Tribute to Ronald Reagan

A 2.253Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

MAPPS joins all Americans, and freedom-loving people around the world, in mourning the passing of our 40th President. The intersections between Ronald Reagan and the surveying and mapping community are many.

In his autobiography, An American Life, Mr. Reagan recalls that at the end of the summer of 1929, after he had completed his freshman year at Eureka College, "most of my savings were gone and I didn’t have enough left for another year at Eureka." He went on to recall, "I had a high school chum who worked as roadman for a local surveyor and sometimes their work brought them around to Lowell Park [where he had worked as a lifeguard] … When the local surveyor heard I was interested in the job, he not only gave it to me but offered to get me a college scholarship the following year."

On the day Reagan’s girlfriend Margaret was returning to Eureka College, without him, Reagan said, "when I got up, Dixon was being soaked by a rainstorm, which meant our crew couldn’t work … Margaret asked me if I wanted to go along for the drive since I had nothing to do for the day."

Back on campus at Eureka, Reagan stopped by to see Mac McKinzie, the football coach. "When I told him I was broke and couldn’t afford another year at Eureka, he promptly went to bat for me; within an hour or two, the college had renewed my Needy Student Scholarship …"

"There it was, all of a sudden I was back at Eureka again. I’ve often wondered what might have happened to me if it hadn’t been raining that day." (pages 48-50)

Later in the book, Mr. Reagan recalls that during World War II, he was denied combat duty because of poor eyesight. He was assigned to a Hollywood studio, making films and other media in support of the war.

"Our greatest and most unusual achievement was developing a new method for briefing pilots and bombardiers before their bombing missions.

"Under the old method, a briefing officer stood in front of a map with a pointer, describing to the crew the route of their mission and the targets of the attack.

"Our uniformed special-effects magicians took over almost the entire floor of a sound stage and, working from pre-war photographs and intelligence reports, created an amazing replica of Tokyo complete with thousands of buildings and its nearby coastline; then they mounted a camera on a movable overhead truck from which they took motion pictures simulating what flight crews could expect to see as they approached and passed over Tokyo; after each bombing raid, new aerial photos were taken and our replica was updated to show the latest damage inflicted by our planes.

No more map and pointer. The films were airlifted to our member bases in the Pacific and replaced the old-fashioned briefings. My job was to narrate the films, identify features by which the pilots could reach their targets, then say "Bombs away" at the appropriate time." (pages 98-99)

In 1984, President Reagan paid tribute to the surveying and mapping profession when he issued a proclamation designating National Surveyors Week.

MAPPS worked with the Reagan White House on the issue of government competition. In 1987, Mr. Reagan created the first-ever (and to date, only) Office of Privatization in the Executive Office of the President. The Office conducted a study of Federal mapping activities for more than six months. When the last Reagan budget was sent to Congress prior to Inauguration Day in January 1989, that budget included the following initiative:

"[Utilization of the private sector] is an important management tool to raise productivity, cut costs and improve the quality of government services [the advantage of which is] efficiency, quality and innovation in the delivery of goods and services … specific areas where the Government could place greater reliance on private sector providers include … map-making activities."

Since Mr. Reagan announced that plan, the number of Federal employees engaged in mapping related activities has decreased by approximately two-thirds and contract dollars for private sector mapping services has grown by several hundred percent.

Submitted on behalf of MAPPS, by John Palatiello, Executive Director.

A 2.253Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE