Ronald Reagan: The Happy Warrior

“The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”

GK Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse

Today is my sixtieth birthday.  As faithful readers of this blog know, I share a birthday with Ronald Wilson Reagan.  I have long admired Reagan, the greatest President of my lifetime.  Of Irish ancestry, Reagan had the Irish habit of smiling in a fight.  A man of strong convictions, Reagan never forgot that his domestic adversaries were political opponents and  not enemies.  His humor was never mean spirited, and much of it was directed against himself.  Completely comfortable in his own skin, he never took himself seriously while taking very seriously what he believed in and fought for.  Happy birthday Mr. Reagan, and may there be plenty of good humor in the life to come for you to add to.

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Published in: on February 6, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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January 11, 1989: Reagan Farewell Address

My fellow Americans, this is the 34th time I’ll speak to you from the Oval Office, and the last. We’ve been together eight years now, and soon it’ll be time for me to go. But before I do, I wanted to share some thoughts, some of which I have been saving for a long time.

It’s been the honor of my life to be your President. So many of you have written the past few weeks to say thanks, but I could say as much to you. Nancy and I are grateful for the opportunity you gave us to serve.

One of the things about the Presidency is that you’re always somewhat apart. You spend a lot of time going by too fast in a car someone else is driving, and seeing the people through tinted glass – the parents holding up a child, and the wave you saw too late and couldn’t return. And so many times I wanted to stop, and reach out from behind the glass, and connect. Well, maybe I can do a little of that tonight. (more…)

Published in: on January 11, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 11, 1989: Reagan Farewell Address  
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Remember Them

 

“I never moved into combat without having the feeling of a cold hand reaching into my guts and twisting them both into knots.”

Audie Murphy, most decorated American soldier of World War II

Something for the weekend.  A section of a speech of Ronald Reagan from 1964, known in Reagan lore as The Speech, set to the song Arrival to Earth.  The weather is quite nice around where I live this Memorial Day weekend and it is easy to forget why we have this three day weekend, and, indeed, to forget why we have our freedom.  The video is a nice reminder. (more…)

Published in: on May 28, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Remember Them  
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Reagan Radio Addresses

Back during the 1970s I was in college as an undergraduate.  I was unable to hear him consistently, but I always enjoyed Ronald Reagan’s daily three minute radio broadcasts whenever I head them.  From 1975-1979 he gave over a 1000 of them and he personally wrote around 700 of them.  This was an unusually effective mode of campaigning for President.  He became a familiar figure to younger Americans who did not recall his Hollywood days, and honed his thoughts on the issues of the day.  Derided as an “amiable dunce” by some of his opponents, Reagan came to the White House as a man with a well developed political philosophy who had thought and written about virtually all the issues he would confront as President.  Reagan was far closer to being the mastermind portrayed in the hilarious Saturday Night Live skit linked below than he was to the idiotic actor of the fantasies of most of his political adversaries who stood by helplessly, shocked as he won the Presidency twice and became the most consequential president since Harry Truman.

 

 

 

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Published in: on November 9, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Reagan Radio Addresses  
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October 5, 1945: Battle of Burbank

One of the major factors in transforming Ronald Reagan from a New Deal Democrat into a conservative Republican was his confrontation with Herb Sorrell in 1946-47 Hollywood.  Head of the Conference of Studio Unions, Sorrell was a veteran union organizer.  He was also a secret member of the Communist Party and a frequent contact for Soviet intelligence agents.

Sorrell in 1945 launched a strike to ensure that his union dominated Hollywood labor.  Sorrell had no problem using physical intimidation  to reach his goals.  This was demonstrated at what has been called the Battle of Burbank on October 5, 1945 when 800 members of the Conference of Studio Unions battle with police of the Los Angeles Police Department, using knives, bats, chains and pipes to shut Warner Brothers down.  The violence shocked Hollywood and attracted nationwide attention and led to a negotiated settlement of the strike. (more…)

Published in: on October 5, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 5, 1945: Battle of Burbank  
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Jack Reagan

JackReaganfamily

 

On Fathers’ Day it is easy to recall and honor all the good fathers.  However, even a very flawed father can have a positive impact on a child.  Case in point Jack Reagan, the father of Ronald Reagan.

To be blunt, Jack Reagan was a drunk.  At eleven years old Ronald Reagan came home from school to find his father passed out on the porch,  dead drunk to the world.  In a small town the shame of that moment for a boy would be clear.  An alcoholic, one would think that the only impact that Jack could have on the life of his son was to be a negative example, but such was not the case.

Jack was gregarious and a born story teller, traits he passed on to his son.

He and his wife were always deeply in love, and his wife Nellie made sure that their sons knew that Jack was a good man in spite of his addiction to drink.

An Irish Catholic, he hated racial and religious bigotry.  He refused to allow his kids to see the film, Birth of a Nation, because of its racist theme.  One cold winter night when he was on the road selling shoes, he slept in his car, rather than taking a room in a hotel that discriminated against Jews.

Reagan said of his father:

Among the things he passed on to me were the belief that all men and women, regardless of their color or religion, are created equal and that individuals determine their own destiny; that is, it’s largely their own ambition and hard work that determine their fate in life.

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Published in: on June 21, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Jack Reagan  
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Reagan on FDR

(I posted this at The American Catholic on January 30, 2015, and I thought the History mavens of Almost Chosen People would enjoy it.)

Today is my bride’s birthday, a birthday she shares with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  On this day, I think the remarks of President Reagan on the centennial of FDR’s birth need to be recalled.  Reagan of course supported FDR when Reagan was a New Deal Democrat.  As a Republican he attempted to correct the mistakes of the New Deal, but he never lost his admiration for the leadership shown by Roosevelt, many aspects of which Reagan during his Presidency shared.  Here are an excerpt of Reagan’s remarks:

 

We’re all here today to mark the centennial of one of history’s truly monumental figures, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Historians still debate the details of his intentions, his policies and their impact. But all agree that, like the Founding Fathers before him, F. D. R. was an American giant, a leader who shaped, inspired, and led our people through perilous times. He meant many different things to many different people. He could reach out to men and women of diverse races and backgrounds and inspire them with new hope and new confidence in war and peace.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first President I ever saw. I remember the moment vividly. It was in 1936, a campaign parade in Des Moines, Iowa. What a wave of affection and pride swept through that crowd as he passed by in an open car—which we haven’t seen a President able to do for a long time—a familiar smile on his lips, jaunty and confident, drawing from us reservoirs of confidence and enthusiasm some of us had forgotten we had during those hard years. Maybe that was F. D. R.’s greatest gift to us. He really did convince us that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. (more…)

Published in: on February 4, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Reagan on FDR  
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The Stilwell Road and Merrill’s Mauraders

Released in 1945, The Stilwell Road, narrated by Ronald Reagan while he was a Captain in the Army Air Corps, tells the story of the forgotten theater of the War, the China-Burma-India theater where the Allies, fighting over some of the most rugged terrain on Earth, wrested victory from the Japanese.  The Stilwell Road refers to a section of the Burma Road by which Nationalist China was supplied by the United States and Great Britain during the War.

The unit known as Merrill’s Marauders is mentioned in the film.  Officially designated by the uninspiring title of 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), the press tagged them as Merrill’s Marauders and thus they have come down through history. 3000 volunteers, most of them veterans of the fighting in the Pacific, including some veterans who volunteered from military stockades and who were known as The Dead End Kids, the Marauders were trained to fight behind Japanese lines.  Led by Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the Marauders were trained in the deep penetration tactics supported by air drops pioneered by British General Orde Wingate, with Merrill throwing in some American touches, for example the importance of marksmanship, as old as Roger’s Rangers, wilderness fighters of the French and Indian War, famed for their long distance raids. (more…)

Published in: on January 13, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Stilwell Road and Merrill’s Mauraders  
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Martin Treptow’s Pledge

Martin August Treptow was a barber from Cherokee, Iowa.  Enlisting in the National Guard, during World War I his unit was called up and Treptow found himself in the 168th Infantry, part of the 42nd Division, called the Rainbow Division by Major Douglas MacArthur, who would rise during the War to eventually command the division, because it consisted of National Guard units that stretched across the country like a rainbow.

July 30th, 1918 was a hard day for the division.  Participating in the Second Battle of the Marne which stopped the last major German offensive of the War and saved Paris from capture, the division was attempting to take Hill 212 on La Croix Rouge Farm and incurring heavy casualties.  A message from Treptow’s unit needed to be taken to another platoon.  Private Treptow did not hesitate, but grabbed the message and ran off with it.  As he neared the platoon leader to deliver the message, Treptow was cut down by a burst of German fire.  He was twenty-five years old.  Sergeant  Joyce Kilmer was killed on the same day, in the same battle, a little bit later.  Go here to read about him. (more…)

The Rear Gunner

An interesting training film made by Warner Brothers for the United States Army Air Corps in 1943.  Burgess Meredith has the feature role as the tail gunner in training.  Ronald Reagan is in a supporting role as the pilot of the B-17.  Both of them were Lieutenants in the Army Air Corps and both would complete their service as Captains.  A cut above the usual training films of the period