Ronald Reagan In His Own Hand
President Ronald Reagan will be 90 on February 6th. On March 4th the Reagans will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary. On that same day, the Navy will christen the world’s most powerful aircraft carrier – the USS Ronald Reagan.
Yet, there is more astonishing news about Ronald Reagan that will please his friends and stun his enemies. Tucked away in a stack of cardboard boxes in the Reagan library, researchers found hundreds of documents written in Reagan’s own hand.
The writings span from his high school years to his graceful and elegant farewell note to the American people. These writings are collected in Ronald Reagan in His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America, edited by Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson and Martin Anderson (Free Press, 2001).
Most of the documents were written between 1975 and 1989 and cover the time when he was Governor of California and President of the United States. During that time, Ronald Reagan wrote a syndicated newspaper column, a regular radio commentary and, of course, made hundreds of speeches.
Prior to the publication of Ronald Reagan in His Own Hand, it was thought that most of what he wrote and said was ghostwritten. Now, we know that, with the exception of a handful of elegant speeches by presidential speech-writer, Peggy Noonan, Reagan wrote almost everything himself.
As one reviewer said: The documents prove that Ronald Reagan was highly intelligent, extremely well informed on a staggering number of issues, a gifted writer, and a man of foresight and vision.
So, why was this talent hidden from public view for so long? Martin Anderson, one of the co-editors of Ronald Reagan in His Own Hand suggests that Reagan, like most people, wanted to be liked in school. Early on, he figured out that the smartest kid in class was usually the most disliked. So, even though he taught himself to read by age 5 and, by age 6, was reading newspapers, Ronald Reagan learned to hide his intellectual light under the proverbial bushel.
This trait was reinforced as the adult Ronald Reagan began to develop a remarkable sense of what psychologists call: inner directedness. Despite the fame and fortune that came with his Hollywood stardom, he showed little interest in what others thought about him and was simply content to be his own person and a man worthy of the love and devotion of Nancy Reagan.
His enemies on liberal left loved to characterize Reagan as a President who spent most of his time in the presidential residence watching television. Now, we know he rarely watched television and spent the majority of his time reading and writing.
It is said that people are defined by how much time they allocate to three activities: Ideas, People and Things. Despite his success in Hollywood, Ronald Reagan lived quite modestly and, other than keeping horses, was generally indifferent to the trappings of wealth. “Things” would rate third in the Reagan hierarchy.
While he could deliver a speech to a large crowd like no other President in history and enjoyed being liked, the Reagans spent relatively little time with other people. This trait was irksome to some Reagan staff members who, like most Washington politicos, thrive on personal contact the President of the United States. Although Reagan loved people, in general, his circle of friends was extremely limited. He and Nancy simply preferred the company of each other. “People” would rate second.
So, if one doesn’t spend much time on People or Things, that puts Ideas in first place. And, somewhere along a long continuum of study, thought, reflection and writing, Ronald Reagan went from being a FDR Democrat to the founder of a conservative movement. Ronald Reagan, the closet intellectual, created: The Reagan Revolution – a political movement that ended the Cold War, downsized government, reduced taxes and jump-started the greatest economic expansion since World War II.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and a featured commentator for USA Today.
©2001. William Hamilton.