Ronald Reagan’s 1946 Letter in the News

Our letter of Ronald Reagan made international news this week, including the below:

Letter written by a young, liberal Reagan warns against communism in Hollywood

A newly surfaced letter penned by Ronald Reagan may have foreshadowed the 40th president's transition from Hollywood Democrat to conservative icon.

In the 1946 letter, written in reply to a Russian refugee who had heard Reagan speak, the actor distanced himself from the communist hunters at work in Hollywood and Washington, but warned that Americans had to be vigilant.

“Please believe me I don’t want to be a ‘Red Baiter’ or go on a ‘witch hunt,’ but if the liberal cause is to win in the fight against native Fascism it must first stand up and be counted as opposed to communism,” the 35-year-old Reagan wrote in the two-page letter to Lola Kinel Shipman, a Polish-American author who was born in Russia and escaped the Bolshevik Revolution.

Shipman had earlier heard Reagan speak of the moral and policy failings of communism in the post-World War II world. She was moved enough to write Reagan, who replied on the stationery of his first wife, Jane Wyman.

“What I wanted to say is that if you agree with me that it is important to keep American liberalism true to its real tenets of freedoms, please do speak up for it again whenever you might be called upon to speak,” Shipman wrote. “Please make this clear and firm; you have a wonderful talent, you can rouse people and you know how to present ideas forcefully and logically.”

In the letter, Reagan foreshadowed a political transformation that would lead him to the White House.

Following the war, Reagan became politically involved and highly supportive of liberal causes. He joined the American Veterans Committee, an organization with a goal of world peace, and was invited to fill a vacancy on the board of directors of the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, the main purpose of which was to promote the New Deal, led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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