"Reagan and John Paul II: Best Friends""Reagan's Fight for Life"
See the video of his full talk on our YouTube channel.
STEUBENVILLE, OH—The first time he came to speak at Franciscan University of Steubenville, in 2004, Dr. Paul Kengor was Protestant. On October 4, 2012, the feast of St. Francis, he returned to speak at the university—now as a convert to Catholicism.
“I came into the Church in April 2005, right around the death of John Paul II,” said the professor of political science at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and executive director of the college’s Center for Vision and Values.
Speaking in the Gentile Gallery of the J.C. Williams Center, Kengor explained that Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan “were allies in a joint commitment to confront two evils: atheistic communism and the death culture.”
“Both of these battles took not just immense creativity and innovation, and being proactive, but immense courage as well. These two really came under fire for what they did,” said Kengor. “They took on the secular culture, they took on the cultural elite, and I think there’s a lot we can learn from them working together in the 1980s, and really what we’re going through today.”
Kengor is the author of several books, including The Crusader: Ronald Reagan & the Fall of Communism and God and Ronald Reagan. He is often quoted in major publications, including National Review, Associated Press, National Catholic Register, and USA Today, and appears frequently on MSNBC, C-SPAN, NPR, and FOX News.
Kengor explained that Reagan and John Paul II were very close, especially because Reagan had many individuals in his life who were Catholic, but also because they both had so much in common.
“Both of these men were fierce anti-communists with a remarkable faith-based optimism,” he said, explaining that Mrs. Nancy Reagan had personally spoken of how the pope “was so much like ‘Ronnie,’” since they were both outdoorsmen, gentlemanly, and both had been actors.
“This kinship led to a collaboration,” said Kengor. “A lot of intelligence sharing happened that we still don’t know about. It’s amazing how many of these documents are still classified, especially on the Vatican’s side, where they were classified for maybe 75 years.”
In addition to sharing excerpts from the numerous letters between the president and the pope, Kengor also showed a never-before-seen video of Reagan speaking to pro-life leaders in July 1987.
“Be unafraid—be undeterred. Have courage,” Kengor told the audience in closing his lecture. “Ronald Reagan and John Paul II faced tremendous mockery and ridicule; people called them names. But both of them stood for truth, and they stood against these things, and they succeeded wildly, and you should too.”
This talk was a part of the fall 2012 semester’s Distinguished Speakers Series at Franciscan University, and was co-sponsored by the departments of Academic Affairs, Student Life, and Advancement.
Through the Distinguished Speakers Series, Franciscan University hosts leaders who integrate their faith and public life and who inspire the next generation to be a transforming presence in the Catholic Church and society. Find out more about the Distinguished Speakers Series.