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Reagan: A Life In Letters Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 23, 2003
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Many books have been written about Ronald Reagan, but this collection of his letters must certainly be among the most varied and revealing about every aspect of the man. Organized by themes such as "Old Friends," "Running for Office," "Core Beliefs," "The Critics," and "Foreign Leaders," the book contains over 1,000 letters stretching from 1922 to 1994. Whether discussing economic policy with a political foe, dispensing marital advice, or sharing a joke with a pen pal, Reagan comes across as gracious, caring, and inquisitive. Even when responding to blistering criticism, he remained fair and thoughtful. As one would expect, many of the letters are addressed to world leaders, well-known American politicians, pundits, and journalists, and these are certainly interesting for their historical relevance and insights into Reagan's diplomatic style. Among the more fascinating notes, however, are those sent to private citizens, some of which are quite long and detailed. That Reagan would spend the time, as both governor of California and President, to respond to the concerns and inquiries of constituents reveals that he never forgot how he got to his positions of leadership in the first place. He even went so far on occasions to help make business connections for people he had never met in person. He also sent many letters to children. In one, he encouraged a young student to turn off the TV and grab a book instead: "Reading is a magic carpet and you can never be lonely if you learn to enjoy a good book." Taken as a whole, these revealing, well-written, and entertaining letters trace the story of Reagan's life and times as well as any standard biography. They also offer further proof of why he was dubbed "The Great Communicator." --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
Hoover Institution fellows Skinner and the Andersons (all editors of the bestselling Reagan, in His Own Hand) use a carefully arranged and astutely annotated sampling from Reagan's lifetime of correspondence to narrate the arc of "the great communicator" 's life. Always charming, always unassuming, always genuine, Reagan's letters tell the story of his family, his health, his Hollywood and political careers, and his evolution as a political thinker with an authority (and a charm) no other documents can. Reagan regularly corresponded with friends, movie business colleagues, fellow politicians and conservative allies, as well as with simple fans. To William Buckley in 1984: "the Middle East is a complicated place-well not really a place, it's more a state of mind." To Mickey Rooney, from the Oval Office, in 1985: "I'll bet you don't remember the first time we met. The year was 1937... I was new in Hollywood living in the Montecito apartments. Someone had run over a dog in the street outside. You came in to look for a phone book so you could find the nearest veterinarian and take the dog.... I figured this had to be a nice guy." The book includes more than 1,000 letters (some to unknowns, others to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, George Bush Sr., Dr. Spock, Joseph Coors, Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher), fewer than 25 of them previously published. Taken together, they provide remarkable and otherwise unobtainable insight into a singularly important and fascinating American life: "Dutch" up close and personal.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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My only complaint is about the Kindle format, and not about the book itself. This kind of book, that has lots of footnotes and requires jumping around to make sense of what is being said doesn't do well as a Kindle book. This is more of a reference book and Kindle lends itself to books that can be read straight through. I didn't like the trouble of needing to refer to footnotes and then finding it difficult to get back to my original place. Kindle has it's place, but a book like this should be read in the traditional paper-page format.
shine through and are heart warming. The contrast with today's politics of division, government's
intrusion into every facet of life, political correctness and vilification of patriotism and the Constitution
is glaring. Reagan and Clinton both worked with the opposing party to reach consensus for the good
of the country. It's hard not to be nostalgic for leadership. The fact that Reagan left the Democratic Party because of ITS opposition to integration and civil rights is an important part of history that should never be lost.
If you are looking for sources on Reaganism, then I recommend Speaking My Mind: Selected Speeches and Reagan, In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America. We get interesting policy letters about once every 25 pages or so. The gems are his correspondence with Nixon and Brezhnev. Plus we have a lot of material from the Governator years. These are key, since one does not go from GE spokesman to Leader of the Free World in one bound. We see the Reagan we all know love and . . . developing in the California Crucible.
I think the biggest surprise was the section on pen pals. Instead of Ronaldus Magnus, we see Ronnie, all around good egg. Many of these letters are folksy, dealing with human problems, and occasionally we get Reagan's insight into current events--Lt. Calley, Charles Manson, and Sirhan Sirhan. Several letters are personal response to his critics. His firm but gentle way of rebuking a misinformed foe serves for a universal lesson.
Favorite Letter: page 664.
Andy Smith, a seventh-grader in Irmo, S.C., wrote the President in 1984, "Today my mother declared my bedroom a disaster area. I would like to request federal funds to hire a crew to clean up my room."
I'm sorry to be so late in answering your letter but as you know I've been in China . . .
Your application for disaster relief has been duly noted but I must point out one technical problem; the authority declaring the disaster is supposed to make the request. In this case your mother.
However setting that aside I'll have to point out the larger problem of available funds. This has been a year of disasters, 539 hurricanes as of May 4th and several more since, numerous floods, forest fires, drought in Texas and a number of earthquakes. What I'm getting at is that funds are dangerously low.
May I make a suggestion? This administration, believing that government has done many things that could better be done by volunteers at the local level, has sponsored a Private Sector Initiative program, calling upon people to practice voluntarism in the solving of a number of local problems.
Your situation appears to be a natural. I'm sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster. Therefore you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer program to go along with the more than 3,000 already underway in our nation--congratulations . . .
This book should be part of the Essential Reagan Cannon. Along with "Speaking My Mind" and "In His Own Hand," this book should be read with The Reagan Diaries,An American Life,Ronald Reagan: A Life in Politics and In the Words of Ronald Reagan: The Wit, Wisdom, and Eternal Optimism of America's 40th President. I also recommend Reagan: Man of Principle, for insight on the elusive Governator years.
That said, two caveats for those who might purchase this book...
1 - The book is broken into sections that detail each topic with letters that relate to that topic. There are 2 page summaries of each topic but I think the book would be far more enjoyable if you already have a reasonable knowledge of the various challenges of the Reagan presidency.
2 - Most of the letters that are in the book are written to family and friends. Those that come to it expecting letters to Gorbachev detailing plans for an end to the cold war will be disappointed
Those caveats aside, this is a great book and an essential companion to any biography of President Reagan
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AMERICA NEED AN OTHER REAGAN RIGHT NOW!!!!!