Conference celebrates partnership between Reagan, John Paul II



WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The United States' "cold warriors" from 30 and more years ago didn't come in from the cold, but from 85-degree heat, and into the air-conditioned comfort of an auditorium at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Sept. 26 to celebrate the joint efforts of Reagan and St. John Paul II to defeat communism in the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern and Central Europe.

Reagan and St. John Paul shared many qualities, noted Lee Edwards, a distinguished fellow of conservative thought at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. Both had been actors. Both had been orphaned—"John Paul truly, Ronald Reagan in effect with his alcoholic father," Edwards said. "Both took unconventional paths to positions of eminence. A Polish pope? Impossible. A Hollywood president? Impossible." And both, he pointed out, were nearly assassinated.

Well before becoming president, Reagan knew he wanted to challenge Soviet communism, according to Paul Kengor, a political science professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Reagan was with an aide in 1979, watching the network evening news while taking a break from political discussions, and started weeping upon watching film footage of St. John Paul's triumphant return to Poland in 1979, less than a year after his selection as pope.

"Tears were streaming down his face," Kengor said the aide later recalled. Reagan seized on this and said, "The pope is the key. The pope is the key. The pope is the key." But first, Reagan noted, "we have to get elected."

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