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Reagan, in His Own Hand: Ronald Reagan's Writings That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America

Reagan, in His Own Hand: Ronald Reagan's Writings That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America

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by Kiron K. Skinner, Ronald Reagan, Martin Anderson (Editor), Annelise Graebner Anderson (Editor)

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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


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 wasalso 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.

Editorial Reviews

A fascinating look into the thinking of one of the most popular presidents of our time, Reagan in His Own Hand presents recently discovered writings that reveal that many of the "Reagan Doctrine" positions the Gipper took while in office were developed long before he became commander in chief. These handwritten documents have surprised even longtime Reagan aides and associates.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ronald Reagan is a puzzle: How, many wonder (and as Shultz puts it in his foreword), could he know so little and accomplish so much? The editors of this volume (two former Reagan advisers [Anderson and Anderson] and a historian [Skinner]) believe the question can be answered through Reagan's own writings. Associates describe Reagan as constantly writing, whether at home or in a hotel room, in a car or on a plane, recording his thoughts on the issues of the day. The product was almost always some form of public address, written and edited by hand. A collection of these manuscripts is presented here, just as Reagan wrote them, including his corrections and notes. With a few exceptions, they are very short radio commentaries delivered during the pre-presidential period (1975-1979), focusing mostly on foreign policy and the economy, and framed in terms of the general issue of government and freedom. There are no surprises; whether one sees Reagan as the great communicator, articulating deeply held convictions through the expression of simple but profound truths, or as the not-too-bright actor, painting a complex world in the reductionistic tones of black and white, one's expectations will be confirmed. In foreign policy Reagan is the essential Cold Warrior, understanding the world in terms of an "ideological struggle" between Communism and the proponents of freedom. In domestic policy he is the committed capitalist, always suspicious of government regulation and critical of taxation, and not above propagating theories of Communist conspiracy. Indeed, the uniformity of his outlook is quite remarkable, and whether one considers this a strength or a weakness this volume drives home the single-mindedness of the former president. (Feb. 6) Forecast: Given Reagan's enduring popularity, this could find a broad market, and a five-city author tour may pique readers' interest. Primarily, however, the book will appeal to serious students of history trying to put Reagan's ideas and ideology in historical context. First serial to the New York Times Magazine. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This is a fascinating and valuable collection of Ronald Reagan's writings, from his youth up to his eloquent and moving final letter to the public announcing that he had Alzheimer's disease. Included are poems, short stories, speeches, columns, radio addresses, and other glimpses into the personality, character, and mind of one of the more important of the modern presidents. Taken together, these pieces suggest a breadth of mind not often attributed to Reagan. He remains a controversial figure whose legacy is still contested intellectual terrain. Reagan's supporters, intent on establishing a positive image for the former president, often title their works about him with words like great and outstanding. This effort follows in that fawning tradition by attributing a "revolutionary" vision to Reagan. But what is revealed here instead is rather mundane. By trying desperately to convince us that he was something that he clearly was not, the editors do both Reagan and his readers a disservice. However, this collection is an excellent glimpse into Reagan the man and the thinker. It will be useful for anyone who wishes to understand this important figure. [Reagan's 90th birthday is February 6.--Ed].--Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Handwritten documents suggesting that Ronald Reagan did more of his own thinking and research than generally believed, and that even before he became president he was already articulating the ideas that became the"Reagan Doctrine." In his foreword, former Secretary of State George Schultz argues that this collection is important because it"provides a key to unlocking the mystery of Reagan" and speculates that"maybe he was a lot smarter than most people thought." Most of the numerous essays included here were written in longhand by then-Governor Reagan before he recorded them for broadcast between 1975 and 1979: they thus presumably reflect his own work rather than talking points crafted by others. The speeches cover Reagan's philosophy and his ideas on foreign, domestic, and economic policy, reflecting a depth of preparation not usually associated with him. As he pondered the question of nuclear weapons, for instance, he quoted from NSC 68 (the 1950 National Security Council paper prepared for President Truman), warning that the Soviet Union would not be deterred by moral persuasion—only force would suffice. Elsewhere, Reagan frequently cited Congressional reports, The Economist, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, as well as a wide range of books and speeches. Characteristically, he used this data not to impress but rather to strengthen his points—points that were invariably phrased in accessible, personalized, and colloquial prose. The volume also includes Reagan's early writings from high school and college, a few drafts of his speeches (including the 1980 State of the Union address), and his moving letter to the nation announcing that hehadAlzheimer'sdisease. A timely reminder of just why the 40th president was called"The Great Communicator," plus some persuasive evidence that he was quite knowledgeable about what he wanted to communicate.

Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Thorndike Press Americana Series
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6.26(w) x 9.42(h) x 1.61(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Part One: Reagan's Philosophy

The eight radio addresses in this section express concepts and themes found in many of Reagan's handwritten manuscripts for radio commentaries and speeches given in his pre-presidential years. Taken together, the essays state the political and philosophical views on which his policies as president, both foreign and domestic, were based.

As we look back on what he wrote in the late 1970s from the perspective of the post-Communist era, in a time of economic vitality and with the United States as the world's only superpower, it is easy to forget how at odds his views were with the accepted wisdom of the day. The late 1970s was a period of high inflation, low economic growth, relatively high unemployment, and questions about the influence of the United States on the world scene. Many believed that the political systems of the United States and the Soviet Union were gradually converging. Some doubted that a political system based on individual freedom and free markets could compete effectively with a centrally controlled command economy that could override and repress political dissent.

Reagan had no such doubts. In spite of the economic and political problems, he found America's strength in its political system — in liberty, in the system that freed, as he put it, the individual genius of man — a system that, he said, has given the country political stability, the creativity of private enterprise, advanced technology, and a generosity of spirit. He also considered virtue fundamental to representative government and argued against expediency rather than principle in foreignpolicy.

His condemnation of communism, in words written in 1975, is powerful. Communism, he wrote, is neither an economic nor a political system, but a form of insanity, an aberration. He wonders "how much more misery it will cause before it disappears." In comparing the statements of past and present leaders of the two systems, he quotes, as he often did, John Winthrop's 1630 statement on the deck of the Arbella: "We shall be as a city upon a hill." But as the complete quotation Reagan uses makes clear, the significance of the city's location on a hill is not only that it is blessed, but that it is open to observation and judgment by the entire world.

The great challenge of the world situation was, Reagan says in 1975, maintaining peace and avoiding the catastrophe of nuclear war, and doing so not through surrender but through military strength backed by economic vitality and credibility. In a radio address that is an elaboration of his extemporaneous speech at the Republican National Convention in 1976 after losing the nomination to Gerald Ford, he tells of writing a letter for a time capsule to be opened one hundred years later. He turns again to the question of nuclear Armageddon, of the potential of the two superpowers to fire missiles at one another. The challenge is not only preserving the beauty he sees as he travels the Pacific Coast Highway, but of preserving a world of peace, prosperity, and freedom of choice.

Reagan reiterated the same themes and concepts of these eight essays in his farewell speech from the Oval Office on January 11, 1989. Not even he had known how far-reaching his philosophy and policies would be, for, he says, "We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world."

April 1975

How much is it worth to not have WWIII

I'll be right back.

While in London I had an opportunity to visit with various govt. officials including those concerned with foreign affairs. Inevitably the conversation turned to the world situation & how to maintain peace. in the world. And just as inevitably the Soviet U. was automatically accepted as the possible threat to peace just as 40 yrs. ago it was Nazi Germany that loomed as the storm cloud on the horizon. And of course that storm cloud did eventually fill the sky & raining rain fire & brimstone on all the world.

The leaders of that generation saw the growing menace & talked of it but reacted to the growing mil. might of Germany with anguished passiveness. Will it be said of todays world leaders th as it was of the pre W.W.II. leaders "they were better at surviving the catastrophe than they were at preventing it?

Several times in the discussions at Whitehall

W.W.II did not happen because the Nat's. of the free world engaged in a massive mil. buildup. The opposite is true. In most countries including our own, "too little too late" described our the reaction to the Nazi mil. colossus.

What does it take for us to learn? On every hand here & abroad when the suggestion is made that we strengthen the mil. capability of Nato the reply is that it's not politically expedient to incrs. spending for armaments because the people are against it. Our own Congress which is willing to run an $80 Bil. deficit for every kind of social experiment screams long & loud for reduction of the budget for defense. But have any of the pol. leaders laid the facts out for the people? Of course the overtaxed citizenry in Europe & America want govt. spending reduced. But if we are told the truth, namely that enough evidence of weakness or lack of willpower on our part could tempt the Soviet U. into as it once did tempted Hitler & the mil. rulers of Japan I believe our decision would be in favor of an ounce of prevention. Certainly we havent forgotten that after W.WII the Japanese told us they they were tempted decided on war when they saw our army staging war games with wooden guns. They also took note that One month before Pearl Harbor Congress came within one a single vote of abolishing the draft & sending the bulk of our army home.

It has recently been revealed that for 12 yrs. a behavioral scientist at the U. of Hawaii has headed up a team of distinguished colleagues in a Federally-Funded, computerized study of International behavior. Summed up in one sentence they have learned that "to abdicate power is to abdicate the right to maintain peace."

The study focused mainly upon Red China, Russia & the US. Every bit of data from trade to tourism — from threats to treaties — was fed into the computers. The findings prove conclusively that what Laurence Beilenson wrote in his book "The Treaty Trap" is true. "Nations that place their faith in treaties & fail to keep their hardware up don't hang around to stick around long enough to write many pages in history."

According to the report (quote) "It is not equality in power," "that reduces hostility & conflict. Rather it is power dominance or submission." — Peace is purchased by making yourself stronger than your adversary — or by dismantling power & submitting to ones enemies." (unquote).

Power is not only sufficient military strength but it's also a sound economy, a reliable energy supply and credibility — the belief by any potential enemy that you will not choose surrender as the way to maintain peace. Thomas Jefferson said "The American people won't make a mistake if they are given all the facts."

It's time we were given the facts about

Perhaps Cong. should be given some facts about us, namely that we'd rather prevent a war by being well armed than by surrendering.

This is Ronald Reagan. Thanks for listening.

Shaping the World for 100 Years to Come
September 1, 1976

In this election year many of us talk about the world of tomorrow but do we really think about it? I'll be right back.

Sometimes it's very easy to get very glib about how the decisions we are making will shape the world for a hundred years to come. Then A few weeks ago I found myself faced with having to really think about it. what we are doing today & what people (not history) PEOPLE LIKE OURSELVES will say about us.

I'd been asked to write a letter for a "time capsule" which would be opened in Los Angeles 100 yrs. from now. It will be The occasion will be the Los Angeles Bicentennial & of course our countrys tri-centennial. It was suggested that I mention some of the problems confronting us in this election year. Since I've been talking about those problems for about some 9 months that didn't look like too much of a chore.

So riding down the coast highway from Santa Barbara — a yellow tablet on my lap (someone else was driving) I started to write my letter to the future.

It was a beautiful summer afternoon. The Pacific stretched out to the horizon on one side of the highway and on the other the Santa Ynez mt's. were etched against a sky as blue as the Ocean.

I found myself wondering if it would look the same 100 yrs. from now. Will there still be a coast highway? Will people still be travelling in automobiles, or will they be looking down at the mountains from aircraft or moving so fast the beauty of all I saw this would be lost?

Suddenly the simple drafting of a letter became a rather complex chore. Think about it for a minute. What do you put in a letter that's going to be read 100 yrs. from now — in the year 2076? What do you say about our problems when those who read the letter will alr know what we dont know — namely how well we did with those problems? In short they will be living in the world we helped to shape.

Will they read the letter with gratitude in their hearts for what we did or will they be bitter because miserable the heritage we left them was one of human misery?

Oh 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. Will we choose fiscal responsibility, limited govt, and freedom of choice for all our people? Or will we let an irresponsible Congress take the final set us on the road our English cousins have already taken? The road to ec. ruin and state control of our very lives?

On the international scene two great superpowers face each other with nuclear missiles at the ready — poised to bring Armageddon to the world.

Those who read my letter will know whether those missiles were fired or not. They Either they will be surrounded by the same beauty I knew as I wrote the letter we know or they will wonder sadly what it was like when the world was still beautiful. before that awful day when civilization broke down.

If we here in this election year of our Lord 1976 today meet the challenge confronting us, — those who open that time capsule in 2076 100 yrs. from now will do so in a place of beauty knowing peace, prosperity and the ultimate in personal freedom. consistent with an orderly, civilized society.

If we dont meet keep our rendezvous with destiny, the letter probably will never be read — because talk of individual freedom will not be permitted in that world 100 yrs. from now which we are shaping and they will live in the world which we had a hand in shaping and we left them, a world in which no one is allowed to read or hear such terms as of individual liberty or freedom of choice. & individual liberty.

Communism, the Disease
May 1975

Mankind has survived all maner manner of evil diseases & plagues — let's hope he can [but, can it] survive Communism?

I'll be rite back.

When a disease like communism hangs on as it has for a half century or more it's good, now & then, to be reminded of just how vicious it really is. Of course those who have the disease use all kinds of misleading terms to describe it's symptoms and it's effects on the human system One We should remember one of the characteristics of the ailment is double talk beginning For example if you and I in America planted land mines on our borders, ringed the country with barb wire and machine gun toting guards to keep anyone from leaving the country we'd hardly describe that as "liberating" the people.

But we've grown so used to communist doubletalk I sometimes think we've lost some of our fear of the disease. We need a frequent vaccination to guard against being infected until one the day when this health threat will be eliminated as we eliminated the black plague.

How many of us are aware of some of the differences between those of us who have the sickness & we who are well [don't?] Right now there are a number of Russian women who fell in love & married Americans & other foreigners who happened to be stationed in the Soviet U. for a time.

Now falling in love isn't something you set out to do, and among well people it isn't considered a criminal act. But these Russian women are separated from their husbands, some of them for several years. When their Am. husbands for example finished whatever [their] assignments they were on in Russia and came home their wives had to get [Soviet government] permission to leave go with them. from the Soviet govt. And The Soviet govt. plays a heartless game of burocratic paper shuffling — never coming right out & saying "no," but just keeping them filling out papers, renewing applications etc. — sometimes for years.

There is the case of a young teacher who married an American. During the application process she was fired from her job. — Reason? — she fell in love with an American — that's reason enough where the Soviet is concerned. Her students all loved her. They presented her with a farewell gift of flowers. A Soviet official visited dropped in on the class to tell them that for doing so they giving the teacher [that for giving the] flowers none of them would be permitted to go on to college. They were all would all be assigned to the a labor force upon graduation!

Now the Associated Press brings another story from Berlin illustrating how the communist sickness looks upon human life — even the life of an innocent a child.

Berlin is divided, as we [you] know, between into the East or sick-with-communism Berlin side and the well or Free Berlin Western side. Between the two flows the Spree river. Around noon on the 11th of May 11, a 5-year-old boy fell into the river. at the point where the entire stream is in East Berlin. Firemen from W. Berlin started to go to his rescue. An East German patrol boat barred them from entering the water because at that point the stream flows wholly on East Berlin territory. The 5 yr. old boy drowned.

The Mayor of W. Berlin described the refusal of the E. German guards to either permit the Westerners to come to his rescue as "an incomprehensible and frightful act — placing pol. considerations before the saving of a human life." Which is exactly what they did. Remember they were in a patrol boat — they chose to prevent the W. Germans from setting foot [entering] in their Eastern water rather than go to the child's rescue themselves. But they did tidy things up — 3 hrs. later E. German frog men recovered the body.

Communism is neither an ec. or a pol. system — it is a form of insanity — a temporary aberration which will one day disappear from the earth because it is contrary to human nature. I wonder how much more misery it will cause before it disappears....

Meet the Author

Kiron K. Skinner (center) is an assistant professor of history and political science at Carnegie Mellon University, and a Hoover Institution research fellow. She is also a Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations. Her articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and National Interest. She earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University.

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Reagan, in His Own Hand: Ronald Reagan's Writings That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book for anybody who wants to know more how Reagan thinks.You get a better understanding of Reagan when you read what he wrote than if someone wrote about him.It gives the book a human element and to me, it clearly shows how great a writer Ronald Reagan was and how he expresses himself.You get to journey into the mind of the 'Great Comunicator'and to me it is worth it to buy the book.You get a wide range of writings having to do with the Soviet Union,Central America, domestic Policy,Nato,the human spirt and even the 'Duke' John Wayne.Reagan 'overs all the bases 'in this book.It will show Reagan to be the visionary, statesman and Great Comunicator before his presidency!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's about Reagan... enough said. Any book for or about the great Ronald Reagan is a great book! This is a very interesting book, in that it gives the text of all hand-written Reagan speeches (mostly in the seventies).