– From 1985 to 1989, the leadership and unlikely friendship of two men – U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev – catalyzed an astonishing event: the end of the Cold War.
Nearly 21 years ago, on Dec. 25, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved itself, marking the definitive end of the Cold War. Few had foreseen that it would end, and almost no one expected it to do so with so little violence.
Michael E. Reagan, son of the late President Reagan, will discuss how this extraordinary event happened when he speaks at Wofford College on Thursday, Nov. 1, for the college’s Hipp Lecture Series on International Affairs and National Security.
He will speak at 7 p.m. in Leonard Auditorium in Main Building on “Reagan and Gorbachev: The Unlikely Friendship that Ended the Cold War.” The program is free and open to the public.
“I’m looking forward to speaking at Wofford College and the Hipp Lecture Series on International Affairs and National Security,” Reagan says. “My father understood that principles matter when you are on the world stage. He believed in American exceptionalism and that America remains the best hope for mankind.”
Van Hipp, the Wofford alumnus who endowed the lecture series, says, “President Reagan’s effort to help end the Cold War was one of the great achievements of the 20th century. Michael Reagan had a front row seat to his father’s historical accomplishments, and we are pleased to have him at Wofford as part of our lecture series.”
Dr. William E. DeMars, professor and chair of Wofford’s Department of Government, notes that students in college today have little to no memory of the end of the Cold War, save what they have learned in history books. “Our students today were born in 1990 or later, so they don’t remember the end of the Cold War, the Cold War itself or Ronald Reagan as president,” he says. “This talk will show them the importance of individual leadership in politics, even at the highest level. I want my students to have a chance to appreciate how astonishing these events were; that the Cold War came to an end, that it ended peacefully, and the role played by this seemingly impossible friendship between these two men.
“Michael Reagan is able to speak to this topic from the time that he spent with Gorbachev the year after Ronald Reagan’s death,” DeMars continues. “Then, in 2005, they did a series of town hall meetings in California on the Reagan-Gorbachev relationship. Michael Reagan can bring the personal stories, the personal insight into the relationship of his father and Gorbachev.”
The end of the Cold War was “just as complex as the Cold War itself,” DeMars points out. “Both leaders seemed to go against type as they navigated its demise: Reagan, the Hollywood actor turned staunch anti-communist president, and Gorbachev, the born-and-bred Communist who sought to save the Soviet Union from economic collapse. Their summit meetings began with wary negotiation between the leaders of the world’s two superpowers, but grew into friendship.”
Michael Reagan spent nearly two decades as a conservative radio talk show host, heard across the country daily on a show syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks. He left this position to travel the country to champion President Reagan’s values and principals in the public policy forum and through candidates who embody his father’s legacy.
He serves as chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation, which seeks to advance the causes President Reagan held dear and to memorialize the accomplishments of his presidency. Among the charitable activities the foundation supports are: offering scholarships for the sailors, Marines and airmen serving aboard aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and their family members; supporting programs for children in need of adoption and those in the foster care system; educating Americans about Alzheimer’s disease and searching for a cure.
Reagan also has appeared on network television as a commentator and guest on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and Nightline, and has been a frequent Fox News contributor.
He is actively involved in charities and public service entities across the United States, including: the John Douglas French Alzheimer’s Foundation, for which he is chair; the Young America’s Foundation; the Santa Barbara Navy League/USS Ronald Reagan Crew Enhancement Program; the Arrow Project for Neglected and Abused Children; and the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center Foundation’s advisory board.
Besides his weekly column, read nationwide in more than 300 newspapers, Reagan has authored a number of books, including his best-selling autobiography “On the Outside Looking In”; “The Common Sense of An Uncommon Man: The Wit, Wisdom and Eternal Optimism of Ronald Reagan”; “Twice Adopted”; and his latest, “The New Reagan Revolution: How Ronald Reagan’s Principles Can Restore America’s Greatness.”
Reagan’s lecture is the third event under Wofford’s endowed Hipp Lecture Series on International Affairs and National Security. The first was the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate held on campus in November 2011, presented by CBS News and the National Journal; the second was a visit earlier this year by Edward C. Nixon, brother of the late President Richard M. Nixon.
Hipp, chairman of American Defense International Inc. in Washington, D.C., is a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party and serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union and the National Capital Board of the Salvation Army. He is the former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Army, where he oversaw the bulk of the mobilization for Operation Desert Storm.