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When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan Hardcover – November 12, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 216 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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From the bestselling author of What I Saw at the Revolution comes an elegiac tribute to one of America's most beloved leaders.

It is twenty years?a full generation?since Ronald Reagan first walked into the White House and ignited a revolution. From the beginning, he enjoyed the American people's affection but now, as he approaches the end of his life, he has received what he deserved even more: their deep respect.

What was the wellspring of his greatness? Peggy Noonan, bestselling author of the classic Reagan-era memoir What I Saw at the Revolution, former speechwriter, and now a columnist and contributing editor for The Wall Street Journal, argues that the secret of Reagan's success was no secret at all. It was his character?his courage, his kindness, his persistence, his honesty, and his almost heroic patience in the face of setbacks?that was the most important element of his success.

The one thing a man must bring into the White House with him if he is to succeed, Noonan contends, is a character that people come to recognize as high, sturdy, and reliable.

Noonan, renowned for her special insight into Ronald Reagan's history and personality, brings her own reflections to Reagan to bear in When Character Was King and discloses never-before-told stories from the former president's family, friends, and White House colleagues to reveal the true nature of a man even his opponents now view as a maker of big history.

Marked by incisive wit and elegant prose, When Character Was King will enlighten and move listeners. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Peggy Noonan was a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1984 to 1986; in 1988, she was chief speechwriter to Vice President George Bush during his campaign for the presidency; in 1989, she left Washington, D.C., for her native New York, where she completed her first book, the bestselling What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Years. Since that time, her articles and essays have appeared in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, and many other publications. She is also author of The Case Against Hillary, a #1 New York Times bestseller. Currently, she is a columnist and contributing editor at The Wall Street Journal and a political contributor for Fox News.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition; First Printing edition (November 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670882356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670882359
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (216 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peggy Noonan is the widely admired and award winning columnist for the Wall Street Journal, where her column, Declarations, has run since 2000. She is also a contributor to CBS News, appearing frequently on Face the Nation. Her work has been lauded as "passionate, patriotic and persuasive" and as "must-reading for the understanding of American politics." In 2011 she was honored as Columnist of the Year by The Week, which said of her work, "In an era of rigid polarization, she embraces the nearly lost art of open-mindedness." Her prose, said the magazine, "is subtle and striking, and the clarity of her observations can be devastating." In 2010 Noonan received the Tex McCrary Journalism Award given by the Medal of Honor Society, which is composed of living recipients of the Medal of Honor. She has called this the highest honor of her career. Noonan is the author of nine books on American politics and culture, among them her early political classic, WHAT I SAW AT THE REVOLUTION and her bestselling biography of Ronald Reagan, WHEN CHARACTER WAS KING. She was a special assistant and speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan. She is a member of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. She is the author most recently of THE TIME OF OUR LIVES, a collection of columns and essays published by Twelve. Peggy Noonan was born in Brooklyn, New York, received her BA from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If the Reagan Presidency is one that you have strong negative feelings about, this book is not for you. If you feel unconditional admiration for the man and his time in office, again this particular book is not for you. In my opinion the book is more favorable to the man than negative, however the author devotes a substantial portion of the book to comments from those who opposed President Reagan while in office. Author Peggy Noonan is clearly an admirer of her subject, although this was not always the case as she herself had written and published comments that are normal for politics but would make the average person feel anger at the very least.
This is only my thought, however I think that presenting a book that was a condemnation of the man and his service to the country would be a questionable decision at present. President Reagan in October became the longest living President in the nation's history, and with that age he has become one of the millions who suffer from Alzheimer's. There is also public opinion, which was expressed via a Gallup Poll commissioned by CNN during the spring of 2001. Polls are not perfect, but this one showed that together with Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, President Regan is one of, if not the most, admired of all Presidents.
Ms. Noonan has access to many of the Reagan Family and she clearly has their trust. This includes the former First Lady who is well known to be what many would feel is hyper protective of her husband. After I completed this book I felt that the degree to which she was concerned was very understandable. The relationship between this couple has been documented elsewhere and it clearly is a special one.
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Format: Hardcover
As a teacher, I am interested in the "character counts" initiative in New Jersey. We urge students to read two types of books, one on the basic philosophy behind "character counts", the other on the practical aspects of "character counts". I have been passing around Norman Thomas Remick's book, "West Point", to my students as the one for the basic understanding of what character is. After reading Ms. Noonan's wonderful book, "When Character Was King", I intend to obtain several to pass around to our students as a good one to read as a practical example of character in action. Who better to have our children mimic than a President of the United States? As the Remick book is surprisingly easy to understand, Ms. Noonan has done a similar service by writing in plain (though eloquent), clear language that everyone can understand. No matter what one's political leanings are, I'm sure they want to help our children. I believe "When Character Was King" is a book that will help to do that.
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Format: Paperback
Miss Noonan writes in a clear style about a subject that is clearly personal to her. This book goes into the mans core of what he believed & why. That is no small feat since President Reagan was an intensely private man. His character grew out of his own experiences & observations.

The book starts with his humble origins, the problems his family faced moving from town to town because, his dad was an alcoholic. From there she takes the reader through his College years where he developed the habit of staying in shape, & then into his radio & acting days. Not surprisingly, after a time doing films for the military during WW2 he found his promising acting career had gone adrift.

However, it was during this uncertain time that his interest in politics began. While President of the Screen Actors Guild, he learned how to negotiate with the tough studio heads, & saw some of his peers lured to Communism. Their secretive & subversive methods gave Mr.Reagan plenty of reason to pause. He spoke out, making numerous enemies in the process. Soon we go into his moving from films to television, which would lead him into Politics. This was when his core beliefs of less government, lower taxes, & his crusade against the spread of "world communism' came together. Once during a speech for Barry Goldwater he spoke of a "rendezvous with destiny" for those who would fight for our freedom: he asserted that the most important words in the Constitution are the ones that begin it: "WE THE PEOPLE..." It is soon clear that he felt strongly about states rights. He stated: "The Constitution they{the founding fathers} wrote established sovereign states, not mere administrative districts for the federal government. They believed in keeping government as close as possible to the people...
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Format: Hardcover
In Reykjavik Iceland in 1986, President Ronald Reagan walked away from a Soviet offer to eliminate ballistic missiles and other nuclear delivery systems coupled with strict verification processes because the USSR insisted on one thing: that Reagan give up his plans to research the Strategic Defense Initiative.
During the 1970's and 1980's Reagan was the preeminent champion of the idea of looking into a system that would protect the United States missile attacks. The opposition was furious from both the Soviets and his domestic critics even though Reagan offered publicly to share the technology throughout the world. In the 1984 election, the Democrats ran commercials accusing Reagan of taking the arms race to space. In 1986, old and at the end of his career, he could have made a deal that would have been hailed the next day as historic, probably ensuring him a Nobel Peace Prize. He rejected the offer because he did not feel that it was in the best interests of the United States.
He walked away from the table and both the USA and the USSR went on as before. Well, actually that's only half-right. The USSR was unable to keep up the military costs that it was trying to get out of at Reykjavik and quite literally went out of business in five years, throwing-off seventy years of totalitarianism. (In the decades ahead another former President, Jimmy Carter, got a Nobel Peace Prize for, among other initiatives, persuading the North Koreans to give up nuclear weapons development. Sure glad that worked out.)
"When Character was King" by Peggy Noonan is a fine book that describes Reagan's personal development so typified at Reykjavik. Consider:
1. Reagan's family of origin was the poorest of any modern American President. (Page 17)
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