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Ronald Reagan on Making America Great Again

"How did I get over being poor? I got a job as a sports announcer and it led to everything else." - Ronald Reagan, as told to Bill Moyers on April 30, 1979.

AIRED: March 06, 2017 | 0:05:55

(tape fast forwarding)

("Another Version of You" by Chris Zabriskie)

- Do you think materialism is the source

of our strength and greatness as a country?

- Sure, because it's the kind of materialism

that is based on individuals wanting better things,

more comfort,

and there being people with ideas who are free

to say, "Hey, I'll bet the people would like this.

"I'm going to make it."

Just recently I saw an example of one.

Now, you know, if you open a can of soft drink,

hold it in your hand,

it gets warm very fast while you're drinking it.

There's a fella that has invented an aluminum stein handle.

You're serving people cold drinks in the can,

you just clamp that handle onto it,

and people hold it by the handle

and the drink doesn't warm up.

And he's going to make a million dollars.

- [Moyers] Tell me something about your mother and father.

- [Reagan] He was a shoe salesman,

he was a Democrat, he was Irish.

It was a divided family.

My father was Catholic, my mother was Protestant,

and while we were poor,

I don't think we were really conscious of it

because the government didn't come around and tell you

you were poor like they do today.

- [Moyers] This is when you were in Illinois?

- Yes.

We lived in a small town.

It was from payday to payday with us,

and I can remember one dish that I thought was delicious

and it was only later that I realized why we had it.

Have you ever heard of oatmeal meat?

- [Moyers] No.

- [Reagan] Well you make oatmeal,

and you mix ground meat with it.

Then you make a gravy just out of that,

and then you serve that in a big pancake-like thing.

Well, that was because we couldn't afford

to have that pancake made of all meat.

("Wild Ones" by Jahzzar)

- [Moyers] When you first came to Hollywood,

as I am told, you were a fairly liberal fellow,

almost a one-world liberal.

- [Reagan] Well, I was a New Deal Democrat.

Yes, had grown up that way.

My first vote was cast for Franklin Delano Roosevelt

the first time he ran.

Differing from today, in the Great Depression

there was a warmth among people,

there was a desire to help each other.

Status symbols did not exist.

I went to school and worked my way through,

a small school in Illinois.

First job was waiting tables,

second job was one of the better jobs I've ever had,

washing dishes in the girls' dormitory.


(Moyers laughs)

Now, granted, at that time I thought all of the efforts

by the government to resolve the problems

of the Great Depression were, you know, the way to go.

I look back now and realize they didn't help at all.

They didn't cure the Depression.

In many ways they set it back.

It's tragic, but the cure of the Depression

was a very high price, World War II.

But I have often thought the party changed

much more than I did.

How many people remember that in 1932

Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran on a program,

the Democratic platform,

of cutting federal spending by 25%,

eliminating useless bureaus and agencies,

returning to states and local governments authorities

and autonomy that he said had unjustly been seized

by the federal government?

Now, there's only one party today in America

that I know that would be happy with that platform,

and it's the party (chuckles) I now belong to.

("Chunk of Lawn" by Jahzzar)

- [Moyers] You still think business is the goose

that laid the golden egg?

- [Reagan] You have to believe that.

For the first time in man's history,

we unleashed the individual genius of every man

to climb as high and as far

as his own strength and ability will take him.

We live in the future in America, always have.

And the better days are yet to come.

- [Moyers] Do you think those better days

mean more consumption of goods?

More consumption of things?

- [Reagan] Certainly, and a wider distribution

of the ability to consume those things.

That's the dream of America.

The problem isn't being poor,

the problem, the answer is to get over being poor.

And people want more and want better,

and they--

- [Moyers] How do you think people get over being poor?

- By this, well, (chuckles)

by this same way,

of the ability and the freedom to rise as far as you can.

- [Moyers] But what about the people--

- [Reagan] How did I get over being poor?

I got a job as a sports announcer

and it led to everything else.

- There's going to be a stampede to the radio stations

right away, I'm sure. (laughing)

("Another Version of You" by Chris Zabriskie)

- [Moyers] Somebody described Reagan country

as "a land of well-kept lawns and chambers of commerce,

"dull and square, a nice place to raise kids

"and have a barbecue."

Do you think Reagan country, that part of America,

can see and understand the America of dirty streets,

crime, and poor people?

- [Reagan] Yeah, because most of them came from there.

I have said that maybe the difference between

some of those people and myself is,

and people like myself is that they can have compassion

for someone who's needy.

Oh yes, let's have a government program to help that person.

We all have compassion for those people and the needy.

But I also have compassion

for those families out there in America

today where the husband and wife is both working,

not because she wants to have a career,

but because if they're gonna pay the mortgage

on the house in this inflationary age she has to.

If they're gonna send the kids on to school

they both have to work.

50% of the wives now working,

and all they ask of freedom is freedom itself,

and they're getting worse off, not better off,

and I think that there ought to be enough compassion

for these people that are making this system of ours work.

They're the backbone of America

and who the devil is passing programs for them?

(tape fast forwarding)


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