Author of 'Reagan: American Icon" speaks about civil rights, former president's legacy
On Feb. 27, Iwan Morgan, the author of “Reagan: American Icon,” came to Rutgers to give a presentation on former President Ronald Reagan and his relationship with racial issues.
Morgan’s book came out shortly before Christmas of 2016 and he was invited by David Greenberg, a professor in the Department of Political Science, to give a presentation at Rutgers.
While the book is a full biography of Reagan, the presentation focused on Reagan’s relationship to race relations, through analysis of his positions on the civil rights issues before, during and after his presidency. In addition to being an author, Morgan is a professor of US studies at the University College London.
There are lessons to be learned from that presidency that can be applied to today, he said.
“Despite his attacks on welfare queens and others, which implicitly carry racial imagery, I still feel that he did not single out any group, whether racial, whether based on religion or national origin or ethnicity, for denigration,” Morgan said. “The Reagan era deserves to be remembered for that.”
While Morgan maintains that Reagan was not a bigot, he is critical of some of Reagan’s decisions in office and policies he enacted as president, Morgan said in his presentation.
“I was especially concerned (with trying) to rescue Reagan from being perceived as a hapless 'B' actor,” he said.
He was not only interested in studying Reagan because of his presidency and film career, but also the differences between him and other politicians, Morgan said.
“(Reagan) is a wholly different kind of politician to the kind we get in Britain,” he said.
Another thing that Morgan said made him critical of Reagan was his effect on the economy.
The serious income inequality that can be seen in America today was initially accelerated under Reagan, he said.
Despite anything negative Morgan had said about Reagan as a president, he does not deny the good the former president did accomplish in immigration and recognizes the importance of the Reagan presidency.
“Like him or not, he is the most important president of the United States since (former President) Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Morgan said. “The United States would have been a very different place had Reagan not been president.”
Morgan related his book and this presentation to Rutgers students in several ways. He said Reagan is relevant to President Donald J. Trump, citing that Trump’s slogan was originally used by Reagan.
“In many ways, Trump’s call to the forgotten America is the forgotten America who suffered from Reaganomics,“ he said.
Morgan said that there are important lessons to be learned from studying the presidency and life of Reagan because many of his decisions are still affecting politics today.
“History is fast moving,” Morgan said.
Zachary Peterson is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.