The Education of Ronald Reagan

The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism

Thomas W. Evans

Columbia University Press

The Education of Ronald Reagan

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Pub Date: December 2006

ISBN: 9780231138611

320 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£22.00

Pub Date: December 2006

ISBN: 9780231138604

320 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£67.00

Pub Date: December 2006

ISBN: 9780231511070

320 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£22.00

The Education of Ronald Reagan

The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism

Thomas W. Evans

Columbia University Press

In October 1964, Ronald Reagan gave a televised speech in support of Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. "The Speech," as it has come to be known, helped launch Ronald Reagan as a leading force in the American conservative movement. However, less than twenty years earlier, Reagan was a prominent Hollywood liberal, the president of the Screen Actors Guild, and a fervent supporter of FDR and Harry Truman. While many agree that Reagan's anticommunism grew out of his experiences with the Hollywood communists of the late 1940s, the origins of his conservative ideology have remained obscure.

Based on a newly discovered collection of private papers as well as interviews and corporate documents, The Education of Ronald Reagan offers new insights into Reagan's ideological development and his political ascendancy. Thomas W. Evans links the eight years (1954-1962) in which Reagan worked for General Electric—acting as host of its television program, GE Theater, and traveling the country as the company's public-relations envoy-to his conversion to conservatism.

In particular, Evans reveals the profound influence of GE executive Lemuel Boulware, who would become Reagan's political and ideological mentor. Boulware, known for his tough stance against union officials and his innovative corporate strategies to win over workers, championed the core tenets of modern American conservatism-free-market fundamentalism, anticommunism, lower taxes, and limited government. Building on the ideas and influence of Boulware, Reagan would soon begin his rise as a national political figure and an icon of the American conservative movement.

An elegant history of Reagan's 'studies' with General Electric.

John H. Fund, The Wall Street Journal

The first satisfying account of how Reagan evolved into a conservative.

Rick Perlstein, author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus

A persuasive explanation for a major gap in the Reagan 'mythology.'

Michael Flamm, Ohio Wesleyan University

Tom Evans was present at the creation of great candidacies, and his book offers a fresh, valuable account of what made Reagan Reagan.

William Safire, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist

This work confronts directly the everlasting question about why Ronald Reagan shifted so abruptly from Hollywood liberal and union leader to General Electric spokesman and anti-union activist. I know of no work that explains that transition and its implication for conservative leadership in America more effectively. In short, a major contribution to Reagan scholarship and presidency analysis.

James MacGregor Burns, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

Thomas Evans commendably helps to fill an important gap in the fascinating story of how Ronald Reagan went from movie actor to President of the United States by focusing on the eight years in the 1950s that he spent traveling America's byways for General Electric.

Stephen Hess, Distinguished Research Professor of Media & Public Affairs, The George Washington University

This remarkable book opens hitherto closed doors and windows into Ronald Reagan's early years. It is a fascinating, often riveting read.

Thomas Fleming, author of The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II

A revelation... Definitely worth reading for those who want to know how Ronald Reagan evolved into the 'Great Communicator' of political yore.

A.G. Gancarski, The Washington Times

[The Education of Ronald Reagan] fills a hole in Reagan's biography.

Daniel Oppenheimer, Sacramento News and Review

Evans's book is essential reading... a reasoned exploration of the shaping of an extraordinary political career.

Joseph C. Goulden, Washington Lawyer

This fascinating study sheds new light on Reagan's ideological evolution.

Publishers Weekly

A better companion to [The Reagan Diaries].... By focusing on the decade or so when Reagan was a traveling spokesman for General Electric—a period that he began as a Democrat and ended as a Republican—Evans does a persuasive job of explaining where Reagan's political views came from.

Nicholas Lemann, New Yorker

The Education of Ronald Reagan admirably fills... [a] gap... One of the most illuminating books ever written about Reagan.

Jacob Heilbrunn, National Interest

[The Education of Ronald Reagan]provides fresh revelations on Reagan's ideological development... a 'must' for any college level collection.

The Midwest Book Review

Evans is undoubtedly correct to home in on the G.E. years as the key period in Reagan's self education.

Steven F. Hayward, Claremont Review of Books

Evans provides useful insight into Reagan's GE years and calls attention to the influence of Boulware.

Emilie Raymond, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

I recommend strongly that you get the (book).

Newt Gingrich, BizVoice

An important work that ought to be read.

Ronald W. Schatz, Labor History
1. A New Dealer to the Core
2. Politics: War by Different Means
Part I. A Postgraduate Course in Political Science
3. Boulwarism
4. The Plant Tour
5. Schools, Classes, and Trains
Part II. An Apprenticeship for Public Life
6. The Campaign
7. Allies
8. The Speech
9. Two Unions
10. The Art of Negotiation
Part III. To Encourage an Increasing Majority of Citizens
11. The Campaign Continues
12. The Presidential Bug
13. A President's Vision
Appendix. Speeches of Reuther, Boulware, and Reagan
Walter P. Reuther, Labor and the Community
Lemuel Boulware, Salvation Is Not Free
Ronald Reagan, A Time for Choosing ("The Speech")

Read Chapter 1 from The Education of Ronald Reagan, >A New Dealer to the Core

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About the Author

Thomas W. Evans, a lawyer and avocational politician, has supervised a successful New Hampshire presidential primary and established a national citizens' campaign organization. A former adjunct professor of education and administration at Columbia University's Teachers College, Evans was chair of the Reagan administration's national symposium on partnerships in education and counsel to the Points of Light Foundation under George H.W. Bush.