From the Silver Screen to the White House

July 05, 2018

From the Silver Screen to the White House

The road to the White House often starts with generations of political ancestors, Ivy League schools and deep entrenchment in elite circles. However, Ronald Reagan’s own path to the White House was a bit unconventional—which many credit for some of his success.

When Ronald Reagan was in Hollywood, his future as an actor was bright. He had a number of huge hits under his belt and had a lengthy contract with one of the nation’s leading production companies. However, Ronald Reagan as an actor just wasn’t feasible for someone with such deep commitments to fighting for justice and such exemplary leadership skills.

Reagan’s capacity to lead evinced itself during his time in Hollywood. He was elected to a series of terms on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild, eventually rising to become its vice president and later its president. During his tenure with the organization, he successfully navigated a number of labor disputes, perhaps a precursor to his later work fighting back against corrupt union practices.

His experience in Hollywood opened a number of doors to political opportunities. Reagan was a strong supporter of anti-Communist actions, particularly in Hollywood, and his involvement on that front earned him the respect of and affiliation with leading political pundits of the time. He became a sought-after endorsement by those seeking to build popularity within Hollywood circles. In 1948, he endorsed Harry S. Truman for president, later throwing his public support to Dwight D. Eisenhower and then Richard Nixon.

For more than a decade, Reagan hosted “General Electric Theatre,” a weekly television drama that had him touring and filming daily at GE plants around the nation. The experience enabled Reagan to perfect his comfort level with large public addresses and his passion for connecting with hard-working Americans. Reagan’s reputation as a voice for conservatives flourished during the series, helping to further catapult him to political platforms, including as a leading backer of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. That support skyrocketed him to the national stage and jumpstarted his political career. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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