Ronald Reagan Reconstructed
by: Matt Hadro, June 15, 2007
Ronald Reagan’s religious faith and virtuous character were, in fact, influential during his days as President. The recently uncovered diaries of Ronald Reagan unveil much of his personality while he served in office, according to Douglas Brinkley, editor of the newly-published The Reagan Diaries. Reagan’s outstanding moral character and positive motivation, which formed the foundation for his much-celebrated presidency, shone forth in his daily thoughts and reflections. The Heritage Foundation hosted a briefing and discussion for the diaries this past week, and Brinkley was present to introduce the work and answer questions from the audience. He had been a close contact of the Reagan family in the past, and was therefore chosen to edit the diaries.
Brinkley desired the collection of entries to be “a book you could dip into” but also one that would fully unveil the life of such a famous American figure when read cover-to-cover. Reagan was a disciplined person in his dedication to daily notation of his thoughts. The Reagan Diaries contains much of his own reflections on foreign policy during his days in office, but also brings to life his inner personality and especially his relationship with his wife, Nancy Reagan.
Brinkley remarked that first and foremost, Reagan was not a mysterious man. He was God-fearing, humorous, and led a well-balanced life.
His faith in God could be shown in his writings when he awoke after being shot with a bullet in 1981. He prayed, and immediately knew that from then on he was to serve God in his work. “He was in prayer a lot,” remarked Brinkley, Professor of History at Tulane University. Reagan was also light-hearted. Though frustrated at times by a negative press, he never held grudges. Reagan was an American, a man who represented all parties. Whether one was conservative or liberal at the time, he gave an example for all to follow as a fighter for true American ideals and beliefs, to make the country the best place possible. It is even noted (humorously) in the diaries that he tried to recruit Democrats to his cause.
As President, Reagan still showed ability to retain a well-balanced personality, a man who could walk with kings and keep the common touch. He did not forget old friends. In his later years, he was able to stay physically fit, especially through his work in the upkeep of the Reagan Ranch in California. Nevertheless, he was an intellectual man as well, as found within his writings.
A charismatic leader, Reagan also possessed a deeply sensitive side to his personality. He wrote in his diaries of a stark fear of nuclear annihilation, the foundation for his Presidential policies to whittle down the world’s nuclear arsenal. He steered Americans past the bitter Vietnam War memories, and back to the country’s heroism in World War II, granting the elder generation profound gratitude and honor that they had little received until that time. Whenever an American soldier died during Reagan’s term, he personally contacted their families out of condolence.
Ronald Reagan had a deep love affair with his wife Nancy Reagan. He wrote in his diaries of his displeasure whenever they were separated during his busy term as President. Though he did have problems with his children in his later years, his reflections tell of his great love for them, and his constant remembrance of them.
The Reagan Diaries offers a keen insight into the person of one of America’s most celebrated Presidents. Reagan’s wit and humor, combined with his sympathetic persona, were the foundations of an admirable man who was able to sympathize with the American people and use his charisma to lead the country past the darker years of the previous era.
Matt Hadro is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.
Reagan was not a mysterious man. He was God-fearing, humorous, and led a well-balanced life.
Why is it that politicians listen to "professional" political advisors to explain how to connect to the American people? Imagery means more than substance. Reaching out and connecting does not require flash, fancy hair styles and rehersed sound bites. Humor, honesty, well-balanced living, these are the attributes with which ordinary people relate. That is, ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This was Ronald Reagan. Reagan could blossom as President because he believed in his core principles and translated these into policy ideas. Reagan was not as all to often observed these days, a bag of polices searching for problems. He was not, as we learned in school, solutions chasing problems. For Reagan, America's problems were not political machinations meant for electoral posturing but his core values under attack by alien forces. America's values were Reagan's values. America's challenges were Reagan's personal challenges.
Reagan was a doctor for the national body and never veered from his genuine belief that America had to succeed and would succeed because America was destined by G-d to be the fortress of freedom in the world. That meant America had to be strong internally and externally. Reagan was never about one-issue or a case study in academic politics. He was president because, in a tradition of great Americans he stood up to lead the nation he loved and believed in, to rally it, capture it's imagination and inspire it to the greatness that he envisioned it could reach.