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Ronald Reagan Centennial Symposium To Celebrate Legacy Of "Great Communicator"

Katie Lemon |
January 28, 2011 | 11:24 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)
Expert panelists, including former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw and Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, will gather next week at USC and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to discuss the leadership and legacy of President Reagan.

More than 25 scholars and senior staff from the Reagan administration will participate in the symposium next week at the Davidson Conference Center and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

One of the topics for discussion at the symposium will be Reagan’s legacy as the “Great Communicator.”  Tom Hollihan, professor of communication at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism said that one of Reagan’s main contributions as president was his “ability to articulate the unique set of values he believed shaped our society and democratic culture.”

“More than other accomplishments of his administration, he had the ability to mobilize people to believe in themselves and their country," Hollihan said.

Ronald Reagan, actor turned president, led the movement of American Exceptionalism and helped bring an end to the Cold War.

According to Michael Genovese, a professor at Loyola Marymount University, Reagan had a “paradoxical presidency.” Genovese pointed out that Reagan lowered taxes during his first year in office, yet the following year “signed legislation imposing the largest peacetime tax increase in U.S. history.”

University of Kansas professor Robert Rowland said in an email, “Reagan fundamentally changed American politics by creating a narrative that combined American Exceptionalism with an individualistic variant of the American Dream.”

The symposium may serve as a commentary of the current political and economic situation in America. As Obama works to fix America’s economic situation, he may be able to use some of Reagan’s principles and ideas.

Among those would be Reagan’s communication skills, especially the way he handled Tip O’Niell’s opposition to his domestic policies. O’Neill and Reagan’s contrasting political views was a constant source of tension during Reagan’s presidency. Hollihan said that despite their differing political views, Reagan managed to respectfully reach out to O’Neill .

“Even when he disagreed with someone, he did so in a civil and positive way,” said Hollihan who also believes that Obama could keep this in mind with his political opponent and Speaker of the House John Boehner.

The centennial symposium at USC will be the first in a series, which will also occur at the University of Virginia, University of Notre Dame, and the U.S. Naval Academy. Each symposium will cover a different topic of Reagan’s legacy, including foreign, domestic, and military policy.

Reach reporter Katie Lemon here.

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