Ronald Reagan's 107th birthday was celebrated at his Central Ill - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Ronald Reagan's 107th birthday was celebrated at his Central Illinois alma mater

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Marking Ronald Reagan's 107th birthday at the spot where the athlete became an actor and then a respected American leader.

"And he always said he never would've been President of the United States if he hadn't gone to Eureka College," said author Craig Shirley.

Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois Feb.3, 1911. 

From 1928 to 1932, Reagan attended Eureka College where he competed on the swim team, acted in more than a dozen stage productions and played guard on the football team.

"Reagan hated discrimination. Reagan hated racism," Shirley said.  

The best-selling author speaks of an overnight football game where Reagan would step up.

"And the local hotel had a whites only policy. There were two African-American members of the football team. Reagan took them to his home."  

Reagan also spoke at our WEEK-TV studios in East Peoria on November 3, 1980.

'We would seek to the Social Security system back on sound, financial footing so there can never be any question about its strength..." Reagan said at the time as he campaigned.  

Reagan had poor eyesight, according to Mike Murtagh, Vice President of Advancement at Eureka College.

He says that's part of the reason Reagan would instead act in war movies.

Now, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier named after him.

"Ronald Reagan was the eternal optimist. It was always morning in America. And, as a result of that, he was able to do great things. You don't have to go to Harvard, or Yale, or Princeton. At Eureka College Reagan epitomizes the doing that our students are still doing today."  

Four students who demonstrate great leadership, every year, can earn the Ronald Reagan scholarship, established in 1983. 

There were only 84 students when he arrived on campus.
Roughly half wouldn't finish.

Now, some 650 students can see the statue, the posters and the museum anytime.
 

His lasting legacy is the fall of the Berlin Wall, which has now been down longer than it was up, separating East and West Germany.


Reagan was in his second 4-year stint in the White House when he famously told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall".


And he did, in November of 1989, allowing 70 million people to experience a new type of freedom.
 

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