“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. President, and may there be plenty of good humor in the life to come for you to add to.
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.
People ask how I feel about leaving, and the fact is parting is “such sweet sorrow.” The sweet part is California, and the ranch, and freedom. The sorrow? The goodbyes, of course, and leaving this beautiful place. Continue reading
We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied peoples joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers — at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine-guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting only ninety could still bear arms.
Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. Continue reading
I never thought I would agree with liberal loon Frank Rich about anything, but he has an interesting comparison between Ronald Reagan and Trump, and how I hate having those two names even close to each other, as candidates in a New York magazine article. The money quote:
And the Democrats? Hillary Clinton is to Trump what Carter and especially Mondale were to Reagan: a smart, mainstream liberal with a vast public-service résumé who stands for all good things without ever finding that one big thing that electrifies voters. No matter how many journalistic exposés are to follow on both candidates, it’s hard to believe that most Americans don’t already know which candidate they prefer when the choices are quantities as known as she and Trump. The real question is which one voters are actually going to show up and cast ballots for. Could America’s fading white majority make its last stand in 2016? All demographic and statistical logic says no. But as Reagan seduced voters and confounded the experts with his promise of Morning in America, we can’t entirely rule out the possibility that Trump might do the same with his stark, black-and-white entreaties to High Noon. Continue reading
“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. Continue reading
In all my voting life there is only one candidate I have voted for, rather than as the lesser of two evils: Ronald Wilson Reagan. Reagan biographer Paul Kengor explains why Trump is the anti-Reagan:
I have published six major books on Reagan, several of them bestsellers, ranging from (the first) God and Ronald Reagan (HarperCollins, 2004) to Reagan’s Legacy in a World Transformed (Harvard University Press, 2015). Some of those in between include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism (2006) and 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative (2014). Two of these books are the basis for the Reagan/film bio-pic, Reagan: The Movie. That film, like my books, are positive affirmations of Reagan. I am and have long been a Reagan conservative. I am hardly an “establishment RINO.” In fact, I literally wrote the book on Reagan conservatism. And my next book, scheduled for release next spring, is a 1,000-page-plus Cold War work on Reagan.
I have done thousands of articles, speeches, and radio and TV and print interviews on Ronald Reagan. I have personally interviewed hundreds of people who lived with or knew or worked with the man and I’ve spent endless days in the Reagan Library, at the Reagan Ranch, at Reagan’s Eureka College, in his hometown, at the river where he lifeguarded, in nursing homes talking to elderly women who were baptized with Reagan in the summer of 1922, etc., etc., etc. I have read countless letters written by Reagan, and still far more pages of words scribbled by others. It’s quite possible that I’ve read more by or about Ronald Reagan than any living person on the planet. I assure you I’m in the top 10.
This is very much a short list (two paragraphs) of my (embarrassing) amount of life activities dedicated to illuminating the person, life, and mind of Ronald Reagan.
My point in presenting this isn’t to toot my own horn. (Quite the contrary — all of this Reagan focus makes me seem rather strange, I think.) The point is that this is what I study. I have some credibility on the matter of Ronald Reagan. If someone wants to try to compare Donald Trump to Ronald Reagan, my opinion ought to have at least some degree of informed merit.
So, with that said, let me state unequivocally and undeniably that not only is Donald Trump not the “next Reagan,” but he is the anti-Reagan. Really, I find not only that the two men have preciously little in common, from their policies to their person, but I think there may be no two men more glaringly different. Donald Trump is a polar opposite of Ronald Reagan. Continue reading
Faith based films have seen a marked increase in Hollywood in the last several years. Critics were quick to dismiss the success of the Passion of the Christ some 12 years ago claiming its success was only caused by controversy, and the bankrolling of the picture by a celebrity like Mel Gibson. However, a few short years later came Fireproof and Courageous. Both these films had an estimated budget of 1-2 million dollars and they grossed about $33,000,000. In 2011 a subtle pro-life film October Baby came out and moved the genre along to more success.
This set up the wildly successful 2014 which included films like God’s not Dead, Heaven is for Real, Mom’s Night Out etc. The success continued in 2015 and 2016. Word is the big studios are now reaching out to small faith based companies to see if they forge partnerships, which while helpful also presents some serious concerns for faith based companies.
In full disclosure, the writers and producers of God’s not Dead are friends of mine who a few years ago came to a talk I gave at Family Theater in Hollywood, and then took my wife and me to dinner after reading one of screenplays. In a faith based world filled with Evangelicals, Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, as well as the crew at Family Theater in Hollywood are Catholic. For those interested in Family Theater, you might want to read my past article on the late Father Patrick Peyton , the Rosary priest who is on the road to canonization.
In secular 2016, it is hard to believe how well received Father Peyton was in Hollywood. Family Theater is where James Dean and William Shatner got their starts. A trip inside Family Theater affords one an array of pictures from Hollywood’s Golden Era when Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan and Grace Kelly all starred in Family Theater production films. A side note, tucked away in closet at Family Theater is an old film splicer. Rumor has it a young film student from USC named George Lucas used it to edit a Family Theater production film featuring a recently arrived young Canadian actor named William Shatner.
Everyone has their own story on how they ended up in the faith based realm. Chuck and Cary worked with the likes of Sylvester Stallone and other action oriented films for years until they could no longer resist the call to do faith based films. While they like Stallone, too few other people had the heart or character of Rocky Balboa in Hollywood. The initial years were tough, especially when hardly anyone was doing faith based films, they literally went into the valley before they could get back up to see the Promised Land. Needless to say, many thought they had lost their minds saying goodbye to the mainstream and taking the road less traveled.
Some readers might recall my initial 2014 review of God’s not Dead. The film made on a budget of $1,000,000 that initially generated a US box office figure of $60,000,000 and when all the worldwide receipts were accounted including foreign box office, DVD, movie subscription services etc totaled over$100,000,000. Generally writers and producers don’t see the kind of big money on an out of the blue success story like God’s not Dead. It comes later. If one thinks politics can be dirty, one needs to understand how the movie and music industry works.
Some film critics, even those in the faith based community complain that some of the scripts can be predictable, and perhaps the faith based angle needs to be more subtle, grittier and more provocative. Most faith based writers have no qualms with this argument. They are often put in a Catch 22, they either write a film that would be approved by faith based film companies like Pure Flix or risk the big studios saying a more subtle faith based approach is still too “faithful” for them.
Some secular critics showed nothing but venom for God’s not Dead, ( a Variety review actually used the words “Nazi propaganda film” to describe a scene) and the just released God’s not Dead 2 claiming Christians aren’t persecuted by the secular world. Then stories emerged that literally came right out of the plot lines of both films. Yet, these militant secularists give no apology.
While the critics of faith based films will always be sharpening their pens and swords, there is reason to believe that some of the Big Studios are seeing the light–or at least the financial possibilities. As mentioned above, some of the big time Hollywood studios are beginning to reach out to smaller faith based studios. Also, more faith based film companies are emerging. In addition up and comers like Nathan Leon, a talented writer, producer and director received some notice for his film/documentary Sidewalk Chronicles on Unplanned Pregnancies which led to adoptions that positively changed the lives of so many. He and many others like him are generating some buzz in Tinseltown.
Indeed I met Leon and many other young talented men and women, while I was out in Hollywood a few weeks ago. I had been invited invited by Chuck and Cary for their premier party for God’s not Dead 2, over dinner they shared with me their big plans. They are literally this week putting the fishing touches on God’s not Dead 3 which should start to film in a month or so and be out in theaters next March or April. Also, they have an ambitious blueprint for the future and are seeking investors for their own studio and several projects are already in the works. Who knows where there this will all lead, but there are shoots and blossoms being seen in Hollywood. In a town known for fully embracing the dark side, shoots and blossoms of faith are a very good thing.
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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:
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 organized 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. Continue reading