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

Recorded on January 19, 2007

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

Ronald Reagan began his political career as a Hollywood liberal. An active Democrat, he supported FDR and participated in radio broadcasts on behalf of Harry Truman during his 1948 campaign. However, in the 1950s, Reagan abandoned liberalism to adopt the conservative ideology that would come to define the political culture of American in the last decades of the 20th Century. While it is agreed that Reagan's anti-Communism grew out of his experiences with the Hollywood communists of the late 1940s, the origins of Reagan's conservative economic ideology have remained obscure.

The Education of Ronald Reagan links the eight years in which Reagan worked for General Electric - acting as host of its television program, GE Theater, and as the company's public relations envoy - with his conversion to a movement that would come to advocate lower taxes, small government, anti-Communism, and opposition to the excesses of "union officials." Thomas Evans shows how Reagan's time at GE shaped his political and economic outlook and highlights the pivotal influence of GE executive Lemuel Boulware, who was a free-market fundamentalist and skilled political operative, on Reagan's political ascendancy.

Thomas W. Evans, a lawyer and avocational politician, has served as Adjunct Professor of Education and Administration at Columbia University's Teachers College. His other books include The School in the Home and Mentors. He was Chairman of the Reagan Administration's national symposium on partner-ships in education and Counsel to the Points of Light Foundation under George H. W. Bush. A marine platoon leader in Korea, he was awarded the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.