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The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism
     

The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism

by Thomas W. Evans
 

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In October 1964, Ronald Reagan gave a televised speech in support of Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. "The Speech," as it has come to be known, helped launch Ronald Reagan as a leading force in the American conservative movement. However, less than twenty years earlier, Reagan was a prominent Hollywood liberal, the president of the Screen Actors

Overview

In October 1964, Ronald Reagan gave a televised speech in support of Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. "The Speech," as it has come to be known, helped launch Ronald Reagan as a leading force in the American conservative movement. However, less than twenty years earlier, Reagan was a prominent Hollywood liberal, the president of the Screen Actors Guild, and a fervent supporter of FDR and Harry Truman. While many agree that Reagan's anticommunism grew out of his experiences with the Hollywood communists of the late 1940s, the origins of his conservative ideology have remained obscure.

Based on a newly discovered collection of private papers as well as interviews and corporate documents, The Education of Ronald Reagan offers new insights into Reagan's ideological development and his political ascendancy. Thomas W. Evans links the eight years (1954-1962) in which Reagan worked for General Electric& mdash;acting as host of its television program, GE Theater, and traveling the country as the company's public-relations envoy-to his conversion to conservatism.

In particular, Evans reveals the profound influence of GE executive Lemuel Boulware, who would become Reagan's political and ideological mentor. Boulware, known for his tough stance against union officials and his innovative corporate strategies to win over workers, championed the core tenets of modern American conservatism-free-market fundamentalism, anticommunism, lower taxes, and limited government. Building on the ideas and influence of Boulware, Reagan would soon begin his rise as a national political figure and an icon of the American conservative movement.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Times
A revelation... Definitely worth reading for those who want to know how Ronald Reagan evolved into the 'Great Communicator' of political yore.

— A.G. Gancarski

Sacramento News and Review
[ The Education of Ronald Reagan] fills a hole in Reagan's biography.

— Daniel Oppenheimer

Washington Lawyer
Evans's book is essential reading... a reasoned exploration of the shaping of an extraordinary political career.

— Joseph C. Goulden

National Interest
The Education of Ronald Reagan admirably fills... [a] gap... One of the most illuminating books ever written about Reagan.

— Jacob Heilbrunn

The Midwest Book Review
[The Education of Ronald Reagan]provides fresh revelations on Reagan's ideological development... a 'must' for any college level collection.

Claremont Review of Books
Evans is undoubtedly correct to home in on the G.E. years as the key period in Reagan's self education.

— Steven F. Hayward

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
Evans provides useful insight into Reagan's GE years and calls attention to the influence of Boulware.

— Emilie Raymond

BizVoice
I recommend strongly that you get the (book).

— Newt Gingrich

Labor History
An important work that ought to be read.

— Ronald W. Schatz

The Wall Street Journal - John H. Fund
An elegant history of Reagan's 'studies' with General Electric.

The Washington Times - A.G. Gancarski
A revelation... Definitely worth reading for those who want to know how Ronald Reagan evolved into the 'Great Communicator' of political yore.

Sacramento News and Review - Daniel Oppenheimer
[The Education of Ronald Reagan] fills a hole in Reagan's biography.

Washington Lawyer - Joseph C. Goulden
Evans's book is essential reading... a reasoned exploration of the shaping of an extraordinary political career.

Nicholas Lemann
A better companion to [The Reagan Diaries].... By focusing on the decade or so when Reagan was a traveling spokesman for General Electric—a period that he began as a Democrat and ended as a Republican—Evans does a persuasive job of explaining where Reagan's political views came from.

National Interest - Jacob Heilbrunn
The Education of Ronald Reagan admirably fills... [a] gap... One of the most illuminating books ever written about Reagan.

Claremont Review of Books - Steven F. Hayward
Evans is undoubtedly correct to home in on the G.E. years as the key period in Reagan's self education.

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society - Emilie Raymond
Evans provides useful insight into Reagan's GE years and calls attention to the influence of Boulware.

BizVoice - Newt Gingrich
I recommend strongly that you get the (book).

Labor History - Ronald W. Schatz
An important work that ought to be read.

The Wall Street Journal
An elegant history of Reagan's 'studies' with General Electric.

— John H. Fund

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231511070
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
01/23/2007
Series:
Columbia Studies in Contemporary American History
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
181,849
File size:
2 MB

What People are Saying About This

William Safire

Tom Evans was present at the creation of great candidacies, and his book offers a fresh, valuable account of what made Reagan Reagan.

William Safire, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist

Thomas Fleming

This remarkable book opens hitherto closed doors and windows into Ronald Reagan's early years. It is a fascinating, often riveting read.

Thomas Fleming, author of The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II

Stephen Hess

Thomas Evans commendably helps to fill an important gap in the fascinating story of how Ronald Reagan went from movie actor to President of the United States by focusing on the eight years in the 1950s that he spent traveling America's byways for General Electric.

Stephen Hess, Distinguished Research Professor of Media & Public Affairs, The George Washington University

Rick Perlstein

The first satisfying account of how Reagan evolved into a conservative.

Rick Perlstein, author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus

Michael Flamm

A persuasive explanation for a major gap in the Reagan 'mythology.'

Michael Flamm, Ohio Wesleyan University

James MacGregor Burns

This work confronts directly the everlasting question about why Ronald Reagan shifted so abruptly from Hollywood liberal and union leader to General Electric spokesman and anti-union activist. I know of no work that explains that transition and its implication for conservative leadership in America more effectively. In short, a major contribution to Reagan scholarship and presidency analysis.

James MacGregor Burns, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

Rick Perlstein
The first satisfying account of how Reagan evolved into a conservative.

Meet the Author

Thomas W. Evans, a lawyer and avocational politician, has supervised a successful New Hampshire presidential primary and established a national citizens' campaign organization. A former adjunct professor of education and administration at Columbia University's Teachers College, Evans was chair of the Reagan administration's national symposium on partnerships in education and counsel to the Points of Light Foundation under George H.W. Bush.

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