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The Making of the Great Communicator: Ronald Reagan's Transformation from Actor to Governor Hardcover – May 7, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762778490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762778492
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,391,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A Sacramento Bee Hot Summer Read

"A delightful read ... keen observations of California politics ... The story of Reagan's ascension is simply fascinating."
Chico Enterprise-Record

"A fascinating account."
Sacramento Bee

"Compelling ... behind-the-scenes insights into the life of one of the world’s most powerful men. ... Holden provides rare insights into a moment that transformed Reagan’s political life, a moment no one else living can share. ... His writing is vibrant, his pacing strong. He artfully balances tiny details of conversations and decision-making with big-picture political issues. Political analysis blends masterfully with captivating personal narrative. ... For anyone interested in how an actor became so much more to the world, Holden shares a story not to be missed."

"The enmity between Reagan and the universities is revealed in breathtaking detail as he fought against what he considered incompetent management in higher education. ...  The narrative is intriguing and rife with anecdotes about campaign management and additional famous politicos of the era."
Publishers Weekly

"A little known story with historical importance about the early days of the Reagan legacy and a great story about two young men's influence on the early political life of the 'Great Communicator.' A fun and interesting read!"
—John Miller, former national finance co-chair, Mitt Romney for President, 2008 and 2012

"In 1984, George Orwell warned that it doesn’t take a military boot against your neck to oppress you. The government can do it by using what Orwell called 'newspeak' to hide truth, distort language, and keep the public in the dark. That may be the biggest threat to freedom. Refreshingly, The Making of the Great Communicator tells a different story—how two quick-witted communication coaches liberated Ronald Reagan to convey his love of freedom, his vision for America, and his common-sense wisdom. This is a fast read, a gripping story, and an inspirational slice of history."
—Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York State

“Ronald Reagan’s story is so quintessentially all-American it could have been created by a skillful novelist or playwright. Clearly his success had everything to do with his impressive communication skills. Yet as Ken Holden’s very personal memoir of the shaping of the future president makes clear, Reagan’s real genius was his willingness to listen and take counsel from savvy coaches like Holden who sensed early on that, while Reagan was a middling movie star, he had the humility, kindness, and empathy to inspire and lift the common man, to reenergize a discouraged nation, and change the course of the world.” 
—R. B. Scott, author of Mitt Romney

"Before there was President Reagan, there was Governor Reagan, and before Governor Reagan there was Kenneth Holden helping to transform an already exceptional communicator into a great one. This is the story of how that came to pass. It's great history and a great read."
—David Pietrusza, author of 1960—LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies

“Kenneth Holden’s account of Ronald Reagan’s transformation from fumbling novice politician into the Great Communicator is a fascinating Pygmalion-esque yarn, rich in anecdotes and insights.”
—Joseph Wheelan, author of Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams’s Extraordinary Post-Presidential Life in Congress

"An engaging but little-known tale of risk, reward, and transformation. Who knew? It’s a win by a landslide."
—Chip Bishop, author of The Lion and the Journalist: The Unlikely Friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and Joseph Bucklin Bishop

From the Inside Flap

One week after Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for governor of California, the San Francisco Chronicle gibed: “It was simply a flagrant example of miscasting.” Reagan was tanking, and his conservative backers panicked. Their bold experiment was about to fail. Then a friend suggested that the campaign enlist the expertise of two behavioral psychologists. Kenneth Holden and Stanley Plog agreed to take the job only if they could have three full days alone with Reagan. The candidate and his backers agreed, and the three men disappeared into a Malibu beach house.

Those three days remade the bumbling political neophyte into an articulate, confident politician whose devastating command of the issues shredded the opposition. Holden and Plog remained by Reagan’s side throughout the Republican primary campaign and the general election. They fed him information about California’s problems, taught him how to handle the press, and helped refine his positions, all whilebattling factions within the campaign team that seemed determined to sabotage their own man.

Not everyone who voted for Reagan supported his positions, but voters preferred his honesty and forthrightness to the waffling of other politicians. Reagan won the governorship by a landslide. Holden and Plog had shaped an actor into a governor and got to know firsthand the man who would become the nation’s fortieth president. Featuring never before seen photos, here is the untold story of how they did it.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jlightseeker on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have no clue why this book hasn't received rave reviews - unless the two people writing them have a radically different point of view from the author. This was a "can't put the book down" kind of read. Not only did I learn more about President Reagan and a little known piece of history, I also learned about the inner workings of politics. I saw how individual egos and behind-the-scenes power plays ultimately affect the lives of common citizens like myself. It's frightening to think how close this country came to missing out on such an exceptional man as Ronald Reagan for our president.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Grandparent on September 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book about Ronald Reagan's run for governor of California in 1966 is compelling, especially if you believe that Reagan was one of our greatest presidents. It reveals a lot about the inner workings of political campaigns, and shows how important behavioral science can be in successfully crafting a candidate's message. But this requires knowing exactly what's in the candidate's heart, and having a candidate such as Reagan willing to run honestly on his beliefs. That's where psychologists Holden and Plog came in. With the help of a team of more than 20 researchers at their firm BASICO, they drew out of Reagan his deeply-felt values, and provided him with the carefully-researched hard facts needed to articulate those viewpoints to voters. The book is loaded with anecdotes and details about the campaign against Pat Brown, as well the the conflicts that evolved between the campaign's formal advisors and the two psychologists. Some may criticize Holden's outspokenness, as he provides all the names and his opinions of each player. But, like General Patton, he tells it as he sees it. This is refreshing reading--a down-to-earth book with valuable insights into a significant niche of Reagan history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Curtis C. Patrick on October 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is astounding how people can attempt to re-write history. This book is well-written in some of the early chapters, but regarding those of us who were "there in the trenches" and knew Ronald Reagan, there were several important instances which are glaringly, factually incorrect!

Having double-checked with some of my former colleagues, recently, to verify the facts; it is obvious that a disservice has been done by Dr. Holden, the author, in minimizing the role played by one of his own staff members, Dr. James (Jim) Gibson.
Please see Chapter Five, Titled "THE CREATIVE SOCIETY" Page 65, REAGAN: What Was He Really Like? Vol.1. right here on AMAZON--(Look Inside The Book)--"He was an intellectually bright man." "I thought Reagan did an excellent job as governor; first and second terms!" It's ALL there from our years spent with Jim Gibson, the Key role he played in Reagan's successes, and---our tape recorded interviews. Jim was admired by our staff, Governor Reagan and President Reagan. Jim said it well when he stated that RR didn't need anyone else to write his speeches. What Stu Spencer, Bill Roberts and Lyn Nofziger taught all of us and was instilled in the tasks given to Dr.Holden and Dr.Plog during the 1966 Reagan for Governor Campaign, was that everything RR said had to be absolutely honest, correct and verifiable! Thus the "research" done by Jim Gibson wasn't intended to give Reagan "Talking Points" without attribution. The fourteen "Black Books" were filled with facts on the operations of each of California State government's agencies and departments; so we might make those agencies more efficient and less costly to the taxpayers and---IMPROVE SERVICE to the citizens!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Wong on May 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I purchased this book because I wanted to know what made Ronald Reagan a great communicator. From page 1 to page 135, it is a complete waste of paper. It is because it talks about the background of author Ken Holden, Stan Plog and Ronald Reagan. Most of the materials of Reagan can be found in "An American Life" or other books about Reagan. I was so bored when reading Part 1 of this book. Then it comes to Part 2 which shows the real meat of the book. Unfortunately it does not tell me much of the details of the techniques used by the author. One technique is mentioned on page 153: "Every fact relating to every issue was checked, double-checked, triple-checked." Who would not be careful enough with figures when one is carrying out such an important task in his life? Another technique or method is to get their own people to poll --- or to find out the true intentions of voters. Do people really want to vote for Reagan ? Unfortunately the book does not tell me how Ken and Stan did it? Why their methods are so much better than some other popular methods?

The title of this book should be renamed as "Behavioral Scientists helped Reagan to win". But this book is not convicting enough to make me believe two behavioral scientists were the main driving force behind the win. I believe Ronald Reagan won the election because of his rare quality of leadership, as well as the help of Nancy Reagan and some good men.

One thing which put me off is on page 242: "It won't surprise you to know that I wasn't thrilled with the outcome of the 2012 election -- but I couldn't help but smile at seeing where the road that Stan and I paved has led. Maybe if Mitt Romney's people had given me a call, I could have told them: " Well, boys, here's how we did it for Reagan in '66..." Couldn't have hurt, could it?
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