Documents of American History II

1950s: Ronald Reagan's Remarks at the Kiwanis International Convention, 1951

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, CA, p. 17-21

I would like to talk to you as a travel narrator would talk about a very strange and foreign land. But it is a foreign land which has more actual press coverage than any other locality in the world except the capital in Washington, D.C. Some 450 correspondents cover the daily activities of the motion picture industry in Hollywood, California. Yet this remains the least-discovered place on earth.
Probably more misconceptions and misinformation exist about the people I work with, the people in my industry and my town, than any other spot on earth. Part of this is due to the fact that among these 450 newspaper people that are there doing an honest job of gathering and reporting news we have attracted many camp followers. These are people who do not have the journalistic integrity to go through the task of gathering and reporting news honestly. With only a few hundred newsworthy names to deal with every day and a column to fill, they have chosen the easy path of gossip. They have the mistaken idea that the American people want to hear the worst instead of the best. And when they are hardpressed to fill their columns, they invent what does not happen.
The result is that among you and your communities and out through America there exists an idea that the people of motion pictures are crazy, extravagant, immoral, fickle, and are flitting from one husband or wife to the other, with no regard for each other. There exists also the idea that if we are interested in politics at all, it is because we are Communists.
The statements I have just made are not out of my own mind but are the result of a survey to find out what you people do think about those of us in Hollywood. Consequently, you will be a little surprised to learn that the people of motion pictures are not the troubadours, the strolling players who used to come into your town and live out of a trunk for a week and then pass on. Being a part of the community now, and because the mechanical nature of motion pictures is so difficult, they have to go to work in the morning like everyone else, and they come home in the evening like everyone else. They have lawns to mow and they own their own homes. Seventy percent of them are high-school graduates or better, as against the national average of 28 percent. Seventy-nine percent of the people in my industry are married; 70 percent to their first husband or wife; 70 percent of them have children; 61 percent of them are regular members and attendants at the churches of Hollywood.
They constitute 1 percent of the population of Los Angeles. They contribute annually 12 percent of all the money in Los Angeles that is contributed to charity. Twenty-five percent of the personnel in the motion picture business were in the armed forces in the last war.
We are pretty proud of the fact that our government says that in the ideological struggle that is going on the screens of the world, it is the American motion picture, not with its message picture, just showing our store windows in the street scenes with the things that Americans can buy, our parking lots, our streets with the automobiles, our shots of American working men driving those automobiles, that is holding back the flood of propaganda from the other side of the Iron Curtain. Last, but not least, we are most proud of the great tribute that was paid to us by the Kremlin in Moscow, when recently it said, ''The worst enemy of the people, the worst tool of degenerate capitalism that must be destroyed is the motion picture screen of Hollywood, California.'' We are very proud of that tribute.
Well, these are just a few of the things about our community that make us rather proud. Some of the things we feel a little badly about. We feel badly that the divorce rate in Hollywood is 29.9 percent. We feel worse that the national average is 40 percent. We wish that the rest of the country could catch up with us.
Because the public has a misconception about us and because there is so much apathy about us, certain enemies of ours-enemies of democracy and our way of life-think they have found a leak in the dike. They have found a way to attack some of our American institutions and our American principles by way of the motion picture industry. What we must all learn is that you can't lose a freedom anyplace without losing freedom everyplace.
If you are going to let one segment of society or one area of the country become maligned without insisting that the truth be known, all other segments and areas are subject to similar fates.
You know that the Communists have tried to invade our industry and that we have fought them to the point where we now have them licked. But there are other more insidious and less obvious inroads being made at our democratic institutions by way of the motion picture industry. For example, no industry has been picked for such discriminatory taxes as have the individuals in the industry of motion pictures, and you don't realize that because the average citizen is too prone to say, ''They are all overpaid in Hollywood, so let it go at that,'' but if they can get away with it there, it is aimed at your pocketbook and you are next.
Another one of the insidious infiltrations and the worst on our American freedom is by way of censorship. There isn't an American who wouldn't stand up and strike back at the imposition of controls on our freedom of press and freedom of speech, and yet here, for the last fifteen years, we have been permitting it in spite of a self-imposed production code by the motion picture industry. We have political censorship in eight states and over two hundred cities in the United States.
Do you realize that we are raising an entire generation of Americans in this way to assume that it is all right for someone to tell them what they can see and hear from a motion picture screen? Isn't it a rather short step from there when they have grown up to tell those same people, ''Well, we might go just a little further. It is all right for us to tell you what you can read.'' And from there you don't have very far to go to telling them what they can say and then what they can think.
I wanted to correct the misconceptions about Hollywood so you could take a word or two of it back to your communities because this is your struggle, not alone ours. The reason I want to say all of this to you and ask you to take it back to your communities is because we feel that we are operating in the best manner of free enterprise, because never once has our industry asked for government aid nor any subsidy of any kind. We still stand today as one of the greatest fields of opportunity. We are in the American way. You can come into our field and the heights are unlimited, based only upon your ability and your talent.
We feel that you people should join us now in the struggle to preserve some of these freedoms, some of these American principles that are being nibbled away through our industry. In short, we would like to invite you to be on our side because we feel that we have been on your side for a very long time.

Last update: February 28th, 2003.