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David McCullough, Series Host: Good evening and welcome to The American Experience, I'm David McCullough.

We begin tonight Part One of our special two-part broadcast, Reagan.

Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president of the United States held office from January 1981 to January 1989 -- for eight highly eventful, crucial years, a time of high prosperity and painful recession, of much star-spangled optimism and the terrible over-hanging fear that the world might be blown to pieces. It was then, too, that the Cold War all but ended, a turning point in history the importance of which can hardly be overstated.

What distinguishes our film is the presence of so many of the protagonists in the drama, including Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as members of the president's own family, Nancy, Maureen, Ron and Patti. Indeed, this is the first film biography of Ronald Reagan in which his family has agreed to appear.

Several themes emerge in tonight's broadcast. One is that Reagan was so often underestimated. Who would ever have thought a movie star could twice be elected governor of our largest state, let alone twice elected president. Another theme is the extent of his religious conviction, beginning in boyhood.

Never in the history of the country had there been a president with his background. There had been lawyers aplenty in the job, farmers, teachers, soldiers but never an actor -- which left a lot of people wondering.

Asked once near the end of his second term if he had learned anything as an actor that was of use to him in the presidency, he replied, "There have been times... when I have wondered how you could do the job if you hadn't been an actor."

Reagan, Part One, by producer Adriana Bosch...

continue to Part I...


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