capturing a man, then this quote by Ronald Reagan, the man known as the "Great Communicator," the President who called for the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin wall, the Commander in Chief who without remorse understood that strength was the best negotiating chip, does so better than almost any other. This quote captures Ronald Reagan's awe and acknowledgment of the Supreme Being, his sense and his love for history, and his knowledge that above all things, he was nothing more than a servant of his office and of the people and country he so loved and loved serving.
A child of Irish and Scotch parents, Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States, was born in humble circumstances - an apartment above a small bakery - in Tampico, Illinois to John Reagan and Nellie Clyde Wilson on February 6, 1911. The second of two boys, Ron Reagan was an outgoing boy who loved life, loved his mother and worked for everything he had from a young age. In an oddity for his time, Regan never addressed his father as dad, daddy or father - but by his first name only. This could be because even though Jack was a hard worker, he had a hard time holding jobs, he was also prone to bouts of drinking that left him out of favor with Nellie, Ron and his older brother Neil. Reagan also wore glasses from early in his youth, discovering he needed them one day while riding in the car and playing by putting on his mother's glasses - and realizing he could see the cows and the trees in the fields and by the road side that he'd never been able to see before.
On July 21, 1922, at the age of 11, Ronald Reagan was baptized at the Christian Church of Dixon, IL, the town that he always referred to as his home town. And while this one incident may seem small or insignificant in passing, it's important to note that at age 11, the young Ronald Reagan was serious about his faith and that this event is included in his biography and his own autobiography, "An American Life."
The ever affable and optimistic Reagan grew up with the gift to tell a story and was popular even as a youth. He was athletic, played sports, and he earned his money for both high school and college, as a lifeguard where he was credited with saving 77 lives. The earliest indication of his dedication to being involved in participatory government is illustrated by his election as a senior as the student body President of Dixon High School.
In June of 1932, Dutch Reagan (his father Jack nicknamed Regan "Dutch" when he was a baby) Graduated from Eureka College with a BA in economics and sociology. At Eureka he participated in drama, football and swimming. He also served as student body president and helped organize a student strike. After his graduation, he started work in radio as a temporary, and stayed working as an announcer through 1937. It was during this time, in 1933, that he did the famous call of the baseball game when he lost his telegraph reports from Chicago. With his usual imagination, charm and style, Reagan had the batter record what would have been one of the longest at-bats in MLB history while waiting for the telegraph feed to be restored. It was also during this period, in 1935, that Reagan enlisted as a private in the Army Reserve.
Spring of 1937 found Dutch at Spring Training in California covering the Cubs where he also did a screen test for Warner Bros. He was shortly thereafter signed as a contract player and made his first film in June of the same year. And thus began Regan's 53 movie film career. In those B films, Regan was most often the easy going male lead. In fact, his one foray into another type of roll - a villain - was saved for his last film in 1964.
It was in the movies that Reagan met his first wife of 9 years, Jane Wyman, and where he started with his second and long time wife Nancy Davis. And while the movies provided a comfortable career for Reagan, evidenced by his million dollar contract with Warner in 1945 - and folks a million dollars back then actually meant something! - more importantly, it was in Hollywood that the ever activist Dutch got involved with the Screen Actor's Guild which gave him his first opportunities for public campaigning and politics. During the Hollywood years, Reagan testified for the FBI regarding communism, served in the Army Air Corp as a Lieutenant, then Captain where his unit made over 400 training films, served as President of the Screen Actors Guild, negotiated a strike settlement and started campaigning for others running for office, including Truman and Nixon - the latter of which he did still as a Democrat.