Aiding Freedom Fighters
In 1981, Reagan aided the Polish workers movement. "If Poland were freed, [he] felt all Eastern Europe would follow."
Narrator: In 1981, Reagan saw a chance to strike at the heart of the Soviet empire. The Polish workers movement, Solidarity, marched for democratic freedoms. When the government declared martial law, Reagan was determined to keep Solidarity alive.
He met Pope John Paul II a few months later in June 1982. Like Reagan, the Polish Pope had also survived an assassin's bullets in 1981. He too believed God had spared him for a special mission.
The Pope would turn the Catholic Church in Poland into an underground Solidarity network. Reagan imposed economic sanctions and committed the CIA to undermine the government and keep Solidarity alive. If Poland were freed, they felt all Eastern Europe would follow.
Other covert actions were less peaceful. In Afghanistan Reagan continued President Carter's policy of backing the factions fighting a Soviet invasion. In Central America, the CIA began to train forces to harass the Sandinistas, the Soviet backed government in Nicaragua. The "Contras" became one of Reagan's favorite causes.
Reagan (archival): They are the moral equal of our Founding Fathers and the brave men and women of the French resistance. We can not turn away from them. All they need is proof that we care as much about the fight for freedom 700 miles from our shores as the Soviets care about the fight against freedom 5,000 miles from theirs.
Narrator: Reagan spoke to the hopes of people the world over who feared communism. The "Great Communicator" had the actor's gift of connecting with his audience in a deeply personal way.
My American Experience
Who was your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Kennedy? Reagan? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?