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A Look at Reagan's Early Years

Aired June 10, 2004 - 13:33   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Checking stories at this hour, lingering discord. G-8 leaders wrapping up their summit talks in Sea Island, Georgia. We've been telling you about the protests homing in on thier location right now. The leaders are publicly agreeing to promote democracy across the Middle East. They've endorsed Israeli Prime Minister's Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Palestinian territories. French President Jacques Chirac is skeptical about a U.S. initiative for an expanded NATO role in Iraq.
Civilians in the crosshairs. U.N. officials say at least 10 Chinese construction workers gunned down in northern Afghanistan. No comment from Beijing's embassy in Kabul. But China's state news agency is confirming the report. It's thought to be the deadliest attack on foreign workers in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban.

Well, life or death. That's the question jurors are asking themselves as they deliberate for the second day on the fate of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols. Nichols was found guilty of 161 counts of first0degree murder. He's already been sentenced to life without parole on one of those counts, involving the death a fetus.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is under investigation. That from U.S. and Saudi Arabian authorities who say that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah was the apparent target of an assassination plot. An American Muslim leader in jail in Virginia, and a Libyan intelligence officer being held in Saudi Arabia being questioned in all of this. The American prisoner has reportedly told investigators a meeting with Colonel Gadhafi to discuss details of the alleged plot. There are concerns it could affect relations between Washington and Tripoli, which have been thawing since Ghadafi pledged to cooperate on weapon of mass destruction.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures now out of Washington, D.C. Pretty powerful picture here. This is the interim president of Iraq, side by side with Senator Bill frist, taking time to visit the casket of Ronald Reagan there as it remain in the rotunda. Let's just pause for a moment and observe.

Taking a few seconds to place his hand over his heart, the interim president of Iraq, side by side with Senator Frist, also the Iraqi ambassador to U.N., just behind the interim president, paying their respects to the late President Reagan.

"Well, all of us have a place to go back to. Dixon is that place for me." That's what Ronald Reagan said years after leaving his boyhood town, a town where Reagan and his childhood friends made some lifelong memory.

We begin with Reagan's birth in Tampico, Illinois, and from there to Dixon.


PHILLIPS (voice-over): Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in an apartment above a bank in this small town. Tampico, Illinois, known for beautiful farm country and great pie. Life here hasn't changed much.

Ronald was the second son born to Nell and Jack Reagan, the first, Neil, was born two years earlier. Mary Ellen Goldson's (ph) father delivered Ronald in this room.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ronald got the name dutch because when he was born, his father said, he looks just like a Dutchman. He was a big baby, chubby.

PHILLIPS: They would become childhood playmates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it was fun with the ghost stories and the hide & go seek, cops & robbers. That was a lot of fun.

PHILLIPS: Ronald Reagan's young life was centered on his mother, Nell. He adored her, and she was his moral guide. Dorothy Carlson (ph) remembers that bond.

DOROTHY CARLSON, REAGAN'S CHILDHOOD FRIEND: He had good Christian values, had a good Christian upbringing. His mother was a wonderful woman, and he attended Sunday school and church regularly. And living in a small town where everyone is friendly and knows everybody, I think it makes a difference in city living. And you have more of a care and conrencn for people, and I don't think he ever forgot it.

KAGAN: Nell also passed to Dutch her love of dramatic. Reagan would recall he felt perform was his mother's first love. Nell taught her son god had a plan for him. She taught him how to dream, and to expect those dreams to come true.

LOU CANNON, REAGAN BIOGRAPHER: I think that Reagan's mother was the key to his development, to his maturation, to his successes as an adult human being.

PHILLIPS: Reagan's paternal ancestors hailed from Tiporary (ph), Ireland. His father, Jack, a shoe salesman, was a staunch Irish- Catholic Democrat, who hated bigotry and racism, supported working people and taught his sons the same. He was also an alcoholic.

CANNON: If you're the child of an alcoholic, you see things you don't want to remember, and you certainly don't want to tell anybody. Its main impact on Reagan was to create a kind of inward part of him that was a very, very important part of his character.

PHILLIPS: But it was Nell Reagan who would teach her son tolerance.

CANNON: The biggest thing that you did was that she taught Reagan and his brother to come to terms with the alcoholism of his father, which was very, very hard on Reagan.

PHILLIPS: Also hard on young Dutch was his nomadic boyhood. The family moved often through several small towns in Illinois before settling in Dixon, a prodominantly working class farm town of 8,000 people.

CANNON: In these first four, five, six years, they moved all the time, and so Reagan didn't have -- form these friendships that you form with other children if you grow up in the same place.

PHILLIPS: Reagan was just nine years old when the family moved to Dixon. He thought Dixon was heaven, and liked to describe his childhood as a rare Huck Fin/Tom Sawyer existence, simple life, simple times.

Dutch was a short, skinny shy kid who wore thick, horn-rimmed glasses and was only an average student. But as he reached his teens, a summer job would become a defining experience in his life, forever changing his self-image.

(on camera): Ronald reagan was 15 years old when he became a lifeguard here at Lowell Park on the Rock River. And as the story goes, when his shift was up and swimmers didn't want to get out, he would toss pebbles from here and yell river rat. But that's not the only way to get swimmers out of the water. In seven summers as a lifeguard, he would go on to save 77 lives.

(voice-over): Helen Lotten (ph) remembers something else Reagan saved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One time while he was a lifeguard, a man came up to him that had been swimming and he said, will you please dive in? I've lost my false teeth. He said I dove in and I can't find them. So Dutch dove in several times, and he got them, he got them and he gave them to him, and the man was so pleased he gave him $10. And he said that was the first time I was ever paid for doing anything.

PHILLIPS: Ronald Reagan loved being a lifeguard. He would recall his days on Rock River with great pride.

A growth spurt in his senior year of high school put Dutch at six feet and 165 pounds. He was football captain, drum major, member of the dramatics club, and class president. And he was in love with Margaret Cleaver, the minister's daughter, the girl Dutch was sure he'd marry.

When Ronald Reagan graduated high school in 1928, Coolidge was president, penicillin had just been discovered, and the movie that would win the first academy award for best picture, "Wings," was playing in neighborhood theaters. And the caption under Dutch Reagan Sr.'s picture in "The Dixonian" reads "Life is just one grand sweet Song, so start the music."


PHILLIPS: Live pictures now out of Dixon, Illinois, where a tremendous ceremony just wrapped up. The governor of the state there, also the Air National Guard with a flyover, and the Dixon Marine Corps leading a parade with a 21-gun salute. A number of Reagan's childhood friends, veterans of various wars, and the leaders of Dixon, Illinois remembering Ronald Reagan.

Also remembering Ronald Reagan, pretty powerful pictures here a wounded Marine, among those paying respects to the former president. Why is this even more powerful? Because Corporal James Wright's, homaged the former president, comes with a crutch under the right shoulder that helped him work on a leg that he suffered a compound fracture. Once he reached the point of the casket on the opposite side, he handed that crutch to another man in uniform, raised in salute like you saw. As you can see, he was missing his other hand also.


PHILLIPS: A legal tug-of-war over a comatose 7-month-old baby tops our look at "News Across America." Attorneys for the parents of Aiden Stein want Ohio's supreme court to issue a ruling to keep the baby on life support. Yesterday, an appeals court upheld a lower court rule that the comatose baby could be removed from life-saving machines. The baby's father is under investigation. He's suspected of injuring his son, but has not been charged. Without a stay, Aiden Stein's court-appointed guardian intends to allow him to be disconnected tomorrow.

Talk about a good time to leave the kids at home, this convenience store surveillance tape shows a daring armed robbery. While the heist was happening, Memphis police say one of the suspects yells at his two children to leave the store. Investigators are searching for the robbery suspects.

A major milestone linked to the September 11th attacks, Port Authority Police Sergeant John McLaughlin was the last uniformed person rescued from the burning rubble of the World Trade Center. After 24 years on the job, he retired today.


SGT. JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, PORT AUTHORITY POLICE: We happy few, we band of brothers, for he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother. I thank you, my brothers and sisters of Port Authority (ph) Police Department, thank you all for today. Thank you very much.



O'BRIEN: And we wish him the best. Canadian researchers say a new breast cancer drug saves lives. They say, in a recent study, a new class of drug known as aromatase inhibitors cut the risk of death by 39 percent in women who took it compared to those given a placebo. Their research involved women who had already undergone five years of tamoxifen therapy. Besides saving lives, researchers say the drug, sold under the name Phamera (ph), also reduced the spread of cancer by 40 percent. They say it appears safe, but may increase the risk of osteoporosis. You can get more about this study by logging on to That Web page is also highlighting a new story suggesting more and more women are skipping mammograms. Again,

PHILLIPS: Time for a check of what's happening on wall street. Rhonda Schaffler in New York.


NBC is giving you no excuse to miss the Olympics this year. I'm going to have details on that story, coming up.



O'BRIEN: A little more news to tell you about, that unfolding protest on St. Simon's Island, right next door to Sea Island, which, as you know, is the site of the G8 summit. A brand of protesters sort of forced the issue there just a few moments ago. CNN's Gary Tuchman was right in the middle of it. He has a word of some arrests. Gary, What can you tell us?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Miles, first off, we can tell you the situation has been defused. At least 12 protesters have been arrested. The director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation who is here says they are misdemeanor charges of blocking traffic.

But after the 12 arrests took place, everything quieted down and the 100 to 125 riot police who are here with their shields and with their batons and with pepper ball guns are now leaving and the protesters are disbanding.

They marched eight miles across the bridge from Brunswick to St. Simon's Island, a barrier island. And then to the gates that lead to Sea Island where the leaders of the world are meeting.

When they got to the gates, they were met by about 50 more riot police officers who were not going to let them pass. We knew there was going to be a confrontation of some kind. There was either going to be violence or arrests or the people were voluntarily going to leave. We did not think they were going to leave voluntarily. They didn't.

Police took 12 of them away in their squad car. And now the situation has completely died down on the last day of the G8 summit -- Miles. O'BRIEN: Gary, soup to nuts, how many people were involved on the protesters side of this?

TUCHMAN: Soup to nuts it began with about 100 protesters in Brunswick sitting in a circle, having a quiet protest. As they marched eight miles people started drop out because of the combination of the heat and also some of them were timid realizing that violence might result.

It ended up with about 30 to 40 protesters who came to the gates that lead to Sea Island, met by five times the number of police officers and National Guard in riot gear.

But there were no shots fired, there was no violence except for one police officer I saw pushed over. He landed on his rear end, got up and he was OK. So no injuries, no violence and 12 arrests.

O'BRIEN: All right, sound like the authorities handled that one just right. Gary Tuchman on St. Simon's Island, right next to Sea Island where that protest we told you about, they were marching toward that bridge on to Sea Island has been defused and relatively peacefully. Twelve arrested.

Back with more LIVE FROM... in just a moment.


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