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One week after Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for governor of California, the San Francisco Chronicle gibed: “It was simply a flagrant example of miscasting.” Reagan was tanking, and his businessmen backers panicked. Their bold experiment was about to fail. Then a think-tank friend suggested the expertise of two UCLA social pyschologists. Kenneth Holden and Stanley Plog agreed to take the job only if they could have three full days alone with Reagan. The candidate and his backers agreed, and the three men...
One week after Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for governor of California, the San Francisco Chronicle gibed: “It was simply a flagrant example of miscasting.” Reagan was tanking, and his businessmen backers panicked. Their bold experiment was about to fail. Then a think-tank friend suggested the expertise of two UCLA social pyschologists. Kenneth Holden and Stanley Plog agreed to take the job only if they could have three full days alone with Reagan. The candidate and his backers agreed, and the three men disappeared into a Malibu beach house. Those three days remade the bumbling neophyte into an articulate, confident politician whose devastating sound bites shredded the opposition. Holden or Plog remained by Reagan’s side for the rest of the campaign, feeding him information about California’s problems, teaching him to handle the press, writing his position papers, and helping develop the programs he offered, all while battling factions of the campaign team who seemed determine to sabotage their own man. Not everyone who voted for Reagan supported his positions, but voters preferred his honesty and forthrightness to the waffling of other politicians. Reagan won by a landslide. Holden and Plog had shaped an actor into a governor, but they were also turning a governor into a president. Here is the untold story of how they did it.
"A delightful read ... keen observations of California politics ... The story of Reagan's ascension is simply fascinating."
"A fascinating account."
"Compelling ... behind-the-scenes insights into the life of one of the world’s most powerful men. ... Holden provides rare insights into a moment that transformed Reagan’s political life, a moment no one else living can share. ... His writing is vibrant, his pacing strong. He artfully balances tiny details of conversations and decision-making with big-picture political issues. Political analysis blends masterfully with captivating personal narrative. ... For anyone interested in how an actor became so much more to the world, Holden shares a story not to be missed."
"The enmity between Reagan and the universities is revealed in breathtaking detail as he fought against what he considered incompetent management in higher education. ... The narrative is intriguing and rife with anecdotes about campaign management and additional famous politicos of the era."
"A little known story with historical importance about the early days of the Reagan legacy and a great story about two young men's influence on the early political life of the 'Great Communicator.' A fun and interesting read!"
—John Miller, former national finance co-chair, Mitt Romney for President, 2008 and 2012
"In 1984, George Orwell warned that it doesn’t take a military boot against your neck to oppress you. The government can do it by using what Orwell called 'newspeak' to hide truth, distort language, and keep the public in the dark. That may be the biggest threat to freedom. Refreshingly, The Making of the Great Communicator tells a different story—how two quick-witted communication coaches liberated Ronald Reagan to convey his love of freedom, his vision for America, and his common-sense wisdom. This is a fast read, a gripping story, and an inspirational slice of history."
—Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York State
“Ronald Reagan’s story is so quintessentially all-American it could have been created by a skillful novelist or playwright. Clearly his success had everything to do with his impressive communication skills. Yet as Ken Holden’s very personal memoir of the shaping of the future president makes clear, Reagan’s real genius was his willingness to listen and take counsel from savvy coaches like Holden who sensed early on that, while Reagan was a middling movie star, he had the humility, kindness, and empathy to inspire and lift the common man, to reenergize a discouraged nation, and change the course of the world.”
—R. B. Scott, author of Mitt Romney
"Before there was President Reagan, there was Governor Reagan, and before Governor Reagan there was Kenneth Holden helping to transform an already exceptional communicator into a great one. This is the story of how that came to pass. It's great history and a great read."
—David Pietrusza, author of 1960—LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies
“Kenneth Holden’s account of Ronald Reagan’s transformation from fumbling novice politician into the Great Communicator is a fascinating Pygmalion-esque yarn, rich in anecdotes and insights.”
—Joseph Wheelan, author of Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams’s Extraordinary Post-Presidential Life in Congress
"An engaging but little-known tale of risk, reward, and transformation. Who knew? It’s a win by a landslide."
—Chip Bishop, author of The Lion and the Journalist: The Unlikely Friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and Joseph Bucklin Bishop
Spanned the walls big bookcases held up serious tomes about Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Paine; volumes about Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt; whole stretches of philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, Locke. It was a thinking man’s library.
“Does he read all these books?”
“Oh, yes, he’s up late at night, reading, reading, reading.”
Nancy stepped out of the room for a second. Roberts was muttering something that sounded like a complaint; Nofziger was chuckling to himself, probably enjoying one of his bad puns or even worse jokes; and we were sitting there like West Point cadets: backs straight, stiff smiles, hands folded correctly in our laps, wondering why we put ourselves through such hoops.
Then everything stopped. We turned, and there he was, standing in the doorway in a casual sports jacket, perfectly pressed slacks, and that dazzlingly shy smile: Ronald Reagan. He lit up the room, and we knew exactly why we were there.