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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.
In this week’s Words to Live By, we honor St. Patrick’s Day, the cultural and religious celebration held each year on March 17th, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland. The holiday has evolved over the years into a celebration of Irish culture with parades, special foods, music, dancing, drinking…and a whole lot of green! Ronald Reagan’s ancestral homeland was Ballyporeen, Ireland, and he was extremely proud of his Irish roots. In June of 1984, during a diplomatic mission to Ireland, President and Mrs. Reagan visited Ballyporeen, where he discovered a local pub named in his honor!
The White House Press Secretary is a senior White House official whose primary responsibility is to act as spokesperson for the executive branch of the federal government of the United, States, especially with regard to the president, senior aides and executives, as well as government policies. The press secretary is responsible for collecting information about actions and events within the president's administration and issues the administration's reactions to developments around the world. The press secretary interacts with the media and the White House press corps on a daily basis. President Reagan selected James Brady for his first White House Press Secretary. Just 40 when Ronald Reagan gave him the White House job, he had already served as a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon, and for the failed presidential campaign of Texas Republican John Connally.Exactly two months into the job, on March 21, 1981, President Reagan joined in the fun during a roast in honor of Press Secretary Brady.
While in office, President Reagan visited 26 foreign countries, and countless U.S. cities, traveling over 660,000 miles in Air Force One – more than any other president at that time. His first visit outside of the United States? To Canada, in March of 1981. We learn more about this trip in this week’s Words To Live By Podcast.
A White House state dinner honors a visiting head of government or reigning monarch and is one of the grandest and most glamorous of White House affairs. It is part of an official state visit and provides the president and first lady the opportunity to honor the visiting head of state and his or her spouse. It is a courtesy—an expression of goodwill—a way of extending hospitality. It brings to mind the tradition of breaking bread with friends to seal a friendship. It is an event that also showcases global power and influence. The traditional toasts exchanged by the two leaders at the dinner offer an important and appropriate platform for the continuation of the serious dialogue that has taken place earlier in the day. Let’s now listen to the Toasts of President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher at the first State Dinner, on February 26, 1981.