A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century Hardcover – May 1, 2017
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“Kengor breaks new ground. He shows the depth of [John Paul II and Reagan’s] friendship (including secret letters shuttled to Rome by New Jersey Democrat Peter Rodino) starting only weeks after both men survived assassination attempts.” —World magazine
“This book superbly captures and perfectly portrays the profound depth of the bond between John Paul II and Ronald Reagan. This is key. You cannot understand why Soviet communism collapsed unless you have a good grasp of just how extraordinarily deep was the bond that existed between those two great leaders of the 20th century. . . . There is a great deal of important and interesting information packed into this very well researched work. It makes a reader appreciate just how fortunate we were to have this particular pope and this particular president at that point in history.” —Washington Times
“Excellent . . . Dr. Kengor’s book is extraordinary in that he is brave enough to trace the importance of religious faith in the story of communism’s downfall. . . . A historical tome that is not only detailed, informative, and educational, but also inspiring and encouraging.” —The Imaginative Conservative
“No Reagan biographer or scholar knows Ronald Reagan and conservatism like Paul Kengor.” —Michael Reagan
“[Kengor] has written the most exhaustive and definitive account of Communism’s twentieth-century assault on America to date.” —Townhall
“Mr. Kengor’s research is prodigious, his analysis keen and insightful, his writing clear, and his work distinguished. His command of the Reagan legacy is incomparable.” —Tony Dolan, chief speechwriter and special assistant to President Reagan
“Kengor makes clear just how central the defeat of the Soviet Union was to Reagan’s personal project.” —National Review
“Combines great story-telling with his commitment to scholarly detail.” —Peter Schweizer, bestselling author of Reagan’s War
“[Kengor provides] more fascinating and never-before-reported details about how Ronald Reagan succeeded than any other Cold War historian. . . . Kengor somehow got his hands on more secret documents than the KGB.” —American Thinker
“Kengor has unearthed eye-popping new information that left me amazed.” —Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard
“Provides authoritative insight into Reagan’s campaign to destroy Soviet Communism.” —Richard Pipes, professor of history, emeritus, Harvard University
“Kengor assembles a wealth of material.” —National Catholic Reporter
“There are few historians who are closer students of the Reagan message, his thoughts, his utterances, and his convictions than Paul Kengor.” —William J. Bennett, President Reagan’s secretary of education
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The events the two leaders shared start with their childhood influence of a deeply religious parent (father with the Pope and mother with President Reagan) to their first careers as actors to the loss of their fathers mere weeks apart in 1941 and then to their attempted assassinations (again weeks apart) in 1981. The two men, once they met in 1982, developed a good relationship in their efforts and became close friends with what President Reagan called a shared “Divine Plan”.
The book also chronicles some of the history of the Catholic Church's stand against Communism when the rest of the world seemed to see it as less of a threat. It also touches on the history of Nazi Germany and other totalitarian movements but the main focus of the book is the relationship and the actions that two of the foremost Christian leaders of their time took to bring down what President Reagan dubbed “the evil empire”.
While I generally read historical accounts of much older events than these (some of which happened during my lifetime), I found the book both interesting and thought provoking.
I have read a number of books on Ronald Reagan and his role in ending the Cold War, so I thought I was well informed on the subject. I had never heard though what was revealed in this great book. A Pope and a President, John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century. I knew of course that Pope John Paul was shot of the Feast of Fatima, May 13, but had no idea how much Reagan was interested in Fatima and its messages and the role it, and the Blessed Mother Mary overall, had in the Pope and the President's ongoing efforts to end communism. I also didn't realize or had forgotten how much President Reagan literally preached a faith in God in his numerous historical speeches in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the communist world. And the confluence of dates is amazing as well. The Russian Revolution was in 1917, the same year as the Blessed Virgin appeared to the 3 peasant children at Fatima. And I had never realized that Archbishop Fulton Sheen played a role in influencing the Protestant Reagan and bringing down communism. He had given many talks on the evils of communism and how it is a Godless evil. Both Sheen and Reagan are products of the Illinois prairie. I knew that communism is of course and atheistic evil that killed over 100 million in the last century, but did not focus so much on it being a problem of spiritual desolation. Reagan and Pope John Paul II knew though that it was largely a problem of being a Godless system with a spiritual vacuum. Yes, there were specific tactics that Reagan initiated to bring down communism, but his emphasis on the spiritual aspect was what finally did it, even likely playing a role in influencing Mikhail Gorbachev to resign as head of the Soviet Union and thus make way for its demise.
Reagan was a life long Protestant, though he had much Catholic influence throughout his life, starting with his Catholic father, his great friend and confidant, Judge William Clark, who served Reagan so well in many posts and played a major role in Reagan's efforts to bring down communism, a long time goal of his too.(Paul Kengor's book on Judge Clark is great as well and highly recommended.) And of course, his "best friend," Pope John Paul II. Reagan also had a great affection for the mostly Catholic Polish citizenry, and so wanted them to be out from under the shackles of communism.
I'm a slow reader and rarely read books twice. Even though it is over 500 pages, I plan to make this great book an exception and read it at least one more time. There are so many great lessons, including spiritual lessons, from the examples of two of the greatest men of the millennium, Saint John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. This book gives one hope in mankind that the world could produce two such great and good men. I cannot recommend this great book highly enough.
So much of what's discussed went unreported or the full significance can only be seen in hindsight. It's a great recap of the Cold War through the impact of two men working together for a common purpose.
Top international reviews
A fascinating and very readable book , which illustrates why we should be so grateful to both Pope and President.
Whether you are just a Reagan fan, or just a John Paul II fan, even if you are neither, and are just interested in history, this book will capture your attention. It is well sourced and written.
Wonderful historical information.
Two great men