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The Oval Office Discussions about Reagan's Presidency

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Old 01-31-2003, 02:42 PM
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Does Ronald Reagan have a Bachelors Degree or a Masters Degree? In what field? From which schools? [img]graemlins/soapbox.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/clap.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/twitch.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/hello.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/war.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/gop.gif[/img]
Old 01-31-2003, 06:20 PM
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Ronald Reagan has a Bachelors degree in Economics from Eureka College

In the 1920s, fewer than seven percent of the high school graduates in America went to college, but I was determined to be among them. I was drawn to one college in particular. Ever since I could remember, one of Dixon's biggest heroes had been the husky son of one of the ministers at our church. After starring as a fullback on our high school team, he'd gone to Eureka College and become an even bigger football celebrity there. There were fewer than 250 students when I was at Eureka, roughly divided between men and women, and everyone knew one another by their first name. As in a small town, you couldn't remain anonymous at a small college. Everybody was needed. Whether it's the glee club or helping to edit the school yearbook, there's a job for everyone, and everybody gets a chance to shine at something and build their sense of self-confidence. You get to discover things about yourself that you might never learn if you were lost in the crowd of a larger school.

I've been accused of majoring in extracurricular activities at Eureka. Technically, that wasn't true. My major was economics. But it is true I thrived on school activities - although my expectation of sweeping onto the campus and becoming an overnight football sensation was, to say the least, not fulfilled. I soon reached the conclusion that Coach McKinzie didn't like me. He was not only unimpressed by my high school exploits, he kept me on the bench most of the season and I spent much of my freshman year sulking about it.

While I didn't play much football that fall, I did taste another type of combat - my first taste of politics.

In the autumn of 1928, the stock market crash and the Great Depression were still a year away. But in the Midwest, farmers were already feeling an economic pinch, and Eureka, which drew much of its support from the region, was feeling the impact in the form of smaller donations to its endowment. To make ends meet, Bert Wilson, the new president, decided to lay off part of the faculty and impose other cuts. When the students and faculty got wind of the plan, resentment spread over the campus like a prairie fire because cutbacks meant many juniors and seniors wouldn't be able to take classes they needed to graduate. On the Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving, when students usually began their pre-holiday exodus, no one left the campus. A student committee was formed to consider the possibility of calling a strike and I was elected to represent freshmen on the committee. That Saturday night, our committee waited while trustees met to ratify the president's cutbacks. When they came out of the meeting, their expressions told us the decision had been made; the ax was going to fall.

Because I was a freshman and didn't have the same vested interests in avoiding the faculty cutbacks that upperclassmen did, I was chosen to present our committee's proposal for a strike. Giving that speech - my first - was as exciting as any I ever gave. For the first time in my life, I felt my words reach out and grab an audience, and it was exhilarating. When I'd say something, they'd roar after every sentence, sometimes every word, and after a while, it was as if the audience and I were one. When I called for a vote on the strike, everybody rose to their feet with a thunderous clapping of hands and approved the proposal for a strike by acclamation. A week after the strike began, the president resigned, the strike ended, and things returned to normal at Eureka College.

As classes resumed that fall, most of my attention was on getting my backside off Mac McKinzie's bench. I resolved to block and tackle as hard as I could during practice to catch his eye, and after several weeks he began to pay me an occasional compliment. On a rainy day in mid-season, we were practicing a new play, a wide sweep around my end of the line, and Mac told me the only way to play could work was for the guard - me- to take down the defensive halfback before he could nail our running back. He asked an assistant coach - one of his former teammates who served as an unpaid volunteer - to play the role of defensive halfback while I demonstrated what I was supposed to do on the play.

We weren't scrimmaging, just running to where our targets were supposed to be. So I asked Mac: "You don't want me to really take him out?" Before he could answer, our volunteer coach said, "Sure, come and try to block me." The ball was snapped and I took off. Never before or since did I throw such a block. When I hit our ex officio coach he ascended as if he'd been hurled by a shot-putter and seemed to dangle in mid-air for several moments before plummeting to the ground. As I returned to the huddle, he limped off the field while Mac tried to suppress a cough. The next Saturday, I was in the starting lineup and averaged all but two minutes of every game for the remainder of the season and the two seasons that followed it. I owe Mac a lot; he didn't dislike me after all; he just saw some things in an eighteen-year-old kid that needed some correcting.

Early in 1932, with graduation a few month off, I faced the same question that gnaws at all college seniors: What do I do with the rest of my life?

It's easy to look back now and say the answer had been inside me for a long time. I suppose it had, but I still couldn't say aloud, even to myself, that I wanted to be an actor. Once again fate intervened - as if God was carrying out His plan with my name on it. Eureka had hired a new English professor who had a deep love - and talent - for teaching dramatics. Her name was Ellen Marie Johnson and she treated acting as seriously as B.J. Frazer.

Miss Johnson organized a drama society that allowed students who were interested in dramatics to work together year round instead of just the weeks before a new play was staged. During my junior year, she took it upon herself to get Eureka invited to a prestigious one-act play contest at Northwestern University. For college actors, the competition was comparable to the Super Bowl. For our entry, she selected Aria da Capo, a one-act play that was set in ancient Greece. I played a shepherd strangled before the final curtain by Bud Cole, my football teammate, fraternity brother, and one of my best friends. Death scenes are always pleasant for an actor and I tried to play it to the hilt.

To our delight, Eureka placed second in the competition and while we were relishing this success, it was announced I was one of the three performers who had been selected to receive individual acting awards. Afterward, the head of Northwestern's Speech Department, the sponsor of the contest, called me into his office and inquired if I'd ever thought about making acting my career. I said, "Well, no," and he said, "Well, you should." It was quite a thrill for a young man trying to set the course of his life.

I guess that was the day the acting bug really bit me.

By my senior year at Eureka, my secret dream to be an actor was firmly planted, but I knew that in the middle of Illinois in 1932, I couldn't go around saying, "I want to be an actor." To say I wanted to be a movie star would have been as eccentric as saying I wanted to go to the moon. Hollywood and Broadway were at least as remote from Dixon as the moon was in 1932. If I had told anyone I was setting out to be a movie star, they'd have carted me off to an institution.

But I had an idea. Broadway and Hollywood were a long way from Dixon, but not Chicago, the nation's hub of radio broadcasting.

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