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Monday, March 19, 2012

READ THIS and Listen to This: An American Life The Autobiography By Ronald Reagan Our Coverage Sponsored by Original Hawaiian Chocolate

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There might be no one more greatly missed today in America than Ronald Reagan. In an election year where many are quoting Reagan and naming themselves Reagan Republicans, this book is an absolute must-read and must-listen to as well, because it is Reagan himself speaking on the audio book. Originally written in 1990, this book published by Simon and Schuster has been brilliantly re-released in paperback now and it is a supreme national treasure with words of wisdom from a man that truly changed the world and is the great communicator. We can only venture to guess what he would think of social media but can be assured that his philosophies are as relevant today as they once were, particularly since we are in a time of economic turmoil in the United States as we were when he took over in the Oval Office. We are sure he could save America today but since he isn't here, we can all learn from his lessons and save ourselves. He would have said: "Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down."

If you were a kid growing up in the 1980's like Peachy, you automatically associate the title President of the United States with Reagan. You know he always had a smile on his face, was jovial, liked jellybeans and ended the Cold War. But do you really know him? We'd say you absolutely do not until you read his autobiography: "An American Life," which we give our highest recommendation.  We read every page and loved it.

"I was born on February 6, 1911...I was raised to believe that God has a plan for everyone and that seemingly random twists of fate are all a part of His plan," he begins with on pages 20-21. Reagan did not have an easy life by any means growing up, particularly with a father who suffered from alcoholism, going on benders during when things went well rather than badly. And who would have ever thought that Ronald Reagan was so lousy at baseball that when teams were being picked he was always the last kid chosen? You'll find out later the real reason why that was the case...we want you to read the book! 

In the 1920's, when Reagan went to college, fewer than seven percent of high school graduates in America did so. But he went, and afterwards what he really wanted to do was be a radio sports announcer. On page 60 he got the best advice he ever received and we suggest you read it, but what it boils down to is that doing things on your own with an incredible degree of persistence pays off. And before he knew it, he got $5 and bus fare to cover a game in great summary! And his dream came true at age 22.

Who did Reagan idolize? He says FDR on page 66. Reagan admired FDR's gift for reassuring the country that we could lick any problem. And if you are surprised a Republican is admiring a Democrat, let us quote Reagan on page 67: "I think that many people forgot Roosevelt ran for president on a platform dedicated to reducing waste and fat in government."

Everyone that is an avid reader of Whom You Know knows that we loved Regis's new book, and Regis loves Notre Dame football and you know all about Knute Rockne...well, then there was a movie on it. Reagan says on page 92: "As the picture began to unreel in the dark theatre, I sensed a glow radiating from the audience like a warm fire. I was in the picture only a few minutes, but it contained a very emotional scene. Just before Gipp died, I said to Rockne: 'Some day when things are tough and the breaks are going against the boys, ask them to go in there and win one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be but I'll know about it and I'll be happy.'"

This is a man that was not shy at all, telling Gorbachev to tear down this wall, yet he had the compassion to replace the goldfish of children (p.640). To know Reagan as a person must have been to love him, and to know him now is to read this book and listen to his words both literally and via the printed page-we suggest both strongly. He must have been so proud to have heard The Star-Spangled Banner played at the Bolshoi Ballet with the Gorbachevs.

Did you know after he became an actor (where he only took home 6% of his pay) Reagan was a kind of "goodwill ambassador" to General Electric? Did you know how much he stood for freedom? Did you know that much of his support in votes came from neither party but from middle-of-the-road voters in both parties? Did you know that he traveled through Denmark, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, England and Ireland on $5.11? (p. 188) Did you know that the New York Hilton is not only for FFANY (the shoe trade show) but that on November 13, 1979 that is where Reagan announced he'd run for President? And finally, did you know that at the peak of his career at Warner Brothers, Reagan was in the 94% tax bracket, meaning he took home 6 cents on every dollar he earned and the government got the rest...and President Kennedy believed lower tax rates result in higher revenues for our government as well (p. 232).

And on p. 373 we learn that they were related:
"In Ballyporeen, a priest showed me the handwritten entry recording the baptism of Michael Reagan in 1829, then we crossed a street to the church where his baptism had taken place. Next, I walked through the town where he grew up, shaking hands with as many people as I could, on the way to a pub that has been named after me. There, I quaffed a beer and was presented with a copy of my family tree researched by Burke's Peerage; it showed that I was distantly related not only to Queen Elizabeth II, but also to John F. Kennedy."

Today we need someone to unite America, and that person needs to learn from Reagan.

What can we specifically learn from Reagan?


Personally, Peachy would suggest kissing the Blarney stone in Cork, but in this great book Reagan shows you exactly how to tell a tale in a great way. We really like the one about his freshman older brother waiting on him at the table when he was a sophomore.


In college, here are Reagan's activities: two years in the student senate, three years as basketball cheerleader, three years as president of the Eureka Boosters Club, two years as yearbook features editor, and during his last year, student body president and captain and coach of the swim team. Much later on, he became Governor of California, and you know the rest.


"Because of Nelle's great sense of religious faith rubbed off on me, I have always prayed a lot; in those days, I prayed things would get better for our country, for our family, and for Dixon. I even prayed before football games." (p. 56)


" not bad training for someone who goes into politics (or any other calling). By developing a knack for putting yourself in someone else's shoes, it helps you relate better to others and perhaps understand why they think as they do, even though they come from a background much different than yours." (p. 42)


Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill (Boston College graduate!), though political opponents, were friends. How many opposing politicians can we say that about today?


"I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience." (p. 329 on Mondale)


"You're unlikely to ever get all you want; you'll probably get more of what you want if you don't issue ultimatums and leave your adversary room to maneuver; you shouldn't back your adversary into a corner, embarrass him, or humiliate him; and sometimes the easiest way to get some things done is for the top people to do them alone and in private." (p. 637)

Additionally, the parts of his diary that he shares and the photographs are truly priceless. Of the nearly 400 books we've reviewed, we feel this is one of the most important and you absolutely should both read and listen to it.


Ronald Reagan’s autobiography is a work of major historical importance. Here, in his own words, is the story of his life—public and private—told in a book both frank and compellingly readable.

Few presidents have accomplished more, or been so effective in changing the direction of government in ways that are both fundamental and lasting, than Ronald Reagan. Certainly no president has more dramatically raised the American spirit, or done so much to restore national strength and self-confidence.

Here, then, is a truly American success story—a great and inspiring one. From modest beginnings as the son of a shoe salesman in Tampico, Illinois, Ronald Reagan achieved first a distinguished career in Hollywood and then, as governor of California and as president of the most powerful nation in the world, a career of public service unique in our history.

Ronald Reagan’s account of that rise is told here with all the uncompromising candor, modesty, and wit that made him perhaps the most able communicator ever to occupy the White House, and also with the sense of drama of a gifted natural storyteller.

He tells us, with warmth and pride, of his early years and of the elements that made him, in later life, a leader of such stubborn integrity, courage, and clear-minded optimism. Reading the account of this childhood, we understand how his parents, struggling to make ends meet despite family problems and the rigors of the Depression, shaped his belief in the virtues of American life—the need to help others, the desire to get ahead and to get things done, the deep trust in the basic goodness, values, and sense of justice of the American people—virtues that few presidents have expressed more eloquently than Ronald Reagan.

With absolute authority and a keen eye for the details and the anecdotes that humanize history, Ronald Reagan takes the reader behind the scenes of his extraordinary career, from his first political experiences as president of the Screen Actors Guild (including his first meeting with a beautiful young actress who was later to become Nancy Reagan) to such high points of his presidency as the November 1985 Geneva meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, during which Reagan invited the Soviet leader outside for a breath of fresh air and then took him off for a walk and a man-to-man chat, without aides, that set the course for arms reduction and charted the end of the Cold War.

Here he reveals what went on behind his decision to enter politics and run for the governorship of California, the speech nominating Barry Goldwater that first made Reagan a national political figure, his race for the presidency, his relations with the members of his own cabinet, and his frustrations with Congress.

He gives us the details of the great themes and dramatic crises of his eight years in office, from Lebanon to Grenada, from the struggle to achieve arms control to tax reform, from Iran-Contra to the visits abroad that did so much to reestablish the United States in the eyes of the world as a friendly and peaceful power. His narrative is full of insights, from the unseen dangers of Gorbachev’s first visit to the United States to Reagan’s own personal correspondence with major foreign leaders, as well as his innermost feelings about life in the White House, the assassination attempt, his family—and the enduring love between himself and Mrs. Reagan.

An American Life is a warm, richly detailed, and deeply human book, a brilliant self-portrait, a significant work of history. 

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