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In 1932, Ronald Reagan registered as a Democrat and cast his first vote for FDR, who captivated him with his Fireside chats. As a young man, Ronald Reagan also respected the ideas of fellow Democrat Woodrow Wilson, citing this quote: “Liberty has never come from government…. The history of liberty is the history of limitation of government’s power, not the increase of it.” Ronald Reagan believed he was a Democrat through and through. Self-described as a “near hopeless hemophilic liberal” who “bled for causes,” Reagan continued to support Democratic candidates. In 1948, he hit the campaign trail for Hubert Humphrey and Harry Truman because he “wasn’t a tax-and-spend Democrat.” However, Ronald Reagan’s positions began to change in the ‘50s. General Dwight Eisenhower was considering a run for the Presidency and was encouraged to do so by many Americans. The problem was that no one knew which political party he would lead. To force the issue, in 1952 Reagan joined several other Democrats in sending a telegram to Eisenhower urging him to run for President as a Democrat. Once Eisenhower decided to run on the Republican ticket, Ronald Reagan campaigned and voted for him, believing he was the best man for the job and casting his first Republican vote. By 1960, Ronald Reagan believed that the Democratic Party was no longer the party of Thomas Jefferson or Woodrow Wilson, saying, “I realized the real enemy wasn’t big business, it was big government.”
These past few months have both divided our country and brought us back together. Racism is a universal challenge. There is no society on earth that is free from racism. While the US and other countries have made progress to be less racist, racism still exists. Of course, we should not accept racism in any form. We can do better. Racism goes against core American values, values that President Reagan stood up for every day -- equality and freedom. In 1987, during an address to high school students on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, President Reagan declared, “We cannot be complacent about racism and bigotry. And I would challenge all of you to pledge yourselves to building an America where incidents of racial hatred do not happen.” Let’s listen.
Ronald Reagan believed strongly in equality for all – regardless of age, gender, race or religion. In this words to live by podcast we are going to focus on President Reagan’s part in advancing the role of women. In a previous podcast we discussed how Ronald Reagan pledged, during his 1980 presidential campaign, to nominate the first woman to the US Supreme Court, as he felt this nomination was long overdue. In addition, each year in August, he issued a proclamation for Women’s Equality Day, which coincided with the August 26, 1920 passing of the 19th amendment to the constitution becoming a law – which granted women the right to vote. In his 1985 proclamation he wrote, “In every field of endeavor, women have made notable contributions to our national life. Their achievements have shown that America's women are a tremendous human resource for our Nation -- an inexhaustible reserve of talent, imagination, and ambition. Today, women have an unparalleled degree of opportunity to decide what they want to achieve in their lives. Whether they devote themselves to raising families or to pursuing careers, their contributions to America are leaving an indelible mark on our Nation's life. In the years ahead, their accomplishments will continue to shape profoundly our Nation's destiny. And in 1982, he wrote, “women have faithfully carried out responsibilities at all levels of government, in every area of employment and education, and in the nurturing of families and children. Today, more than ever, we honor women for their contribution in helping to make America great. Let us help pledge anew to dedicate our efforts to ensure equality of opportunity for every citizen of the United States.” On September 8, 1988, President Reagan addressed Executive Women in Government, saying “you represent the leading edge of a great wave of progress for American women.” Let’s listen.
Throughout her life, Nancy Reagan served in many roles. First as actress, wife and mother, then as First Lady of both California and the United States. In recognition of Mrs. Reagan’s tireless efforts on behalf of her husband, the nation, and the Foundation which bears her husband’s name, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute is honoring her with the Nancy Reagan Centennial from July 6, 2021-July 6, 2022. This year-long commemoration will be filled with celebratory events, content rich programming, and special projects that will highlight her many contributions to the nation and her life of extraordinary achievements. “Some have called Nancy Reagan a diplomat for her time as First Lady of the United States. Others see her as a bridgebuilder,” said Fred Ryan, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. “But without question, many people called Nancy Reagan one of the strongest partners ever to serve as First Lady to a President of the United States, with a deep passion for her country and even deeper devotion for her husband.” To celebrate this upcoming Centennial year – and honor Nancy Reagan for a life of extraordinary achievements – the Reagan Foundation and Institute will feature important milestones in her life through a series of programs, including the creation of the Nancy Reagan Youth Fund, a forum in Washington, D.C. dedicated to the role of First Ladies, a special exhibit at the Reagan Library, educational curriculum for schools across the country using primary source materials, an essay/video contest for schoolchildren with scholarship rewards, a Centennial Surrogate Speakers program and the commissioning of a Nancy Reagan statue, amongst other endeavors.
After college, at the age of 22, Ronald Reagan, according to his autobiography, achieved his dream of becoming a sports announcer at WHO radio in Des Moines. Of the experience he wrote, “if I had stopped there, I believe I would have been happy the rest of my life.” The job brought him to California to cover the Chicago Cubs training camp on Catalina Island, which led him to screen test for Warner Brothers, and the rest his history! Of all the years he played sports, he’s probably most known for playing George Gipp in the movie, “Knute Rockne: All American.” As President, Ronald Reagan liked to incorporate sports whenever he could – throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game, playing a round of golf, welcoming athletes to the White House, and even hosting a little league game on the White House South Lawn in 1983. In June of 1981, President Reagan spoke at a White House reception opening for a “champions of American sport” exhibition. Let’s listen.
Ronald Reagan brought this passion to honor POWs and those Missing in Action to the White House. On June 12, 1981, he issued a proclamation, making July 17, 1981, as national POW-MIA Recognition Day. In the proclamation he wrote, “Throughout American history, our prisoners of war have been called upon to make uncommon sacrifices. In fulfilling their duty as citizens of the United States they have defended American ideals while suffering unimaginable indignities under the absolute control of the enemy. They remained steadfast even while their treatment contravened international understandings and violated elementary consideration of compassion and morality.” Let's listen.
When choosing a site for his presidential library, Ronald Reagan fell in love with the vistas from what is now our Simi Valley campus. He specifically selected the property’s west side for his Memorial Site. Facing the Pacific Ocean, the location is home to beautiful Southern California sunsets, horse trails, and an endless sky. On June 5, 2004, at the age of 93, President Ronald Wilson Reagan passed away, with his wife and family at his side. In honor of this week commemorating the 14th anniversary of his passing, this week’s “Words to Live By” will be different. Rather than hearing the President speak, we are going to hear from those who knew and loved him the most. Pulling from our past events and from the eulogies of his funeral, this “Words to Live By” podcast is a tribute to our nation’s 40th president.
President Reagan had many political allies. We often write and talk about his relationship and friendship with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. And, of course, we also talk and write about his relationship, and ultimately friendship, with the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev. Another leader with whom President Reagan had a special rapport was Pope John Paul II. As a best-selling author, Craig Shirley wrote in a 2015 Op/Ed, “Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were men of the same moment. They were both horrified by nuclear war, they both hated communism and the Soviet Union, they both had been shot but survived and they both forgave their assailants.” As we recall, President Reagan survived his assassination attempt on March 30, 1981. Just six weeks later, on May 13, 1981, so did the Pope. Upon hearing the news of the shooting, President Reagan issued this message to the Pope: Let's listen.
In 1981, during his first few months as President, Ronald Reagan was working towards his goal of limiting government spending and cutting budgets where needed. But on May 6, 1981, he established a Presidential Task Force on the Arts and Humanities, saying, “I am naming this Task Force because of my deep concern for the arts and humanities in America. Our cultural institutions are an essential national resource; they must be kept strong. While I believe firmly that the Federal Government must reduce its spending, I am nevertheless sympathetic to the very real needs of our cultural organizations and hope the Task Force will deliver to my desk by Labor Day a plan to make better use of existing Federal resources and to increase the support for the arts and humanities by the private sector.”On October 14, 1981, President and Mrs. Reagan held a White House Luncheon for members of the task force. Following the luncheon, he gave remarks. Let’s listen:
Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Holocaust Day, is observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. Known as Yom HaShoah in Israel, the national memorial day is held on the Jewish Calendar’s 27th day of Nisan, which falls in April or May on our calendar. In 2021, the memorial fell on sundown of April 7 through sundown of April 8. During his remarks, President Reagan said, “The tragedy that ended 36 years ago was still raw in our memories, because it took place, as we've been told, in our lifetime. We share the wounds of the survivors. We recall the pain only because we must never permit it to come again.” On April 20, 1982, President Reagan delivered remarks for the 2nd annual commemoration of the days of remembrance of victims of the holocaust. Let’s listen.
As we continue to commemorate the 40th anniversary year of Ronald Reagan becoming our nation’s president, we come to April 24, 2021, which marks the 40th anniversary of Ronald Reagan sending a letter to Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev to try to begin a discussion and negotiation on the Soviet Union’s arms buildup. In March of 1983, President Reagan addressed the nation on defense and national security to discuss America’s defenses and the increases in America’s military build-up. During the speech, he spoke about Secretary Brezhnev. Let’s listen.
Since April is National Humor Month, in this week’s Words to Live by podcast, we take a look at how President Reagan used humor to ease a crowd or to make a point, and to have fun while doing it. President Reagan never ceased to poke fun of his own age. He joked he was as old as Moses, that he knew some of our founding fathers, and that every birthday was an anniversary celebration of his 39th birthday.