Family legend says John "Jack" Reagan looked at his newborn son, Ronald Wilson Reagan, and said, "He looks like a fat little Dutchman. But who knows, he might grow up to be president someday." Little did he know what the future held for the ambitious boy born on Feb. 6, 1911, in Tampico, Ill. The son of a shoe salesman and a homemaker, Reagan learned early the value of hard work, determination and ambition from his father, who told him that every man is responsible for his own destiny. His mother, Nelle, who was very involved with her church, instilled in her son the power of prayer and optimism.
After graduating from high school, Reagan attended Eureka College in 1928. He began working as a sportscaster for the Chicago Cubs, which led him to Hollywood when he followed the Cubs to their spring training camp in Southern California. He decided to try his hand at movie acting in 1935.
"In a world wracked by hatred, economic crisis and political tension, America remains mankind's best hope."
Over the next 27 years, Reagan appeared in more than 50 films. He also enlisted in the Army Reserve and was assigned to produce Army Air Force training films and documentaries. During his service, Reagan saw footage from foreign war zones that awakened a newfound passion for political causes.
After being discharged from the army as a captain in 1945 and returning to his acting career, Reagan joined the Hollywood Democratic Committee and served on the board of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He allied himself with the big Hollywood studios and the FBI during the strike by the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU), an allegedly communistled organization, and participated in breaking the strike and the CSU. Reagan was elected president of the SAG in 1947.
"You knew that in the end it was free enterprise, not government regulation, not high taxes or big government spending, but free enterprise that has led to the building of a great America."
In 1954, two years after marrying actress Nancy Davis, Reagan became a corporate spokesperson for General Electric, promoting their appliances and their conservative political ideas. He also hosted General Electric Theater, a Sunday evening television show, for eight years.
Through his visits to GE research and manufacturing facilities, he spoke to more than 250,000 employees about the value of hard work and not waiting on the government to provide solutions.
"We in the government should learn to look at our country through the eyes of the entrepreneur, seeing possibilities where others see only problems."
Ten years later, in a 1964 televised speech supporting presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, Reagan not only-praised American individualism and the free-enterprise system, but also inspired hope and determination in the nationwide audience. Ultimately, the speech paved the way for the political and public support he needed to secure an eight-year run as California's governor in 1966. He continued to represent conservative ideology while dedicating himself to the needs of the people and expressing growing concern about big and expensive government. …