Top the Treasure Hunt leaderboard by 5 p.m. Friday to win a $100 gift card! Learn more


AARP Real Possibilities



AARP Games - Play Now!

Contests and

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

Car buying made easy with the AARP Auto Buying Program



Top 20 Celebrity Activists of All Time

An inside look at stars ranging from Harry Belafonte to Ronald Reagan

President Gerald Ford and John Wayne campaign in California

John Wayne (right) campaigns with President Gerald R. Ford in Orange County, Calif., in 1976. — David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

John Wayne

As a political activist, Wayne was less important for what he did than for what he symbolized. He was relatively reticent as an advocate.

Although he served as the president of a conservative Hollywood group that supported the purge of communists (and liberals linked to them) from the entertainment industry during the blacklist era and later campaigned for Richard Nixon (including an appearance at the 1968 GOP convention), Wayne wasn't a regular on the campaign trail. Nor was he as aggressive as later generations of stars in using his celebrity to deliver political pronouncements.

Mostly he influenced politics as a symbol of patriotism and strength; he lent to conservative causes and politicians an aura of rectitude and resolve that by the 1960s struck more-cosmopolitan ears as simplistic if not jingoistic but that still resonated powerfully with the cultural traditionalists who became known as "the silent majority."

It was no coincidence that Reagan, in the election-eve broadcast of his 1980 campaign, cited not another political leader but the recently deceased Wayne as the antithesis of President Carter's fear of American "malaise" and decline. "Duke Wayne did not believe our country was ready for the dustbin of history," Reagan declared, genuflecting at one of the few celebrity images constructed from even more primal American iconography than his own.

Next: Orson Welles >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Grandson (8-9) whispering to grandfather, close-up

Members save 20% on digital hearing aids with AARP® Hearing Care Program from HearUSA.

AARP Discounts on Consumer Cellular Phones and Plans

Members save 5% on monthly service and usage charges with Consumer Cellular.

Woman holding smartphone in city, Google map tool

Members can locate discounts via the AARP® Member Advantages Offer Finder mobile app.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.