Ronald Reagan's Legacy Remembered

At the hilltop presidential library where Ronald Reagan is buried and his life is on display, his widow, Nancy Reagan, and political luminaries gathered on Monday to celebrate the beginning.

As CBS News correspondent Jerry Bowen reports, 40 years ago Monday, Reagan was elected governor of California.

"When Ronald Reagan was elected governor, he blew everybody's expectations of him losing out of the water," says historian Douglas Brinkley, a CBS News consultant.

Brinkley is writing a book based on Reagan's presidential diaries.

"That this Hollywood actor could ... win the biggest state in the country and use that as the springboard for the conservative movement has become the stuff of political lore," Brinkley says.

The lore and legacy are on view at the Reagan Presidential Library, from a replica of the Oval Office to the behemoth of the exhibit — the actual Air Force One, the plane that flew seven presidents, including Reagan, through history.

"When they were flying to Berlin to talk about the 'Tear Down The Wall' speech, it was aboard this aircraft," says R. Duke Blackwood, executive director of the Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation.

Reagan's legacy is more than bricks and mortar and gleaming artifacts. It is his California dream writ large on the American political landscape 40 years later. It's a vision that still resonates.

"As a nation, we are still living in the long shadow of Ronald Reagan. We're all dealing with the agenda Reagan had, which means that politicians can't mention tax increases or they get slammed," Brinkley says.

Reagan did cut taxes, and government spending — except on defense. There, he spent the Soviet Union and communism into oblivion. Love him or hate him, Reagan possessed a rare talent that still eludes most politicians: the power of persuasion.

"When you heard Ronald Reagan speak, you would be moved towards a kind of patriotic disposition. He made you proud to be an American. That is very hard for politicians to accomplish," Brinkley says.

One week before another pivotal election in this country's history, it was a day to remember Reagan's victory of 40 years ago — the start of a revolution that still echoes across America.

  • Melissa McNamara

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