Ronald Reagan: The man we never knew
President Ronald Reagan was the most enigmatic of our Presidents. Until researchers found boxes and boxes of his hand-written speech drafts and his personal correspondence with hundreds of pen pals, only Nancy Reagan knew how different her husband was from the way he was painted by the partisan media. Here are just a few examples:
Media: Reagan’s an amiable dunce. Fact: Ronald Reagan spent his adult life immersed in study of the economic ideas of: Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter and in the writings of our Founding Fathers on the role of government. Outside the public eye, Reagan spent virtually every hour reading and writing.
Until he became President, he wrote 100-percent of his speeches, his syndicated newspaper column and the scripts for his syndicated radio talks. His White House speechwriters began with outlines provided by Reagan who then edited and polished their work. Because they lived and breathed ideas, Ronald Reagan and Thomas Jefferson rank as our most intellectual Presidents.
Media: Reagan wasn’t a hard worker. Fact: Age 69 when he became President, Reagan put in a full day everyday in the Oval Office and then went upstairs to his study where he read and wrote until time for bed. His work product was enormous.
Media: Reagan wasn’t religious. Fact: Reagan spent a great deal of time in prayer. But he did not wear religion on his sleeve. Feeling his Secret Service-guarded presence would distract others from worship, the Reagan’s rarely ventured out to church. But private worship services with some of the world’s leading religious figures were common inside the White House. Moreover, no other President spent more private time with Pope John Paul II. The two spent hours together in the Vatican plotting the liberation of Poland and the other Soviet satellites.
Media: Reagan skipped the military: Fact: Private Reagan joined an Iowa Guard horse cavalry unit in 1935. Actually, he was so near-sighted he should have been classified as 4-F. Somehow, in those days, no one noticed.
He studied to become an officer and passed. When Warner Brothers signed him to make movies, second lieutenant Reagan transferred to a cavalry unit in California and remained in the National Guard until World War II. When his eyes were finally tested, he was declared unfit for overseas deployment. Usually not one to trade on his celebrity, he pulled strings to be called to active duty.
General “Hap” Arnold directed that Captain Reagan head a military training film production unit. Over four years, Reagan wrote, directed and, sometimes, acted in over 200 training films. Reagan stayed on in the reserves until 1952 when, although selected for promotion to major, Army age limits forced him to retire. Question: Other than General Dwight D. Eisenhower, which President had the most combined reserve and active duty service? Answer: With 17 total years, no other President comes even close to Ronald Reagan. And, that doesn’t count eight years as Commander-in-Chief.
Media: Reagan cared nothing for details. Fact: When it came to nuclear weapons, no one had Reagan’s mastery of the details of SALT Treaties I and II and, of course, Reagan’s own invention: The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
Media: Reagan’s a warmonger. Fact: Reagan was so effective in achieving massive reductions in the Soviet and U.S. nuclear arsenals, that he collapsed the anti-nuke movement world-wide. Ironically, they hated him for destroying their raison d’etre.
In the fullness of time, history will prove Ronald Reagan, not only to have been one of our greatest Presidents, but also to be one of the finest men who ever lived.
Suggested reading: Peggy Noonan’s When Character Was King; Dinesh D’Souza’s: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader; Peter Schweizers’ Reagan’s War; Paul Kengor’s God and Reagan: A Spiritual Life; William F. Buckley, Jr.’s The Fall of the Berlin Wall. And, most revealingly: Skinner, Anderson and Anderson: Reagan: A Life in Letters and Reagan: In His Own Hand.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – novels about terrorist attacks on Colorado’s water supply and on the Panama Canal, respectively.
©2004. William Hamilton.