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Outline ReviewA top advisor to Ronald Reagan once remarked of his boss: "He knows so little and accomplishes so much." Reagan, in His Own Hand will show that the 40th president knew far more than some people have given him credit for. It collects Reagan's recently discovered writings from the late 1970s, when he delivered more than a thousand radio addresses. He wrote about two-thirds of these himself, in longhand on yellow legal paper. "In writing these daily essays on almost every national policy issue during the 1970s, Reagan was acting as a one-man think tank," suggest the editors. This edition reproduces everything faithfully, right down to the spelling mistakes and crossed-out words. And it offers a compelling look at the ideas and principles that animated one of the most important Americans of the 20th century. In one address, Reagan describes his contribution to a time capsule:
I wrote of the problems we face here in 1976--The choice we face between continuing the policies of the last 40 yrs. that have led to bigger & bigger govt, less & less liberty, redistribution of earnings through confiscatory taxation or trying to get back on the original course set for us by the Founding Fathers.... On the international scene two great superpowers face each other with nuclear missiles at the ready--poised to bring Armageddon to the world.Often his rhetoric is admirably forthright: "Calling a communist a liar when he is one is pretty frustrating. How do you insult a pig by calling it a pig?.... Fidel Castro is a liar." And there are frequent glimpses of his later achievements, such as the foreshadowing of his desire to build the Strategic Defense Initiative: "If the Soviets should push the button our magnificent warning system would immediately detect the launch of their missiles.... But there is no defense against them--no way to prevent nuclear devastation of their targets here in the U.S."
The bulk of the book comprises these radio addresses, but a concluding section includes everything from a short story Reagan wrote as a school assignment when he was 14 (it earned him a B+) to his memorable letter in 1994 revealing his Alzheimer's disease. This book will enthrall Reagan's devotees, and even his toughest critics will concede he had a way with words. No wonder they called him "The Great Communicator." --John J. Miller
Until Alzheimer's disease wreaked its gradual destruction, Ronald Reagan was an inveterate writer. He wrote not only letters, short fiction, poetry, and sports stories, but speeches, newspaper articles, and radio commentary on public policy issues, both foreign and domestic.
Most of Reagan's original writings are pre-presidential. From 1975 to 1979 he gave more than 1,000 daily radio broadcasts, two-thirds of which he wrote himself. They cover every topic imaginable: from labor policy to the nature of communism, from World War II to the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, from the future of Africa and East Asia to that of the United States and the world. They range from highly specific arguments to grand philosophy to personal stories.
Even those who knew him best were largely unaware of Reagan's output. George Shultz, as he explains in the Foreword, was surprised when he first saw the manuscripts, but on reflection he really was not surprised at all. Here is definitive proof that Ronald Reagan was far more than a Great Communicator of other people's ideas. He was very much the author of his own ideas, with a single vision that he pursued relentlessly at home and abroad.
Reagan, In His Own Hand presents this vision through Reagan's radio writings as well as other writings selected from throughout his life: short stories written in high school and college, a poem from his high school yearbook, newspaper articles, letters, and speeches both before and during the presidency. It offers many surprises, beginning with the fact that Reagan's writings exist in such size and breadth at all. While he was writing batches and batches of radio addresses, Reagan was also traveling the country, collaborating on a newspaper column, giving hundreds of speeches, and planning his 1980 campaign. Yet the wide reading and deep research self-evident here suggest a mind constantly at work. The selections are reproduced with Reagan's own edits, offering a unique window into his thought processes.
These writings show that Reagan had carefully considered nearly every issue he would face as president. When he fired the striking air-traffic controllers, many thought that he was simply seizing an unexpected opportunity to strike a blow at organized labor. In fact, as he wrote in the '70s, he was opposed to public-sector unions using strikes. There has been much debate as to whether he deserves credit for the end of the cold war; here, in a 1980 campaign speech draft, he lays out a detailed vision of the grand strategy that he would pursue in order to encourage the Soviet system to collapse of its own weight, completely consistent with the policies of his presidency. Furthermore, in 1984, Reagan drafted comments he would make to Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko at a critical meeting that would eventually lead to history's greatest reductions in armaments.
Ronald Reagan's writings will change his reputation even among some of his closest allies and friends. Here, in his own hand, Reagan the thinker is finally fully revealed.
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