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“The Divine Plan” of Ronald Reagan and JP II
by

“Would the Left know if their own extremities showed up again?”

Sadly relevant, this question, posed by filmmaker Robert Orlando, President of Nexus Media, Director of the films Silence Patton (released by Sony Pictures) and The Divine Plan, comes at a pivotal time in the Democrats’ history, as the poster children of the Left openly embrace socialism.

A new documentary by Robert Orlando and Dr. Paul Kengor, professor of Political Science at Grove City College and author of New York Times Best Seller A Pope and A President, The Divine Plan, counters the promises of socialistic bliss spoon- fed to us by the Bernies and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes of the Left and delivers a pungent dose of reality.

The Divine Plan artfully and masterfully tells the story of the Cold War in the context of divine providence. It’s the story of the President and the Pope at the time of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan and Pope Saint John Paul II, their lives, and how they came to work together in pivotal moments which were crucial to bringing down the Soviet Union. Graphically mesmerizing, the documentary will appeal to those generations experienced enough to know the history and also to those who have yet to learn of the horrors of Communism.

The Divine Plan puts together an all-star team of Ronald Reagan’s advisors, and political and religious experts, among which are George Weigel, James Rosebush, Richard Allen, Anne Applebaum, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Orlando explained to The American Spectator that this film is set apart from other works on Reagan and Pope John Paul II. The film sees the struggle from a new perspective, through the lens of Reagan and Pope John Paul II’s faith in God. It also takes a dramatic new angle on the Pope and President’s relationship and identifies crucial similarities of personality and background which led to their political success.

For instance, both Pope John Paul II and Reagan were actors.  “This is the story of two well-known actors whose greatest roles would be played not on the screen or in the theater, but on the world stage,” Orlando remarked.  He said that their acting backgrounds “hit me like a ton of bricks”.  Orlando explained that Reagan and Pope John Paul II’s outstanding oratory skills, memorization skills, and abilities to be able to think dramatically were crucial to their political success.

In response to the two previews of the documentary at the Hampton Inn across from CPAC at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Maryland, Dr. Kengor and Robert Orlando discussed with The American Spectator the details and motives behind The Divine Plan.

Spectator: Dr. Kengor, as a professor of political science at Grove City College and as an author and a columnist for The American Spectator, what motivated you to tackle this documentary film?

Kengor: The credit for the tackling goes to Robert Orlando. Rob is the filmmaker. I was merely one of 14 people interviewed for the film. The film is entirely Rob’s creation. I’m technically a story consultant.

There is, however, a book that goes with the film. I’m a co-author with Rob on the book. The book makes full use of all the many, lengthy, and excellent interviews for the film. The film, of course, could use only a few minutes (if that) from each interview. We realized that that was a waste of some tremendous material from the interviews. Imagine, for example, having a 25-page printed text of an interview with Bishop Robert Barron, or with Reagan biographers like H. W. Brands or Douglas Brinkley or Craig Shirley, or with John Paul II biographer George Weigel, or a great Cold War historian like Anne Applebaum, or with Richard V. Allen, the only eyewitness to Ronald Reagan’s reaction to John Paul II’s first visit to Poland in June 1979. Those are just a few of the people interviewed. I feel bad not noting other interviewees here right now. But the point is that each of these persons offered tremendous insights and sometimes brilliant philosophical and theological observations—well beyond the historical. Thus, the publisher of my book A Pope and a President was excited about the prospect of turning these interviews into a book that takes a deeper dive into the theological and philosophical (and even theatrical) aspects of the film. The book, to be released this June, will do that. The film, however, is entirely the doing of Robert Orlando.

For the record, Rob conceived a really intriguing idea to look at Reagan and John Paul not only from a classic historical or political point of view, but from the compelling angle of the two of them as former actors who ascended the global world stage in the 1980s and thereupon would change the course of history. That was his idea, not mine. I played a small part in the film.

As to the film itself, viewers will be struck by the sheer artistry of Robert Orlando’s work. The film isn’t merely impressive historically but artistically. It’s a beautiful film. Viewers will immediately agree. It’s hard to take your eyes off the screen.

Spectator: How did you pick your panel of interviewees? What were the criteria?

Orlando: Not strict criteria but more like filling in a tapestry of types of commentators from a full spectrum of politics (left to right) or psychological or academic vs politician or media personality.

Spectator: Is there a reason why you are choosing to address Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II’s role in the fall of the Soviet Union now?

Kengor: For me personally, the current timing is mainly the result of a long process of books and other research over many years. I’ve been publishing books that have addressed the roles of Reagan and John Paul II in the fall of the Soviet Union since 2004, when I published God and Ronald Reagan, which had a chapter on Reagan’s relationship with John Paul II. In 2017, I published A Pope and a President, which caught Robert Orlando’s attention. But that said, there’s keen relevance right now in that this year, 2019, marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is what these two men had hoped to topple together. Also, beyond that, there’s a timeless story here of faith and our struggles of discernment of a Divine Plan—of the role of God in each of our lives. Reagan and John Paul II constantly sought to discern God’s will. That’s a process we all go through, or should go through. I believe that many people will find that aspect of this story not only fascinating to Reagan and John Paul II but deeply personal to each and every one of us.

Spectator: Do you see any differences in President Trump and Pope Francis’ political outlooks, compared to Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II?

Dr. Kengor: That’s a good question. I actually wrote on that for The American Spectator back in May 2017, shortly before Donald Trump met with Pope Francis. In fact, one of the most significant things that Donald Trump did early on as president was to choose for his first foreign trip a visit to the Vatican, to Jerusalem, and to Saudi Arabia, centers of the world’s three leading religions. That was a wonderful move by Trump that has never received due recognition.

Trump and Francis are very different from Reagan and John Paul II. It’s hard to find much shared outlook between the man in the White House today and the man in the Vatican today, unlike with Reagan and John Paul II. For starters, do they possess a mutual understanding of what currently serves as the great international threat or global menace, or how to defeat it—as Reagan and John Paul II did in regard to Soviet communism? What would President Trump and Pope Francis list as the dominant threats today? Radical Islam? Trump might, but not in the way—or certainly not with the preferred response—that Francis would. Do their top priorities intersect anywhere? Immigration? Certainly not. “Climate change?” No way. Economic “inequality?” No.

Now, that said, when Trump and Francis met together at the Vatican in May 2017, their meeting did surprise people, and disappointed those looking for fireworks. Trump haters in the media were hoping for a fight. Instead, the two men got along well. Most important, they issued a strong joint statement on protecting religious freedom, particularly in the Middle East. They found common ground. I was not surprised. I know people who know both Trump and Francis. They will tell you that both men are personable and easy to get along with.

Spectator: What was the most surprising fact that you learned from creating “The Divine Plan”?

Mr. Orlando: Initially I see documentaries as experiments. What I found to be true is that so much of the dramatic narrative can be proven with historical facts.

I will add one other thing. I think the fact that a film that featured Reagan could not make it on the CPAC venue is worth mentioning. The original conservative is now an outsider?

Dr. Kengor: Again, Robert Orlando was the creator. I’m merely one among over a dozen people interviewed. That said, I think people will be surprised by the craftsmanship and technical-artistic aspects of this film. This is an impressive work. And I believe that everyone, regardless of politics, should be touched by this inspiring story of two great men. It’s very rare in history that two figures come along at just the right time with a crucial unity of purpose and then, surely providentially, both survive assassination attempts only weeks apart. They would conclude that their survivals were part of a Divine Plan. Those survivals forged an utterly unique and irreplaceable bond. What that meant, and how it translated in their lives and their missions and their battles against the beast of atheistic Soviet communism, is a great story.

Spectator: Mr. Orlando, as a director and producer, what would you say was your goal in making “The Divine Plan”? What is the message you hope to get across?

Mr. Orlando: I make films because I believe in the story and want to connect with the audience on a shared vision, not to teach a lesson or message. Having written that, given this story, I hope the audience would take the film as a cautionary tale.

Spectator: Who is your target audience, and why?

Mr. Orlando: General Audience. Everyone.

The movie has a print counterpart, also called The Divine Plan, which will be released on Father’s Day, June 16, 2019. The documentary will come out in Fall 2019. You can also find out more about The Divine Plan on TheDivinePlanMovie.com or like it on Facebook.

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