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Hand of Providence

The Strong and Quiet Faith of Ronald Reagan

Mary Beth Brown

ISBN: 0785260536

An uplifting biography of Ronald Reagan that emphasizes the powerful impact his faith had on his ideas, motives, and actions.

According to recent opinion polls, Ronald Reagan is the most popular of modern presidents, and yet to most biographers the man is still an enigma. This is because, as Brown explains, no one has ever focused on this great man’s faith. This book explores the life and personality of Ronald Reagan by focusing on his deep-felt Christian beliefs and showing how faith guided him along his distinguished career and led him to his unprecedented success. With the support of Ronald Reagan's own words and writings and first-hand interviews of Ronald Reagan's family, friends, and co-workers, Brown weaves a magnificent story of Reagan’s strong devotion to God that will not only inspire Christians to enter public service and allow their faith to motivate all their actions but also help point others to the Cross of Jesus Christ—a cause that was near and dear to President Reagan's heart.

Billy Graham, in his autobiography "Just As I Am" (pages 528-539), remarked that Ronald Reagan went to "The Christian Church", similar to "The Baptist Church", and that Reagan preached in his teen years, and often discussed theological issues with him.


Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged -  Ronald Reagan

I am delighted to be with you. In fact, at my age, I'm delighted to be anywhere - Ronald Reagan (Speech at Oxford Union)

They say hard work never hurt anybody, but I figure why take the chance – Ronald Reagan (attributed to him)


Ronald Reagan KBE

In a stunning electoral landslide, Ronald Reagan was elected the 40th president of the United States in 1980. As a critic of liberal government programs and an advocate of a strong military, he won the votes of divergent groups who had not traditionally supported the Republican party.

In his third bid for the presidency, Reagan and his vice-presidential running mate, George Bush of Texas, defeated the incumbents, President Jimmy Carter and Vice-President Walter F. Mondale. Reagan won by more than 8.4 million popular votes.

Reelected in 1984, Reagan was the oldest president and the first to win more than 50 million popular votes and an unprecedented 525 electoral votes. The Democrats--Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman chosen as a vice-presidential nominee by a major party--lost by 16 million votes.

Reagan was considered to be the most conservative candidate to win the office in half a century. He was also one of the few men to become president who had not spent the major part of his life in politics or in a closely related public service profession. For 30 years he had been primarily an entertainer in radio, motion pictures, and television. Although he had been active in political causes, it was not until the mid-1960s that he first became a candidate for public office.

Reagan was 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 185 pounds. He had brown hair and blue eyes. He wore contact lenses.

Family and Education

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on Feb. 6, 1911, in Tampico, Ill., a small town in the northwestern part of the state. He was the second of two sons born to John (called Jack) Edward Reagan and Nelle Wilson Reagan. His brother was named John Neil (nicknamed Moon). Their father was a Democrat, known for his outspoken opposition to racial bigotry. Their mother, who was more conservative, gave dramatic readings at women's clubs, hospitals, and jails.

Jack Reagan was a shoe salesman who moved his family from one small town to another in Illinois. When Ronald was 9, the family settled in Dixon, Ill. His father opened a shoe store with a former boss, but it soon failed. Jack Reagan later held a minor government job distributing relief checks during the Depression. Nelle Reagan helped out by working in a dress shop. She taught Ronald how to read at an early age, and the boy developed a retentive memory. Although he was slight and nearsighted, he liked athletics. Beginning at age 14, Ronald held part-time and summer jobs. His first job was as a construction labourer. For several years he was a summer lifeguard.

When Dutch (as Ronald was called) entered high school, he showed his ability in the three interests that came to dominate his life--sports, drama, and politics. He played football and basketball and participated in swimming and track. He had parts in school plays, and he was elected president of the student council. At Eureka College, a Christian church school in Illinois, Ronald supported himself with a small football scholarship and part-time jobs.

At Eureka College Ronald continued his success in sports, drama, and campus politics. He was a varsity guard on the football team and was captain of the swimming team; he also participated in track. A member of the drama club, he had roles in college dramatic productions. As president of the freshman class he helped organise a student strike against cutbacks in the curriculum, which led to the resignation of the president of the college. Ronald later was president of the student body. Although not considered a serious student, he graduated in 1932 with an A.B. degree in economics and sociology.

Radio, Motion Pictures, and Television

Trying to launch a career in show business, Reagan auditioned for radio station WOC in Davenport, Iowa, by improvising play-by-play commentary for a football game. He was hired to announce the University of Iowa football games for ten dollars a game, and by the end of 1932 he became a staff announcer.

The next year Reagan was transferred to an affiliated station, WHO, in Des Moines. An announcer there until 1937, he also wrote a sports column for a newspaper. Among his duties was broadcasting Chicago Cubs baseball games from ticker tapes.

While at the Cubs training camp in California in 1937, Reagan took a screen test for the Warner Brothers studio. He was signed to a contract at $200 a week. During the following 27 years he made more than 50 full-length motion pictures as well as several short subjects. Reagan made 8 motion pictures during his first 11 months under contract and 28 motion pictures during his first 4 years as a movie actor.

In his first motion picture, 'Love Is on the Air', Reagan played a radio announcer. Throughout his career he most often had supporting roles, frequently as the sidekick of the hero. He sometimes played a juvenile lead. In only his last film, 'The Killers', was Reagan cast as a villain.

Among Reagan's best-known motion pictures were 'Brother Rat', 'Dark Victory', 'Knute Rockne--All American', and 'King's Row'. He used his memorable line from 'King's Row', "Where's the rest of me?", as the title of a 1965 autobiography.

While filming 'Brother Rat' in 1938, Reagan met Jane Wyman, another Warners contract player. Married in 1940, they had a daughter, Maureen Elizabeth, in 1941; in 1945 they adopted a son, Michael Edward. In 1948 they were divorced.

During World War II Reagan was a member of the Army Air Corps, but he was rejected for active duty because of his poor eyesight. He spent the war years narrating training films and was discharged with the rank of captain in 1945.

Reagan served six terms--from 1947 to 1952 and in 1959-60--as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He helped achieve better pay, revised tax procedures, and improved working conditions for actors. Beginning in 1949, Reagan served two terms as chairman of the Motion Picture Industry Council.

Militantly anti-Communist, Reagan appeared in 1947 as a cooperative witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which was investigating Communist influence in the motion picture industry. Although Reagan supported efforts to identify Communists and prevent them from working in films, he also used his position in the Screen Actors Guild to help clear those who had been wrongly accused of being members of the Communist party.

In 1952 Reagan married the actress Nancy Davis. Their daughter, Patricia Ann, was born in 1952, and their son, Ronald Prescott, was born in 1958. In 1957 Reagan and his wife appeared together in the motion picture 'Hellcats of the Navy'. The Reagans had a large ranch where they raised horses and cattle.

After having performed on several television programs, in 1954 Reagan began an eight-year association with the General Electric Company. He was the host and program supervisor for the popular television series General Electric Theater, and he occasionally appeared as an actor in the series. As part of his contract, Reagan also spent several weeks each year speaking to General Electric employees throughout the country. During these talks he frequently defended free enterprise and criticized big government. From 1962 to 1965 Reagan hosted and occasionally acted in the Death Valley Days series.

Political Commitments

During the 1940s Reagan was a liberal Democrat and a member of liberal political organisations, including the United World Federalists and the Americans for Democratic Action. In 1948 Reagan supported President Harry S. Truman for reelection. In 1950 he supported Helen Gahagan Douglas of California in her unsuccessful Senate race against Richard M. Nixon. Then his political position began shifting: in 1952 and 1956 he worked as a Democrat for Eisenhower, and in 1960 as a Democrat for Nixon. Reagan appeared on anti-Communist television programs, and he became a member of the advisory board of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom. In 1962 he switched his registration to the Republican party and also supported a member of the right-wing John Birch Society in an unsuccessful Congressional bid.

In 1964 Reagan supported Senator Barry Goldwater, a conservative Republican candidate for president. His televised appeal for Goldwater was the most successful fund-raising political speech in history.

With the support of businessmen and other conservative backers Reagan entered the 1966 race for the governorship of California. He defeated his moderate Republican opponent in the primary and then conducted a campaign on such issues as welfare, student dissidents, crime, and big government. Although registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans by three to two in the state, Reagan won by nearly a million votes. He was reelected in 1970.

As governor of California Reagan was not wholly successful in carrying out his conservative programs. During his two terms the state had its largest budget increases in history and spending nearly doubled. Partly because of previous deficits, Reagan increased taxes at a rate greater than the national average, and taxes became more progressive. California voters rejected his proposal to limit state spending and levels of taxation. Reagan did, however, accomplish some of his goals. He vetoed 994 bills passed by the state legislature, and all but one of the vetoes were upheld.

Several of Reagan's accomplishments during his terms as governor were highly regarded, even by his political opponents. He doubled aid to schools and increased expenditures for mental health 400 percent. He cooperated with the legislature in reforming the state's welfare system by restricting eligibility and reducing the numbers of persons receiving benefits, while increasing benefits for the most needy. Reagan signed the most stringent air and water pollution bills in the country and promoted judicial reform.

National Politics

In 1968, while serving his first term as governor of California, Reagan announced his candidacy for president during the Republican convention. As a conservative alternative to Nixon, the front-runner, Reagan received only 14 percent of the delegate votes, and Nixon was nominated.

Reagan's disagreement with the foreign policy of President Gerald R. Ford led him to enter the 1976 race for the Republican nomination. Reagan defeated Ford in several primaries, but he did not enter primaries in enough large states to win a clear majority of the delegates. Before the convention Reagan named Senator Richard S. Schweiker, a liberal from Pennsylvania, as his choice for vice-president. Although the move angered some of his conservative supporters and failed to win liberal support, Reagan lost the nomination to Ford by only 117 delegate votes. (See also Ford, Gerald R.)

In 1979 Reagan again entered the race for the Republican nomination for president. Although opposed by some prominent contenders, he won several primaries and large numbers of delegates in state caucuses. By May 1980 Reagan had enough delegates to win the nomination.

The Republican platform was tailored to suit Reagan's views. It advocated large tax cuts, decreased government spending for social programs, increased military spending, and a more aggressive foreign policy. Reagan chose Bush, who had been his most successful opponent in the primaries, as his vice-presidential running mate. (See also Bush.)

After the convention Reagan lost the large lead he had held over President Jimmy Carter, and the candidates were often tied in the polls. Even though Reagan was often criticised for not being specific, his ability as a speaker helped him project a favourable image. His strong performance in a debate with Carter one week before the election was credited with winning over a large number of voters.

The Reagan Administrations

In his inaugural address Reagan called for an "era of national renewal," in which the role of the federal government would be reduced. He proposed large budget cuts in all areas except defense, as well as large reductions in taxes.

Appointments to the initial Reagan Cabinet included Alexander M. Haig, Jr., secretary of state; Donald T. Regan, secretary of the treasury; Casper W. Weinberger, secretary of defense; William French Smith, attorney general; James G. Watt, secretary of the interior; John R. Block, secretary of agriculture; Malcolm Baldrige, secretary of commerce; Raymond J. Donovan, secretary of labor; Samuel R. Pierce, Jr., secretary of housing and urban development; Drew Lewis, secretary of transportation; James B. Edwards, secretary of energy; and Terrel Bell, secretary of education. Schweiker was appointed secretary of health and human services, and Jeane J. Kirkpatrick became ambassador to the United Nations.

Among the replacements were the first women in the Reagan Cabinet. Named in January 1983 were Elizabeth Dole, to head transportation, and Margaret Heckler, health and human services. The most controversial appointment was Edwin Meese III, whose confirmation as attorney general was held up for more than a year.

Reagan's appointments to the Supreme Court included Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman justice, and Antonin Scalia (see O'Connor). In 1987, after much heated debate, the Senate voted against the confirmation of Reagan's ultraconservative Supreme Court choice, Robert H. Bork.

Reagan's next nominee, Douglas H. Ginsburg, withdrew his name after disclosure of his past use of marijuana--a controversy made more pronounced by Nancy Reagan's work in a "Just say no" campaign against drug abuse. Finally, Anthony Kennedy was approved in 1988. After lengthy confirmation hearings William Rehnquist had been named chief justice when Warren Burger resigned in 1986.

In an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr., on March 30, 1981, Reagan was shot in the chest while leaving a hotel in Washington, D.C. After surgery to remove the bullet from his left lung, he recuperated quickly and returned to his duties.

Domestically, the first Reagan term set a new tone, indicated in such themes as getting the government off the backs of the people and not letting it spend more than it takes in. He pushed through Congress a program of increased defense spending and budget and tax cuts. A severe recession in 1982-83 lessened the appeal of so-called Reaganomics, but a strong economic recovery aided his landslide reelection in 1984.

For eight hours on July 13, 1985, while Reagan was undergoing intestinal surgery, he formally transferred the power of his office to Vice-President Bush. It was the first time anyone had been designated acting president of the United States. A cancerous growth was removed during the operation. In 1987 Reagan underwent minor surgeries for urinary tract blockage, intestinal polyps, and a cancerous growth on his nose.

Just before leaving office, Reagan created a 14th Cabinet department, for veterans' affairs. As part of major antidrug legislation he also created the Cabinet-level post of "drug czar" (director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy).

In foreign policy, Reagan took an early stand against the Soviet Union. In March 1983 he announced his Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly called Star Wars. It was perceived by the Soviets as a threat, but early in Reagan's second term they agreed to resume disarmament talks. Summits with Soviet Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, 1986, and 1987 resulted in a treaty reducing intermediate-range nuclear forces. In 1988 the two leaders met in Moscow for initial discussions on the control of long-range arsenals.

In 1983 there were crises in Lebanon, where 241 United States Marines were killed in a terrorist bombing, and Grenada, where American forces were sent to depose a Marxist regime. Central America was another trouble spot. The clandestine sale of arms to Iran by some government officials, a vain attempt to bribe the Iranians into freeing American hostages held in Lebanon, was uncovered in late 1986. Profits from the sale had been illegally diverted to guerrillas trying to topple the Nicaraguan government.

Senate hearings on what was called the Iran-contra affair began in 1987. Among those indicted were the National Security Council's John M. Poindexter and Lieut. Col. Oliver North. During North's trial in 1989 a document released by the defense suggested that both Reagan and Bush had been involved in an undercover scheme to secure outside aid for the contras in exchange for military-economic support for Honduras. By 1990 six former Reagan officials had been convicted in the affair. (In eight hours of videotaped testimony about the arms plot, the former president repeatedly swore, "I don't recall.") (See also United States, "The Nation in the Space Age, 1958 to Present.")

Neither the many political scandals revealed about his subordinates nor the weight of enormous budget deficits clung to Reagan, who was called the Teflon president. He retired on a crest of popularity to a rental home--a 2.5-million-dollar Bel Air (California) estate, purchased by a group of friends. Gifted with movie-actor charm and a reputation as "the great communicator," he was in demand as a speaker.


Carter, Hodding. The Reagan Years (Braziller, 1988). De La Mare, Walter. Peacock Pie: Power and Politics in the Reagan White House (Holt, 1989). Denton, R.E., Jr. The Primetime Presidency of Ronald Reagan: The Era of the Television Presidency (Praeger, 1988). Jones, C.O., ed. The Reagan Legacy: Promise and Performance (Chatham House, 1988). Niskanen, W.A. Reaganomics (Oxford Univ. Press, 1988). Reagan, Nancy and Novak, William. My Turn (Dell, 1990). Reagan, Ronald. An American Life (Simon & Schuster, 1990).

From Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1999 The Learning Company, Inc.



Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realise that it bears a very close resemblance to the first - Ronald Reagan


Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to understand that it bears a close resemblance to the first – Ronald Reagan

Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged -  Ronald Reagan

I am delighted to be with you. In fact, at my age, I'm delighted to be anywhere - Ronald Reagan (Speech at Oxford Union)

They say hard work never hurt anybody, but I figure why take the chance – Ronald Reagan (attributed to him)

[On his challenger, Walter Mondale, in the 1984 election campaign] I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. - Reagan, Ronald

[During a microphone test prior to a radio broadcast] My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I have signed legislation to outlaw Russia for ever. We begin bombing in five minutes. - Reagan, Ronald

[After the hi-jack of a US plane by Shi'ite Muslims] We are not going to tolerate these attacks from outlaw states run by the strangest collection of misfits, looney tunes and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich. - Reagan, Ronald

You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by the way he eats jelly beans. - Reagan, Ronald

[When told by an aide that the Government was running normally, after an attempt to assassinate him] What makes you think I'd be happy about that? - Reagan, Ronald

[To the surgeons about to operate on him after he was wounded in an assassination attempt] Please assure me that you are all Republicans! - Reagan, Ronald