Saturday, May 14, 2011

CONNECTIONS: Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson

Pete Souza's memorable photo of Nancy Reagan, Michael Jackson, and President Ronald Reagan

Although one was President and the other a music entertainer, there is no doubt that both Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson defined the 1980s culturally.  Please join us as we discuss the connections between The Great Communicator and The King of Pop.

Michael Jackson was seriously injured while filming a Pepsi Cola commercial on January 27, 1984.  President Reagan sent a letter of encouragement to Jackson on February 1, 1984.  In addition to wishes to get better, President Reagan also wrote, "I know from experience these things can happen on the set no matter how much cautioned is exercised."  Ronald Reagan may have been thinking of how he caught life threatening pneumonia while filming That Hagen Girl or perhaps how another actor accidentally fired a gun too close to Ronald Reagan's ear during one of the four Brass Bancroft adventure films, causing a life long hearing impairment.  

The same year as Jackson's accident, the singer received an award from the President for his work and donations of time and to help with drunk driving awareness.  During the    May 14, 1984 ceremony, Ronald Reagan gave a speech about how the government and Jackson were helping, and it is available through the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.

That evening, President Reagan wrote in his diaries about the singer and event:  In 1988, near the end of the Reagan Presidency, Jackson received the Frederick D. Patterson award from the United Negro College Fund and an honorary Ph.D. from Fisk University.  President Reagan taped a message of congratulations to Michael Jackson for his important contributions to UNCF and for the award, ending with a funny line, "Let me be the first to call you Dr. J." in reference to basketball star Julius Erving.

"A ceremony on S. Lawn to honor young Michael Jackson who is the sensation of the pop music world believed to have earned $120 million last year. He is giving proceeds from one of his biggest selling records to the campaign against drunk driving.  He is totally opposed to Drugs & Alcohol & is using his popularity to influence young people against them.  I was surprised at how shy he is." 

Although born almost a half century apart, both Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson shared Midwestern connections.  President Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, a town about 150 miles from Jackson's Gary, Indiana.

It was at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center where Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009.

Rudolph Lee Hines with pen pal Ronald and Nancy Reagan

Ronald Reagan maintained a pen pal friendship for many years with Rudolph Lee Hines who attended a school the White House had adopted.  Ruddy was five years old when President Reagan and him began writing each other.  On September 21, 1984, Ronald and Nancy Reagan ate dinner at Ruddy's house with their friend.  However, Ruddy had to end his dinner early with the President and First Lady so he could attend a Michael Jackson concert that same evening!  Ruddy reported later to Ronald Reagan that the concert was "great!" (Ronald Reagan: A Life in Letters).
This article was posted by January 30, 2011.

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