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President Reagan's Interview with Tom Brokaw on January 17, 1989

President Reagan's Interview with Tom Brokaw on January 17, 1989
come a long way town in Illinois Dixon and the protective warmth of your mother Nell her earliest memory of your mother's influence on you and what she taught you to do that really shaped your life well she Corps of course was a major part I had a brother too a couple of years older than I am for in our family the two of us and mother and father and she was probably the kindest human being I've ever known now looking back I know that we live in poverty are pretty close to it all the time but we didn't know that at the time because the government didn't come around and tell us we were poor and she was always finding someone worse off that we would help and I remember that about her this kind honest Noland yet at the same time she could be firm like the time in an even smaller town where I was born Tampico Illinois eight hundred people and we lived across a little park from the railroad station and in those days the biggest treat wasn't the ice-cream wagon coming around it was the ice wagon and kids would get chips of ice from them Iceman was chipping the pieces out to put in the ice boxes along the way and the ice wagon had pulled up over there and my brother and I saw it and he being the older took the lead and we started across the little park but a train pulled in between us and the ice wagon and my mother came out on the porch just in time to see us get down and crawl under the train to get to the other side and we were barely through and at the ice...
president reagan s interview with tom brokaw on january 17 1989
wagon when the train pulled out she met us in the middle of that little park and we felt a very firm hand both of us applied along about midway in our bags did she teach you other things as well like how to read and how to get on in life about the values of life oh she yes she was always talking about things like that but making great sense with them but they're worth regard of the reading I don't know that she was aware that she was teaching but when we were very young and at that point we lived in Galesburg in a rented house there my father was traveling around looking for better jobs and she would read to my brother and me when we went to bed she'd get between us on the bed and read the bedtime story but she always did it and holding the book and running her finger under the line she was reading and the two of us were there and we could watch and we could at the same time hear of course now I don't know whether she was doing that deliberately and I have no recollection of ever learning to read but I was one night when I was five years old I was lying on the living room floor with the newspaper and my father came in and he said what are you doing and I said well reading the paper and he thought I was being smart aleck and he said well go ahead read me something and I did and the next thing I knew he was out on the front porch yelling for the neighbors and he brought the neighbors in and made me read for them because there was no kindergarten I had never been...
president reagan s interview with tom brokaw on january 17 1989
anyplace but it home at that time you're away from starting regular school but yes I was reading the paper your mother had very strong religious values as well yes she believed in the power of prayer for example you believe in the power of prayer yes can you recall incidents in your life when you have prayed and God has answered your prayer almost in a specific way yes I think I can and I believe very much in what Abraham Lincoln said when he had this job he said he couldn't perform the functions the duties of this job for fifteen minutes if he didn't know that he could call upon one who was wiser and stronger than all others but in that connection I think my mother a lesson that was hammered over and over again and as I grew up I really began to realize and that is when there was a great disappointment something went wrong she would say to us look just everything happens for a reason and for the best now she said you may feel bad about this right now but down the roads something will happen good and you will in appreciating that look back and say if this if that hadn't happened that supposed bad thing this good thing would not have happened and I had a classic example in my growing up I'd graduated from college in 1932 I was hitchhiking around I'd set my mind on a career in the entertainment world so I thought it starting if I could ever get in and be a sports announcer would be radio was pretty new in those days and finally I was disappointed I had...
president reagan s interview with tom brokaw on january 17 1989
had advice to just try to get a job in a station never mind what you wanted to do and then take your chances on moving on from there but I couldn't and a very wise woman in a major station in Chicago told me that I was going out of the wrong way I shouldn't be trying for those big stations where they couldn't afford to hire inexperienced go out there into the smaller stations well I hitchhiked home and arrived and was told that a Montgomery Ward's store had opened in Dixon and they had a sporting goods department and they were looking for someone that was kind of well-known in the town for his high school athletics there and so forth to head up that department while I went down and applied and I didn't get the job felt a couple of years after me in high school been quite a basketball sensation he got the job I was pretty disappointed my father loaned me the car I'd told him all the things that I've been doing a family car and I drove 75 miles in my disappointment down to the tri-cities Rock Island and Moline and Davenport Iowa and there in a station in Davenport Iowa I met a program director who he still couldn't use me and but where was I because they had just hired announcer a few days before and I didn't tell him I didn't listen to his station but on the way out talking all to myself really I said how do you ever get to be a sports announcer if he can't get a job in a radio station and went on down the hall and pretty soon I...
heard a clumping he was very badly crippled with arthritis to Keynes and he was yelling out your big so-and-so wait and he caught up with me the elevator wasn't there yet and he said what was that you said about sports and I said well that's what I'd like to be what he said you know anything about football I said I played it for eight years he said could you tell me about a football game and if I was at home listening the radio make me see it and I said I think so he took me in a studio stood me in front of a microphone and he said now when the red light goes on I'll be in another room listening you start broadcasting an imaginary football game well I stood there waiting for the light and I knew I had to have names and I remembered the year of that previous fall my senior year playing in a game murica when we went 65 yards on the last play for the winning touchdown and it was the last play of the game and I knew all our players names and I knew enough of the opponent's names that I figured I could so I started in the fourth quarter and I had the long blue shadow settling over the field and the real wind coming in through the end of the stadium we didn't have a stadium we had creatures and then I ran a few plays and finally I came up to the big play and I had this and did the big play and made the touchdown with only 20 s to play with only 20 seconds to go and so forth and then I grabbed the microphone and says that's all he came in and said be her...
Saturday I'll give you $5.00 and carfare you are broadcasting the iowa minnesota game for us do you think that if Montgomery Ward's had hired you for the sports department I might still be there working in Montgomery Ward's and not

President

of the United States well all the things in between that resulted and this wouldn't have happened you and I come from similar roots I grew up in a small towns of the Midwest as well and life has changed for both of us obviously on many of the grand occasions that I've been privileged to be a part of I have often thought back to my roots to particular friends or incidents in my life and I've wondered what they Roy does that happen to you when you're at a state dinner or the Kremlin or when you're presiding at some ceremony for example in Norman does Dixon flash through your mind in those days oh there are things I think it takes reminders and so far removed in that way of life and this one but there are reminders every once in a while that just like this one that at length I gave you that that you will think back and say hey this maybe had a beginning there you went from Dixon to Eureka College and you studied economics among other things you reminded your advisers of that from time to time what have you remembered from your Eureka economics courses that have helped you in dealing with the national economy well I was i majored in economics and sociology they were combined so it was a single major but then...
you were really studying at a time when life was in the raw this was the depths of the depression we had a professor a wonderful hello daddy gray and he used to give us outside reading books by economists to read then we'd come in with a book report and so forth then we discuss it and I can remember him he had a sense of humor also there we were in the depths of the depression a book by a noted economist and when we'd finished reporting and everything just as the class was concluding he'd say it's interesting to note that the author of this book five weeks before the crash said he saw no reason why stock should not continue to rise indefinitely well that sexual illustrate but it makes you suspicious of economists for evermore well no but the the the things I say at that time you were really studying in a classic example of economics and what was going to happen this was prior to the election of of FDR and all of the recessions we've had since no one who didn't go through the through the depression can ever visualize what it was like 26 percent unemployment nationwide the government going on radio with announcements don't leave home looking for a job there are well there were no government programs at that time to take care of of the people that suddenly were just destitute my father from managing a shoe store with a kind of work a partnership in the ownership was out the shoe store was gone and this was happening in little towns like Dickson as...
well as in the great cities the National Guard in Illinois was mobilized and sent to parade in Chicago simply because there were so many people living in doorways on the streets by that time in the streets just off Michigan Boulevard that there was real concern about rioting and and so forth and they just did that as a show of strength there are still people in this country now who are homeless and we're still struggling economically and so on and for some of them it's a kind of continuation of the depression is there a parallel between what's going on for some families in this country now and what happened then well there may be some because there are a few spots in the country where due to a change in industry and so forth they principal industries in those communities are gone and it's a case of either move or bring a new industry into the community and so forth so there are a few trouble spots but basically as you know 19 million new jobs have been created and the largest percentage of those has gone to the people most in need and they are better jobs than ever before and over 90% of them are full-time not part-time jobs so it isn't a situation comparable to that and I think that you have to recognize that some of the people on the street have chosen that because right here in Washington shelters both private and public that have been opened for those people have space in them and people that can go there and won't prefer to be out there on the...
grates and so forth and whatever their reason is just remember that recently in New York a young lady took a case to court to force them under her constitutional right to let her go back and live in that cardboard box out on the street present let me ask you about your Hollywood career you went from a good job in Des Moines Iowa as a radio broadcaster in the height of the depression to Hollywood where you were making what $200 a week I think is a contract player at Warner Brothers yes did you begin to think about that time gee maybe there's a lucky star that's kind of hovering over Ronald

Reagan

that luck is gonna be a part of your life in some fashion well whether I called it luck or whether I call it an answer to prayers I I realized that I was very blessed and that's why I thought that also and for those blessings that I kind of I ought to pay my way by doing whatever I could and return for others we're all starstruck in this society a little bit when you arrived and how I would who were the big stars that you remember seeing that really made an impression on you that oh well this was in the wonderful era of Hollywood that exists no more the era when the seven major studios all had their lists of contract players and stars their directors were under contract the producers and writers it was like a family in the studio and at Warner Brothers there was Jimmy Cagney and Pat O'Brien and Betty Davis and Wayne Morris had just become a young new star...
they're on for kid Galahad that he'd made but then Dick Powell and Jack Carson and when you can go along with the with the trying to think of them all at the same time but you'd eat there in the commissary at lunch and they were all around you and be at their same table with you and it was a wonderful time but also you were made to realize you you were under contract now they took me in and sat me down and it was as if I couldn't hear because they were all talking about me in front of me and they were trying to decide on a name for me I'd always used my kid nicknamed Dutch one as a sports announcer Dutch

Reagan

and they were talking and talking and finally I was getting a little uncomfortable and finally I said to them because that was a pretty big radio station by then I said look you know my name's rather well-known in a large section of the country and do you think we just toss it off and they said Dutch

Reagan

and I said well my real name is Ronald

Reagan

I'd never used the Ronald I like Dutch better and they said Ronald Ronald

Reagan

hey that's not bad I got to keep my own name Ronald

Reagan

who are the actresses that you like playing with and those is starring within films that you remember oh my goodness the lane sisters had just come on big in pictures Priscilla Lane I was in a picture with Betty Davis and it was a wonderful experience such a great actress and it was Jane Bryant oh good lord I'm forgetting some of the names of what...
Ann Gerard and Sheridan oh yes he picked it with Ann Sheridan and she was she was a great gal just wonderful you watch films I know now you know who the contemporary film is Sarah Connor it's very possible that they're gonna make the story of Ronald

Reagan

now if you could cast that story of Ronald

Reagan

who would you like to play the part of you I'd rather they didn't make this story if I can't play it I don't know that I want to recommend anyone else do you like current film stars do you have some favorites among the current - croco stars the I'll tell you the lack of continued publicity as we had when the fan magazines existed and everything and each studio had a publicity apartment with men that were assigned to a group of performers there to see that their names were constantly before the public that doesn't exist anymore and I find a great difficulty in remembering the names I'll see a face on the screen say oh yeah her members saw them in another picture but the names just don't don't linger you recently talked in your farewell address to the nation about films that had strong moral values and celebrated American patriotism what are some of those films that you remember that did that oh my well if you remember constantly there were there were movies that were made can't remember titles but movies that were made say about West Point or Annapolis and always at that kind that the plot took place in the story with regard to...
cadets but were there in the in those schools and then there or of course the service pictures that and when the war came war pictures that were built and based on patriotism and so forth and and were pretty factual in their portrayal of those of those times yes I think there was a great thought in in Hollywood too to make pictures that tied in to the things that people understood and knew mr.

president

you also said in that farewell speech that you directed American children to sit down with their parents and talk about what America stands for and what there is to celebrate in this country if you could lead that kind of a discussion at a dinner table who would be the people in your lifetime that you would put forward as the Patriots the kind of model Americans who would serve to inspire our coming generations oh I think there are any any number you could start with our people that go abroad and not in there or go out into space in the shuttle but you could come back to the heroes of our time and but I think also it's more general than that that's that I remember as a little kid you knew that when the flag went by you were to stand up put your hand in your heart you knew that you were to stand and sing the national anthem and you learned to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and you also history was required and therefore you knew the beginnings of this country and you knew the names of the the great Patriots and who a George Washington was but but all the others and I...
don't think that's true today so often well when and I won't name the University don't want to embarrass anyone but when not too long ago third-year students juniors in one of our large universities couldn't tell anyone which side in World War two Hitler was on now is there anything wrong with thinking that history not with regard to whether it's going to help you make a living or anything of that kind but that everyone should know the background and the history of their country how it came to be and thus what our citizens responsibilities are isn't it a little shameful that in this country which had to fight for the independence of We the People is now smaller and smaller growing the number of people who bother to vote how does anyone have the nerve to complain about any level of government if they didn't go to the polls Will Rogers once said that people in lected to public office are no better and no worse and the people who send them there but they're all better than those who don't vote at all especially you've had such an extraordinary life starting as I say from that small town in Dixon Illinois when you were coming of age working-class family there you've risen to these great heights of being

President

of the United States you leave office with the good will of the American people behind you what's the difference between being in this kind of a position a member of the haves I suppose the best way to describe it in...
American life and the earlier days of your life when you remember the have-nots well again as I say I recognize that for whatever reason I have been blessed and never a day goes by that I don't say a thanks for that blessing and also I ask that I be given the wisdom to do something to show my my thanks for that and blessing and I don't it just pause here for a minute because I'm gonna there a couple of things we haven't been able to get to that I would like to get back to and the anecdotal stuff know that yeah okay if we could just if we can agree on that we'll be alright okay I want mr.

president

you had a very strong relationship with someone named Margaret cleaver yes you're all but engaged to her was engaged I honed my fraternity pin on her you talked about your future together probably well yes she was the daughter of the minister of our church and I know that she was going to Eureka College and it wasn't really that I made the decision then to go there I had already made that when I was much younger my biggest hero happened to be the son of the then minister of the church and he was a great high school football star and as a kid I saw him and thought he was great and he went to your ikan played football there later for a time why I think was the chaplain at Yale University but yes we went together in high school Eureka College before we got out of college why that was I don't know whether it still exists today but yes engagement you buy...
rings you put your fraternity pin on her how did you think that your life together would take shape I mean what did you what were your hopes then when you were going with Mark Lee well I knew that from my own background and so forth I knew that I had to achieve a certain level of income before could contemplate marriage but I think that's the thing that that our romance didn't survive she became a schoolteacher and I was way over in Iowa there as a sports announcer and a long separation there wasn't chance or possibility of visiting each other frequently and then one day I received a notice that she was engaged in marrying someone else she broke it off you didn't break it off no and a former teacher in high school of mine won that kind of teacher that every student has that you remembered through your life he wrote me a letter he had also seen what had happened and he wrote me a letter telling me how I was to react and that I was to do any foolish things like going off the deep end or anything and I remembered him but again it must have been one of those things that the disappointment that now you look back on and say well if that had happened what what I have now might not have happened there's a celebrated story in your years at your Eureka College about one of your college football teammates William Burkhart was a black member of the team and he couldn't get into a hotel where the whole team was supposed to stay so you took him to your home in Dixon...
Illinois where he was immediately put up with another black teammate people who look at that story say well Ronald

Reagan

seemed to be more sensitive about those kinds of things then then he has been as the

president

of the United States and maybe it's because he bumped up against them in a firsthand way back in Eureka that whole thing has been the hardest burden I think of all that I have born here is that idea that I am NOT as sensitive and that somehow I am discriminating and so forth and it is not true that household I was raised in my mother and father the thing my brother and I grew up knowing was that there was no greater sin than prejudice or discrimination and this was back in the days when there was discrimination generally and in Eureka College yes what happened was that we had to stay overnight in our hometown on a way the bus load of players on a way to a Saturday game and I took the coach in introducing to the manager of the hotel and he said that he would take everybody but those two when our coach Mac he said well we'll sleep in the bus and he turned her because the man had said also that no other hotel would either there weren't many hotels in that little town and we started out and I told him Mac I said we can't do that I said if they'll know what the reason is and be embarrassed well he said what can we do when he had told me that I couldn't stay at home even though I had a home there and I said well why don't we just say there...
isn't enough room for everybody and you put me in the two fellas in a cab and we'll go home and even then he feeling is upset as he he did he said are you sure you you won't do that and I said yes I knew my home no chance to call her anything home rang the doorbell and Nellie came to the door my brother and I decided to call our parents by their first name after we got to a certain age came to the door and I said no there isn't enough room in the hotel for all of us can we put up here well she never course you can put up here and then we came and that that wasn't unusual for the way I was raised or brought up at all and I still feel the same way as governor of California I appointed more blacks to executive and art and policymaking positions than all the previous governors California put together and I asked you about your family because it was such an important part of your early childhood you didn't have a lot of money in that family your father is you've written in your own book drank too much he wasn't able to hold a job in a lot of different places and yet you always stayed together as a family even though there are big differences between you and your brother moon for example about how you see life and how you conduct yourselves and here you are the

president

United States your financial future is secure you've got a very good marriage but within your own family now there are these strains michael has written a book that is in...
critical of the way the family's been conducted patty and mrs.

Reagan

are not talking is that just an affliction of modern life is that how we've changed in this country what it might be patty now we feel and I we haven't given up but patty came up at that age when all the writing was going on in the campuses and if I went near one of them they'd burn me in effigy but no the rest of the family is united and the book about that Mike if you'd read it it's a very unusual book Mike was adopted and this was a book about this and so the first part of the book is his attitude which he's now confessing to but the last part of the book it's almost as if it's by a different human being Nancy was the one who told him how to find his real mother when he wanted to and she was dead but he found he has a brother and so the last part of it and we're as close as can possibly be and he is I would recommend that book to anyone with adopted children he was writing of the resentment that was within him about his situation and it's a it's a fascinating book mr.

president

you're about to go off into retirement Richard Nixon studies international affairs a lot these days Gerald Ford works on this commission for the new presidency and plays Auto golf and does a lot of speaking Jimmy Carter pursues his interest at the Carter Library and in terms of the Middle East and the problems of the inner cities going up back out on the mashed-potato circuit and...
trying to arouse the public to demand some changes which it is their right to demand the line-item veto for a

president

the balanced budget amendment but most of the states have but the federal government doesn't have Thomas Jefferson called attention to that and there are things that well for example the 22nd amendment that was passed by our own party here is revenge for Roosevelt that says that two terms as the limit for a

president

this is the only office that's elected by all the people I think that is an infringement on the Democratic rights of the people and now that I'm out of office so that they can't accuse me of wanting to do it for myself I'm going to see if I can't mobilize the people to demand the repeal of that amendment it is an invasion of their democratic Veit wrote or write to vote for whoever they want to vote for and for however long so we'll see a lot of Ronald

Reagan

speaking around the country yeah every if you look mr.

president

you look back on this extraordinary life that you've had covering most of the 20th century in America going from Dixon Illinois to the heights of power

president

of the United States what's the one thing that really sticks out in your mind about made the difference for you made it possible well I think maybe the teaching that I had and the faith that I had in prayer and I did it incidentally we're leaving out a lot of hometowns you know and when you mentioned my father's drinking let...
me point out he was an alcoholic yes our family stayed together because my mother took the two of us aside my brother myself and said there will you'll see things and sometimes your father but you must not turn against him he has a sickness and as a sickness that we must try to help him with it wasn't a case of just you know a lush coming home I've seen him go two or three years without a drink but he was in the classics had an alcoholic and once that first drop went down that's the thing with an alcoholic they're no different than anyone else until they take that first drink and then it would be a bender all the way to where he would be flat on his back and you called the doctor did that make you conscious of your own drinking habits yes yes I think so I've never felt any thing of that kind because it is an illness and I can remember very much the that there's you know doctor Medicine can't explain it yet some want to look for a second psychopathic or psychotic psychologic reason others look for some physical there has been one about shortage of sugar I know that when in the Hall the periods of soberness my father was the biggest dessert eater I ever saw and in fact he wasn't above and he did a good naturedly he'd say hey what's that out the window and about look out the window or my brother would he take a spoonful of our dessert but was that the key the family strength that you had when you look back over the last 50 years of...
your life yes though there was never a hint in our family that there could ever be a dissolution of the family as a matter of fact and we were even split religiously my father was a Catholic and my mother was a Protestant but if we were to get any religion that was to come from her because for a period there I think he gave up going to church for Lent but toward the end of his life he went back he was in the church and no it was and hometowns started with Tampico then Chicago then Galesburg then Monmouth Illinois then back to Tampico and then to Dixon and it was about eight or nine that I went to years old that I went to Dixon Thank You mr.

president