Ronald Reagan: and the Triumph of American
1. In what ways does Ronald Reagan’s life personify the United States in the
2. Identify the problems faced by historians and biographers in assessing Ronald
3. What is Reagan’s “most remarkable self-deception”?
Chapter 1: A Midwestern Boyhood
1. How did Reagan’s family experiences embody American cultural conflicts during
2. What role did his fathers alcoholism play in his childhood?
3. What role did religion play in Reagan’s upbringing?
4. What does Reagan’s experiences as a lifeguard tell us about his character?
Chapter 2: Surviving the Great Depression
1. How did the Great Depression affect Reagan’s family and education?
2. What were the most significant elements of Reagan’s college experiences? What
do they tell us about his character?
3. How did Reagan’s experiences as a pioneer radio broadcaster shape the skills he
would use in later life as an actor and politician?
4. Why did Reagan leave a lucrative radio career for the risks of Hollywood?
Chapter 3: The Making of a Hollywood Star
1. How was the movie industry organized in the 1930’s? What was the role of the
Production Code Administration?
2. What were Ronald Reagan’s strengths and weaknesses as an actor?
3. What were Reagan’s political inclinations during these years?
4. How did World War II affect Reagan’s film career?
5. In which capacities did Reagan serve his country during World War II?
Chapter 4: Fighting the Cold War
1. What were the reasons for the breakup of Reagan’s marriage to Jane Wyman?
2. Why did Reagan begin to move from the political left to the political right during
3. How were Cold War tensions reflected in Hollywood during the postwar years?
4. What were the issues in the 1945-46 CSU Studio conflicts?
5. Assess Reagan’s performance as President of the Screen Actors Guild.
6. What role did Reagan play in the creation and perpetuation of the blacklist?
Chapter 5: The Shift to Conservatism
1. What are the influences that convinced Reagan to become a conservative during
2. Why did Reagan’s movie career falter in the postwar era?
3. Do Reagan’s actions while president of the Screen Actors Guild on behalf of
MCA, the talent agency that represented him, constitute a serious conflict of
4. How did Reagan’s experience as host of GE Theater and representative of
General Electric influence his political and personal development?
5. What are the themes and rhetorical elements that Reagan developed in his
speeches during the 1950’s?
6. Describe family life in the Reagan household.
7. By the early 1960s did Reagan seem to be a success or a failure?
Chapter 6: Entering Politics
1. What is the significance of Reagan’s speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater during
the 1964 campaign?
2. Identify the key tenets of conservative ideology as it emerged in the 1960s.
3. What were the key events in California and nation between the 1964
presidential election and the 1966 gubernatorial campaign?
4. How did the issues of race relations and student protest manifest themselves in
the 1966 campaign?
5. What were Reagan’s strengths and weaknesses as a campaigner?
6. How did the Reagan campaign signal a transformation of the political landscape?
Chapter 7: From Governor to President
1. How effective was Ronald Reagan as a governor of California?
2. How did Governor Reagan advance the conservative agenda on the issues of
welfare, taxation, and law and order?
3. What were the major challenges confronting the nation during the Carter
Administration from 1977-1981?
4. Describe the elements that came together during these years to from the
5. Which themes did Reagan develop during his radio speeches in the late 1970s?
6. Were the results of the 1980 election more the product of a triumph of Reagan’s
beliefs or a rejection of Jimmy Carter?
Chapter 8: “Stay the Course”: The Reagan Presidency: 1981-1982
1. What are the paradoxes of Reagan’s leadership style and administration?
2. How did Reagan and his advisers see the Soviet Union and its role in the world?
What actions did they take as a reflection of this viewpoint?
3. Was the Reagan military buildup justified?
4. What was Reaganomics? What were the assumptions behind Reagan’s economic
5. How did the attempt on his life influence the Reagan presidency?
6. How did the Reagan administration approach the subject of arms control?
7. From the vantage point of 1982, did the Reagan presidency seem a success or a
Chapter 9: The Road to Reelection: The Reagan Presidency: 1983-1984
1. What were the origins and elements of the Strategic Defense Initiative?
2. When Reagan praised “freedom fighters” throughout the world, who did he
include? How did he define freedom?
3. How did the shooting down of a Korean airliner and events in Lebanon and
Grenada shape people’s perceptions of the Reagan Administration?
4. Describe the evolution of Reagan’s thinking on arms control during these years.
5. What were factors contributing to Reagan’s landslide election victory in 1984?
Chapter 10: The Reagan Doctrine: The Reagan Presidency: 1985-1986
1. What was the Reagan Doctrine?
2. How did the rise of Gorbachev in the Soviet Union change U.S.-Soviet relations?
How did the Reagan Administration view Gorbachev?
3. What were the primary motivations for Reagan’s policy in the Middle East? How
successfully did his administration respond to terrorism?
4. What were the accomplishments and results of the Geneva Summit?
5. What actually happened at the summit in Reykjavik? Was it a success or a failure
Chapter 11: Scandals and Summits: The Reagan Presidency: 1987-1988
1. What was the Iran-Contra Scandal? What role did Reagan himself play in these
2. How did the Iran-contra Scandal and Reagan’s handling of it affect his image? In
which ways did it reflect the general values and practices of his administration?
3. What were the effects of Reagan’s deregulation policies? What caused the
savings and loan scandals?
4. What were the results of the summit meetings in Washington and Moscow? To
what extent had relations between the U.S. and Soviet Union changed?
Chapter 12: Legacy
1. Did Reagan’s policies “hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union” and bring an end
to the Cold War?
2. What were the results of Reagan’s policies in Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, and
3. What were the successes and shortcoming of Reagonomics?
4. In which ways did Reagan advance the conservative agenda?
5. How did the Reagan Administration reshape the federal courts?
6. What are the similarities between the Reagan presidency and that of George W.
7. Was Ronald Reagan one of the great American presidents?