William Woods to officially donate recording of 1952 Commencement Address by Ronald Reagan to the Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute

Donation of historical artifact part of a two-day Reagan Library symposium that includes former Reagan Administration officials, authors and historians

Fulton, MO – One of the most famous moments in William Woods University (WWU) history – when future President Ronald Reagan delivered the commencement address at what was then William Woods College in 1952 – is about to be forever enshrined in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California.

On June 5th – the 20th anniversary of President Reagan’s death – WWU President Dr. Jeremy Moreland will officially donate the incredibly rare audio recording of the speech, entitled “America The Beautiful,” to Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute President and CEO David Trulio.

The donation will be part of a two-day symposium at the Reagan Library commemorating the 20th anniversary of Reagan’s death, the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in World War II, and the 40th anniversary of Reagan’s D-Day speech on the beach at Normandy, France. Participants in the symposium include former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Carol Thatcher (daughter of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher), Ben Mulroney (son of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney), former Reagan Administration officials, authors and historians. 

An agenda for the June 5th event at the Reagan Library can be found here:


“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 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, as part of a two-day historical symposium at the Reagan Library, 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 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.”

In 1952 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 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 and preserved onto two vinyl records. During campus renovations in the 1990’s, the vinyl records were discovered in what was an old radio studio marked for demolition, and subsequently 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.