William Woods announces donation of recording of Ronald Reagan’s 1952 commencement address to Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute

Announcement comes after first public playing of rare recording in more than seven decades during “Reagan at The Woods” event

Nearly 72 years after it was delivered, William Woods University (WWU) tonight announced the donation of an extremely rare recording of Ronald Reagan’s historic 1952 commencement address at William Woods – to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California.

The official announcement of the donation of this historical artifact, in demand by historians, authors and journalists for decades, was made by WWU President Dr. Jeremy Moreland at the conclusion of an event on campus tonight entitled “Reagan at The Woods.” The event included the first public playing of the recording for an audience of 250 attendees at WWU’s Dulany Auditorium, and a keynote address by former U.S. Senator Jim Talent, current Chair of the National Leadership Council for the Reagan Foundation.

Jim Talent speaking at William Woods University

“William Woods shares a historic connection with one of the most consequential U.S. presidents of the 20th Century, when Ronald Reagan delivered the commencement address in 1952 at what was then William Woods College, long before he entered the political arena,” said President Moreland. “We are thrilled to officially donate the recording of this rare speech to the Reagan Foundation, so that future students, historians and curious U.S citizens can have the opportunity to further debate and explore his legacy in American history.”

“Ronald Reagan believed in the greatness of America his entire life,” said David Trulio, President and CEO of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. “We are deeply honored that William Woods University would gift this rare 1952 commencement address recording to our archives so we can help share it – including its messages of freedom, courage and opportunity – with the world.”

“It’s a real privilege for me to join the William Woods community in commemorating one of President Reagan’s most important early speeches,” said Senator Talent. “It was an historic moment in the life of a great college, and now – because of the generosity of William Woods – the whole world will be able to share in it.”

In 1952 what was then known as William Woods College, at that time an all-women’s institution of about 400 students, was in need of a commencement speaker for the college’s June graduation. Reagan, a 41-year-old movie actor in Hollywood at the time, accepted the invitation of Dr. Raymond McCallister, Sr., then a member of the William Woods Board of Trustees and an old friend from his college days, to speak to the college’s graduates on June 2, 1952.  Reagan’s remarks, entitled “America The Beautiful,” offered a snapshot of a nation that had just emerged victorious in the most defining historical event of our time, World War II. The themes of his message – freedom, patriotism and the American can-do spirit – would serve as the basis for his political philosophy during his future time in public service, first as Governor of California and later as two-term U.S. President.

By chance, the future president’s remarks were recorded that day, preserved onto two vinyl records and stored at William Woods for decades. Through the years, historians, reporters, and authors inquired about the speech’s recording, considered one of the most sought-after artifacts of Reagan’s life. But it was never played in public until tonight, nearly 72 years after the speech was delivered, and will live on as the property of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

Photos by Brianna Thoenen Photography