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How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life Hardcover – August 5, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Conservatives, exult! Robinson's self-help/memoir/Reagan hagiography is an All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten for right-wingers. The former White House speechwriter and author of It's My Party: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP and Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA illuminates 10 life lessons in a love letter to the Gipper ("How," Robinson asks, "did such a nice guy get to be President?"). By looking at both the historical (supply-side economics, the Cold War, Iran-contra) and the personal (Reagan's beliefs, his relationship with his family), Robinson unearths maxims such as "Do your work" and "Say your prayers." The stories are engaging, and he tosses in dashes of philosophy, such as the nature of good and evil, based on Reagan's ideas. The writing style, though, is repetitive, and occasionally Robinson makes leaps in his assumptions of Reagan's motivations; none of this, however, dilutes the message. Each lesson is related to Robinson's own life either in contrast or to show how he's made Reagan's lessons "scalable" for his own use. Interviews with and stories about many of the major players of the Reagan administration, like Ed Meese and Colin Powell, lend an insider's feel. Behind-the-scenes details, such as how the famous "Tear Down the Wall" speech was composed, give a fresh perspective. And while Robinson's respect for the former president verges on deification, especially as he glosses over Reagan's shortcomings ("Now, I myself was never able to get worked up over the deficits," Robinson says), this book provides solid, if somewhat obvious, lessons that will appeal to the legions of Reagan fans.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Peter Robinson spent six years as a speechwriter in the Reagan White House. Among his speeches was the celebrated "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" speech, which Reagan delivered in Berlin in 1987. Robinson is the host of the PBS television program, UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE, and the author of two previous books, IT'S MY PARTY: A REPUBLICAN'S MESSY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE GOP and SNAPSHOTS FROM HELL: THE MAKING OF AN MBA. A fellow at the Hoover Institution, he lives in Stanford, California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (August 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060523999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060523992
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,178,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Chris Salzer on December 31, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The pony story, one that Reagan told often, epitomizes his unbridled optimism, even in the face of sheer adversity. Peter Robinson, speechwriter for VP Bush and later for President Reagan, recounts this story along with many other amusing and inspiring anecdotes of his Reagan years. Robinson, a lifelong Republican and the speechwriter behind the "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall" speech, delineates 10 sagacious lessons learned from his commander in chief, all of which I found applicable to my own life, in an entertaining and informative read that any conservative is sure to enjoy.
Robinson, just 25 years old when he became the VP's speechwriter, speaks candidly of the ongoing battle of the speechwriters, the unwavering true believers, versus the malleable, if not subversive, pragmatists in the administration. Of Baker, Robinson recorded in his journal in 1983, "As far as I'm concerned, the list of adjectives that applies to the pragmatist reads like the entry in Roget's Thesaurus under the heading for 'jerk.'"
Robinson tells of the amusingly pointed speech written by his buddy Josh Gilder that, for all intents and purposes, quashed the Democrats' bid for raising taxes: "'My veto pen is drawn and ready, and I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers.' Reagan paused for a full, rounded beat, his eyes alight with pleasure. 'Go ahead. Make my day.' A couple of hours later, the effort to raise taxes collapsed. Josh and I exchanged high fives." Classic Reagan. Firm, resolute, doing what's in the best interest of Americans, and, as always, sticking to his guns.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Joseph J. Slevin VINE VOICE on June 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Peter Robinson takes a close look, a very intimate look at the things Ronald Reagan stood for and 10 of his maxims that effected a life change in Robinson and in Robinson's view, a whole nation.
His premise was that he wanted to tell his daughter about his former boss. She was nine years old when Mr. Reagan's 90th birthday rolled around and did not understand his importance to her nation and to her dad.
Robinson's book although a little unsung in the world of great books, is a tribute to a great man yet, it will also influence any who read it apply the Ten Maxims that are the subjects for each chapter.
The Ten Maxims Are in My Words:
When life gets difficult, dig in.
Do the work you are intended to do.
Life is a stage, act now.
What you say matters.
Use the brain you have been given.
Take things in stride.
Marry the right person and it will help your life.
Remember to pray daily.
Use your God given talents to influence the world around you.
You are important and can make a difference.
These maxims of life, seen through the life and actions of one of Americas greatest presidents are ours to learn, to understand and even to use.
This is a great book. I will give this as a gift to my friends.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By J. Phillips on September 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life
One of the most engaging and enjoyable books I have ever read, Peter Robinson's third book tells how his life was impacted on a personal level by President Reagan.
Mr. Robinson has a very charming and self-effacing style, never trying to inflate his own importance, and readily admitting to the foibles of a young, and extremely lucky speechwriter landing a dream job, seemingly by accident. I cannot recall reading a book that made me smile virtually from start to finish. Especially to be admired is his honesty in recognizing his own good fortune throughout the book, wandering through history almost with a sense of wonder. Not many people who have a chance to serve in a presidential administration would admit to trying to remove the "Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall" line from the speech. (Or admit that they tried rewriting the line to read "Herr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Yikes!) Addressing his own weaknesses and failings, he shows how Reagan taught him to rise above them.
I must confess to being an admirer of our 40th President, and have read many of the books written about his life and Presidency. Peter Robinson's point of view is refreshingly different. The lessons he learned from watching Ronald Reagan really are the simple, but important, lessons of life.
Finally, this book does not pretend to be something that it's not. The author is very upfront about his admiration and love for Ronald Reagan, which, for example, makes his discussion of Reagan as a father very difficult for him, but also very necessary.
But this book really isn't just for admirers of President Reagan. If you know a kid in college, buy this book. I only wish it were around 20 years ago for me.
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Bob on August 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read an average of 2 books per week, and of the 100 or so I've read in the past year this is without a doubt my favorite. What I particularly enjoyed about this book is that it isn't another history lesson on how R.R. ended the cold war. It's a character study of two people, the President and the author, and how a young man is forever changed by his association with the President. There is some history in there, but it doesn't give that "text book" feel. This is a truly engrossing story and you will find it very difficult to put this book down. When you're finished you'll feel good about Ronald Reagan, Peter Robinson, your country and yourself. Read this book, and enjoy!
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