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#223: The 'Reagan Revolution,' a Crisis With Iran Ends

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Freed U.S. hostage David Roeder arriving at the Rhein-Main air base in Frankfurt, Germany, on January 21, 1981. He was among 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days.
Freed U.S. hostage David Roeder arriving at the Rhein-Main air base in Frankfurt, Germany, on January 21, 1981. He was among 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days.

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

This week in our series, we look at the presidential campaign of nineteen eighty and the election of Ronald Reagan.

(MUSIC)

The months before Election Day in November of nineteen eighty were difficult for President Jimmy Carter. Many Americans blamed the Democrat for the nation's economic problems, including high inflation and high unemployment. Many also blamed him for not gaining the release of fifty-two American hostages in Iran.

About a year earlier, Muslim extremists had seized the United States embassy in Tehran and taken the Americans as prisoners. President Carter urged all Americans to support his administration during the crisis.

Ronald Reagan and wife, Nancy, at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles after his election victory on November 4, 1980
Ronald Reagan and wife, Nancy, at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles after his election victory on November 4, 1980

As the months went by, however, he made no progress in bringing the hostages home. The Iranians rejected negotiations for their release, and an attempt to rescue them failed. The president appeared powerless.

Carter's political weakness led another Democrat, Ted Kennedy, to compete against him for the party's nomination. Kennedy was a powerful senator from Massachusetts and brother of former President John Kennedy.

But at their national convention the Democrats nominated Carter for a second term, along with his vice president, Walter Mondale.

Kennedy chose not to support them very strongly, so the Democratic Party was divided for the general election.

(MUSIC)

The Republican Party, however, was united behind a strong candidate -- Ronald Reagan, a former actor and former governor of California. Reagan's running mate for vice president was George H. W. Bush. Bush had served in Congress and as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. He had also represented the United States as ambassador to China and to the United Nations.

The inability of the Carter administration to solve the hostage crisis and other problems made many Americans feel that their country was weak. Reagan promised to give them confidence once more in the nation's strength.

Carter and Reagan debated each other several weeks before the election. To some people, Carter seemed angry and defensive while Reagan seemed calm and thoughtful.

RONALD REAGAN: "Next Tuesday is Election Day. Next Tuesday, all of you will go to the polls and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more, or less, unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?

"And if you answer all of those questions 'yes,' why then, I think your choice is very obvious as to who you'll vote for. If you don't agree -- if you don't think that this course we've been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four -- then, I could suggest another choice that you have."

(MUSIC)

On Election Day, voters gave Reagan a huge victory. It became known as the "Reagan Revolution."

Inauguration Day was January twentieth, nineteen eighty-one. Ronald Reagan became the nation's fortieth president and, at sixty-nine, the oldest ever elected.

In his inaugural speech, the new president talked about the goals of his administration. A major goal was to reduce the size of the federal government. Reagan and other conservatives believed that the nation's economy was suffering because of high taxes and unnecessary laws.

Government, he said, was not the solution to the problem. Government was the problem.

He urged Americans to join him in what he called a "new beginning."

RONALD REAGAN: "The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months. But they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now -- as we have had in the past -- to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom."

(MUSIC)

Ronald Reagan was born in nineteen eleven in the small community of Tampico, Illinois. He was a good student and a good athlete. During summers, he worked as a lifeguard at a river and saved a number of swimmers. He studied economics and sociology and was on the swim team at Eureka College, a small school in Illinois.

While in college, he became interested in acting. But he did not have enough money to go to New York or Hollywood to study to become an actor. Instead, he tried out for a job as a sports announcer on radio.

To show his abilities, he made a recording of a football game in which he announced all the plays. But the game was imaginary. He invented all the action. A radio station in Davenport, Iowa, liked his creativity and gave him the job.

Later, "Dutch" Reagan, as he was called, worked at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa. And then he moved to the big city -- Chicago, where he worked as an announcer for the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

In March of nineteen thirty-seven, the Cubs were in California for spring training. Reagan went along, and while he was there he took a screen test with Warner Brothers. The movie studio liked the friendly, handsome young man and offered him a job. In fact, in his first movie, he played a radio announcer.

Before long, Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood star. He appeared in many movies - some good, some ordinary, but most very popular with the public.

In the nineteen-forty film "Knute Rockne -- All American," Reagan played Notre Dame University college football player George Gipp. His deathbed speech contained a line that would often be associated with the Reagan presidency.

GEORGE GIPP (RONALD REAGAN): "Ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, but I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."

(MUSIC: "Kings Row")

In "Kings Row," Reagan played a double amputee who had lost both legs.

DRAKE (RONALD REAGAN): "Randy! Randy! Randy! Where's the rest of me? Randy ... "

RANDY (ANN SHERIDAN): "Yes, Drake!"

DRAKE: "It was an accident."

RANDY: "Yes, dear. But don't talk about it yet."

He remembered "Kings Row" as the film that made him a star.

(MUSIC)

During World War Two Reagan joined what was then the Army Air Corps and made training films.

Reagan became deeply interested in politics during his years in Hollywood. He started out a liberal, but his political views became increasingly conservative. He served six times as president of the Screen Actors Guild, a union of movie actors. He was noted for his opposition to anyone in the movie industry who supported communism.

Later, during his presidency, the public learned that he had also been a secret informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This was during a campaign against suspected communist sympathizers in Hollywood.

After the war, Reagan guided the Screen Actors Guild through a frightening time for actors and others in the entertainment industry. It was the time of the powerful House Un-American Activities Committee. Its hearings resulted in the feared "blacklist." The blacklist was responsible for hurting -- even ending --the careers of many in the film and television industries if they were thought to be communists or to have communist sympathies.

(MUSIC)

It was through the blacklist scare that Reagan met his second wife, Nancy Davis. Her name had mistakenly been confused with that of another actress, causing it to appear on a blacklist, and she sought Reagan's help in correcting the mistake.

They fell in love, and would marry in nineteen fifty-two.

HELEN BLAIR (NANCY DAVIS): "Must be a big push this time, Case."

CASEY ABBOTT (RONALD REAGAN): "The admiral told me not to tell."

Reagan and Nancy Davis appeared together in the World War Two drama "Hellcats of the Navy," in which he played a naval officer and she a navy nurse who loved him.

HELEN BLAIR: "The admiral should have told me not to worry."

CASEY ABBOTT: "I thought we'd settled all that. About you and me."

HELEN BLAIR: "It won't stay settled, Case. Not until you tell me you've stopped caring."

By the early nineteen fifties, Reagan stopped appearing in movies and turned instead to a new medium -- television.

RONALD REAGAN: "And every Sunday night, General Electric brings you the finest motion picture stars on TV. The great names in comedy, in mystery, in romance. Every week, a star, all summer long, on the General Electric Theater."

(MUSIC)

For many years, Ronald Reagan was the commercial spokesman for General Electric and host of a series of dramatic shows.

For much of his life Ronald Reagan was a Democrat. By nineteen sixty, however, he was making speeches for conservative Republican candidates. In nineteen sixty-six, he became a candidate himself. He ran as a Republican for governor of California. Democrats did not take him seriously. They made fun of some of his movie roles, as in "Bedtime for Bonzo," a comedy where his co-star was a chimp.

But Reagan had the last laugh. He won the election by almost a million votes.

As governor, Reagan was praised for reducing the state's debt but criticized for raising taxes. Some people also thought he reacted too strongly against student unrest on college campuses. But he won reelection in nineteen seventy.

In nineteen seventy-six Reagan ran for the Republican presidential nomination. He came close to winning that nomination away from President Gerald Ford. Ford recognized that there was strong support for Reagan among the convention delegates. After accepting the nomination, Ford asked Reagan to share the stage with him. The strong welcome that Reagan received was a clear sign of his future in the party.

(MUSIC)

That future would come just four years later, when Reagan won the presidency. On Reagan's Inauguration Day, Iran finally released the hostages it had been holding for four hundred forty-four days. Walter Cronkite paused in his CBS television coverage of the inauguration for this breaking news report from Dan Rather.

DAN RATHER: "Walter, according to our CBS News sources at Tehran airport, one of the two Algerian jetliners is taxiing, or was just a few moments ago. And the drama on the runway of the Tehran airport continues, as the long agony for the brave fifty-two has continued throughout this morning.

"Now, as best as we can make it out, here is where the situation with the American hostages stands at this moment. They remain in Tehran, at least they were just a few moments ago at the airport, apparently moments away from their flight to freedom, a few moments after spending four hundred forty-four days in captivity.

"And can you imagine what it must have been like inside that airliner for the hostages this morning?"

As president, Ronald Reagan quickly began work to get Congress to reduce taxes. He also began a weekly series of radio broadcasts.

Each Saturday he would comment on developments in American life and politics. The broadcasts were similar to the "fireside chats" of President Franklin Roosevelt during the nineteen thirties.

Reagan's ability to relate to people earned him the nickname "the Great Communicator."

(MUSIC)

Two months after he took office, Ronald Reagan was shot while leaving an event at a hotel in Washington.

(SOUND)

In the first moments, no one realized that he had been hit. But there was a bullet in his left lung, close to his heart. At the hospital, Reagan jokingly told the doctors: "I hope you're all Republicans." They were able to remove the bullet and he made a full recovery.

But the shooting left his press secretary, James Brady, permanently disabled from a head wound. A Secret Service agent was also seriously wounded. The gunman, twenty-five year old John Hinckley Junior, was sent to a mental hospital. His explanation for the attack was that he was trying to impress the actress Jodie Foster.

(MUSIC)

We'll continue the story of the Reagan presidency next week.

You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.unsv.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

___

This was program #223.

1980年11月总统大选之前的几个月,卡特总统的日子很不好过。很多美国人觉得,国家的高通货膨胀率和高失业率等经济问题都要怪卡特,没能让伊朗人质事件中的52个美国人获释也是他的过错。

大约一年前,穆斯林极端分子占领了驻德黑兰的美国大使馆,把美国公民扣为人质,卡特呼吁美国民众在伊朗人质事件中,坚定地跟美国政府站在一起。然后,几个月过去了,卡特在争取人质获释的问题上,没有丝毫进展。扣押人质的极端分子拒绝就此跟美方谈判,美国的营救行动也以失败告终。卡特总统在伊朗人质事件的问题上显得软弱无力。

卡特总统民众支持率的疲软,促使另一位民主党人站出来挑战他的总统提名,这个人就是麻萨诸塞州参议员爱德华.肯尼迪。肯尼迪参议员是前总统约翰.肯尼迪的弟弟,在政治上很有影响力。

然而,民主党人在全国代表大会上,还是提名卡特总统竞选连任,他的竞选搭档是现任副总统蒙代尔。爱德华.肯尼迪没有极力支持卡特和蒙代尔,从而造成了选前民主党内部的分裂。

与此同时,共和党则紧密团结,一致支持他们的总统候选人里根。里根曾是好莱坞演员,担任过加利福尼亚州州长,里根的副总统搭档是乔治.布什。布什曾任国会议员、中央情报局局长,还曾出任美国驻华大使,以及美国常驻联合国代表。

卡特政府在伊朗人质事件,以及在解决国内经济问题上所表现出来的无能为力,让民众觉得美国十分软弱。里根保证让大家恢复对国家实力的信心。

大选几周前,卡特和里根举行了辩论。很多人觉得,卡特在辩论中显得脾气暴躁,始终都在自我辩护,而里根却心定神怡,思路清晰。

里根在辩论中说:"下星期二是选举日。下星期二,你们都要到投票站去,做出自己的决定。我想,大家在做决定之前,最好可以问一下自己:‘你的日子比四年前更好过了吗?去商店买东西更容易了吗?失业率比四年前高了还是低了?美国在世界上受到的尊重是更多了还是更少了?'如果你的回答都是肯定的,我想大家很清楚,选票应该投给谁;但如果你的答案都是否定的,如果你不愿意看到我们今后四年继续按照过去四年的道路走下去的话,我建议大家考虑另外一个选项。"

大选结果,里根高票当选。1981年1月20日,里根宣誓就职,成为美国第40任总统。他当时已年届69岁,是美国历史上当选时年纪最大的一位总统。里根在就职演说中谈到了本届政府的工作目标,其中很重要的一个就是缩小联邦政府的规模。里根等保守派认为,国家的经济困难是高税收和完全没有必要的法律所造成的。里根说,政府不是解决问题的出路,而是问题的根源所在。他呼吁民众跟他一起,"重新开始"。

里根说:"我们遭受的经济困境是过去几十年积累的结果,不会在几天、几星期、几个月里消失,但是它们势必会得到解决,因为我们美国人现在跟过去一样,有能力完成必须要完成的工作,以保存这块最后的,这个最伟大的自由堡垒。"

罗纳德.里根1911年出生在伊利诺伊州一个叫坦皮科的小镇,上学时是个好学生,也是一个很优秀的运动员。里根暑假期间在河边当救生员,救过好几个人。他大学就读于伊利诺伊州的尤里卡学院,专业是经济学和社会学,也是学校游泳队队员。

大学期间,里根开始对表演产生兴趣,但是没钱到纽约或是好莱坞去学表演,最后决定申请到电台去当体育播报员,为此,他专门做了一盘样品带,给一场橄榄球赛做解说,但是这场比赛不是真的,全是他自己编出来的,爱奥华州达文波特的一家电台看中了他的想象力,决定雇佣他。

里根后来又在爱奥华州德梅因的一家电台工作过,从那里去了大城市芝加哥,当芝加哥棒球队小熊队的解说员。1937年3月,小熊队到加州去春季集训,里根也去了,顺便到华纳兄弟公司去试镜,华纳公司看重了这个亲和力强、长得又帅的年轻人,给了他一份工作。里根在出演的第一部电影中,扮演的就是一位在电台工作的解说员。

没过多久,里根就成了好莱坞的一颗明星。他演过很多电影,有些不错,有些一般,但大都很受观众们的喜爱。比如,里根在1940年的电影"克努特.罗克尼,所有美国人";(Knute Rockne--All American)里,饰演圣母大学的橄榄球队员乔治.吉普;他在电影King's Row里饰演一个双腿截肢的人。

二战期间,里根加入了当时的陆军航空队,参与拍摄训练片。在好莱坞那段时间里,里根开始对政治产生了浓厚的兴趣。他最初是政治自由派,后来逐渐向保守派转变。里根担任过六届美国演员工会主席,以反对影视界里的亲共分子而著称。

里根后来当总统时,大家才知道,好莱坞清洗亲共分子时,里根曾秘密向联邦调查局提供情报。战争结束后,美国国会众议院的非美活动调查委员会举行听证,当时的美国演员工会主席就是里根。

调查委员会听证的结果是一份好莱坞政治"黑名单",黑名单上的人被认为是共产党或是有亲共情结,这份黑名单让好莱坞影视界很多人的事业都受到了影响,甚至给他们的演艺生涯划上了句号。

也正是在这段时间里,里根遇到了自己的第二任妻子南希.戴维斯。她的名字因为跟另一个女演员的名字混淆,所以莫名其妙地上了黑名单,南希找里根出面,帮她纠正了错误。两人后来相爱,并于1952年结合。

里根和南希合作过一部二战影片,里根扮演一个海军军官,南希扮演一个爱上他的海军护士。50年代初,里根开始从电影转向电视。里根为通用电器做了多年广告代言,还是不少节目的主持人。

里根大半辈子都是民主党人,但是从1960年起,他却开始为共和党候选人发表演说,1966年他本人也成了候选人,代表共和党参选加州州长。民主党人没把他当回事,还拿他演过的一些角色开玩笑,但是里根居然赢了,得票高出对手近100万票。

做为加州州长,里根因为降低州政府赤字而受到称赞,但同时也因为提高税率而受到批评。还有一些人觉得,里根对校园里的学生抗议活动反应过于激烈,但是里根1970年还是当选连任加州州长。

1976年,里根参选共和党总统候选人提名,差点击败当时的总统福特。福特看到了共和党人对里根的支持,在接受提名的讲话时,邀请里根上台发言。里根受到的热烈欢迎预示了他在共和党内光明的前途。

短短四年后,里根当选总统。宣誓就职当天,伊朗的穆斯林极端分子终于释放了关押444天的美国人质。美国哥伦布广播公司记者沃尔特.克朗凯特中断总统宣誓就职的特别报道,插播丹.拉瑟报道的突发新闻。拉瑟说:"沃尔特,根据美国哥伦比亚广播公司在德黑兰机场的消息来源,两架阿尔及利亚飞机中的一架正在跑道上滑行,至少是刚刚还在滑行,德黑兰机场上惊心动魄,52位勇士的磨难还在继续。据我们所知,这就是美国人质的最新状况,他们目前还在德黑兰,至少是刚刚还在德黑兰机场,被关押了漫长的444天后,马上就要投奔自由。大家可以想象,飞机上那些人质现在的心情。"

里根上任后,立即着手推动国会减税。他还开始每周对民众发表例行广播讲话。每个星期六,他都会就美国的生活和政治发表评论,类似30年代富兰克林.罗斯福总统的炉边谈话。里根擅长跟民众交流,因此被称为"伟大的沟通者"。就职两个月后,里根参加完活动离开华盛顿一家饭店时,遭到枪击。

起初,没人意识到里根中弹了。一颗子弹打中里根的左肺,离心脏很近。里根在医院时还跟医生开玩笑说:"我希望你们都是共和党人。"手术很成功,里根术后彻底康复。

然尔,里根的白宫新闻发言人詹姆斯.布雷迪在枪击事件中头部受伤,落下终身残疾;另外还有一名总统的特勤保安也身受重伤。25岁的枪手约翰.辛克利被送进精神病院。辛克利说,他刺杀里根,目的是为了引起电影明星朱迪.福斯特的注意。

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