Like FDR or JFK, Ronald Reagan has become more of a symbol for many Americans than a flesh and blood person. For some he’s the embodiment of all that’s good in America, while for others he’s the very opposite. But beyond the political divides, who was Reagan, the man?
My guest today spent five years researching and writing an epic, non-partisan biography that seeks to bring the abstraction of Reagan back down to earth. His name is Bob Spitz and his biography is Reagan: An American Journey.
We begin our conversation discussing how Reagan’s hardscrabble childhood in the Midwest and his family’s staunch progressive politics influenced his early political outlook. Bob then shares how a young Ronald Reagan showed signs of becoming “the Great Communicator” as a young man and how his charm and innate talent for speaking led to a successful career in radio and the movies.
We then discuss why Reagan went from being a true believing Democratic New Dealer to being a leader in the burgeoning conservative movement in the 1960s. Bob delves into Reagan’s leadership style as governor of California and President of the United States and the important role Nancy Reagan played throughout his political career.
We end our conversation discussing Reagan’s ultimate legacy.
- How Bob went from the music industry to writing biography
- How Reagan’s upbringing influenced his later political career
- Why young Reagan idolized FDR
- Were there early signs that Reagan would become “the Great Communicator”?
- His early career in sports radio broadcasting
- Reagan’s transition to movies and acting
- Why Reagan was perpetually a “B” movie star rather than being a star
- Reagan’s tenure as president of the Screen Actor’s Guild
- When his political shift happened
- Reagan’s role in WWII
- How Reagan’s move to TV propelled his political career
- Nancy’s role in his career
- Reagan’s leadership style as a politician
- Why Reagan was such a good delegator
- How Reagan restored America’s belief in their leaders
- The assassination attempt that nearly killed him
- How Reagan remained popular despite the political controversies of his terms in office
- Is there a consensus forming about his legacy?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- Joy Hodges
- Reagan’s radio career in Iowa
- Kings Row
- Knute Rockne, All American
- Olivia de Havilland
- First Motion Picture Unit
- G.E. Theater
- Jane Wyman
- Reagan’s 1964 speech for Barry Goldwater
- Reagan’s 1980 debate win over George Bush
- Iran-Contra affair
- Reagan fires 11,000+ air traffic controllers
- The Challenger speech
- “Tear down this wall!” speech
Connect With Bob
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Recorded on ClearCast.io
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