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Reagan: What Was He Really Like? Volume II

2013 nonfiction book by Curtis Patrick

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Warm and fuzzy memories from the people who knew him best.

  • Mar 23, 2013
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During the eight years of his Presidency Ronald Reagan was portrayed by the media in this country as a grandfatherly old codger who was lazy, disengaged and frankly not very bright. Reporters and commentators speculated aloud if Mr. Reagan had ever even read a book. Many dismissed him as an "amiable dunce". Because he espoused "conservative" principles some labeled him mean-spirited and completely out of touch. Curtis Patrick had been with Ronald Reagan since 1965 when the former actor made his initial foray into politics as a candidate for governor of the great state of California. Patrick served as an "advance" man during that initial campaign and came to know and greatly admire the man he was working for. Patrick knew first-hand that Reagan was nothing like the way he had been characterized in the media over the years. Because he had been so close to Mr. Reagan, Curtis Patrick felt he was in a unique position to finally set the record straight. And so for the past 13 years Patrick has been conducting extensive interviews with about four-dozen of the people that knew Ronald Reagan best back in those halcyon early days. He has organized his work into three volumes. The initial offering in the series "Reagan: What Was He Really Like? Volume I" was issued in 2011 and featured 20 of those compelling interviews. I thoroughly enjoyed that book. Now in 2013, Patrick offers up Volume II of the trilogy featuring the reminiscences of 18 more individuals who worked closely with Mr. Reagan during his years as Governor of California. A couple of the names might be familiar to you but the overwhelming majority of the people Patrick interviews for this book worked behind the scenes in various roles during both the campaign and while Reagan served as governor. Many of them worked closely with Mr. Reagan and were able to form close personal bonds. For others, the relationship was purely professional. "Reagan: What Was He Really Like? Volume II" offers an intimate close-up of the man and explains why just about everyone who worked for Ronald Reagan loved and respected him so much. He was at once the consummate gentlemen and a man of principle who was not afraid to stand up for the issues he believed in.

Nestled in the pages of "Reagan: What He Was Really Like Volume II" are the intimate recollections of trusted Reagan staff members like Wendy Borcherdt, who worked for Mr. Reagan in a number of capacities both in California and in Washington, D.C. When she was asked by the author what she had learned from her years with Ronald Reagan she responded in this way: "I found that the Ronald Reagan you loved and admired as a person knew in his gut what he believed. He could make a judgment about any situation because his values and beliefs were so centered in him. Beyond him were the other people that I had met--who became lifelong friends dedicated to RR, to what he believed--and beyond his beliefs and him personally--they cared about America, their country, and what it had been from it's beginnings." Thomas C. Reed was a friend of the Reagan's for some 45 years. According to Reed: "Reagan believed that honesty was not negotiable, that truth was absolute and that leaders were to lead--not to poll their constituents. Reagan was also a man of utmost integrity! He did not run for office for the perks and power". Then there was Robert G. Carlson, the man who designed the Reagan Welfare Reform Program that was implemented in California and later on at the federal level. Carlson simply presented Governor Reagan with the facts and he acted. Carlson recalls that Reagan went over the head of the legislature and went directly to the people to get welfare reform passed. The establishment in BOTH political parties fought tooth and nail against it. Reagan's strategy was successful and as a result they managed to clean up the welfare rolls and were even able to give the first increase in 13 years to those who really needed it.

You will also be treated a number of great stories in this book. One of my favorites is an incident that took place at the State House in Sacramento. There was a young woman who was very upset with some of Governor Reagan's policies. She had been fasting for several days on the Capitol steps. The Governor was very concerned for her and wanted to meet with her about her grievances. According to Karen Hansen Munro who was a secretary at the time: "The two of them went into the office--and they stayed there for a while--at least half an hour--and then they came out--and RR didn't say anything, and they were both smiling a bit and the governor said, `Well, we're going down to the cafeteria to get something to eat'. And he went down to the cafeteria with her! It just shows how human and compassionate he was." Indeed, by all accounts, this was vintage Ronald Reagan.

Now in addition to those 18 interviews "Reagan: What Was He Really Like? Volume II" offers up more than 100 pages of never before seen photographs that really do convey the essence of this man. Overall, I found the book to be exceptionally well written and Curtis Patrick managed to hold my interest from cover-to -cover. Clearly, this is a labor of love for the author. Whether you agree with his politics or not you will come to understand why Ronald Reagan became such a beloved figure in this nation and why he was able to lead his state and our nation into a bold new era of conservatism. As far as I am concerned "Reagan: What Was He Really Like? Volume II" would be a splendid choice for both history buffs and general readers alike. Very highly recommended!

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March 25, 2013
Sounds like good reading for American History buffs!
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Intimate stories by real hard-working, unpretentious, selfless people, all thrown into a milieu; a simmering stewpot of diverse young men & women, all working for a common goal---to help Ronald Reagan succeed, from the start!
People have asked “What was Reagan like privately?” “How did he treat his children?”
“How did he handle pressure?” “How did he handle danger?” “How did he treat his staff?” “How did he handle difficult, almost impossible to deal with, legislators?” Watch it unfold in intimate detail.
See how Reagan used humor to disarm his most ardent critics and tenacious opponents.
Rex Hime said, “He was the Sequoia, and we were the branches!”
Former SFO-KPIX-CBS-TV Anchor & Governor Reagan’s Assistant Press Director, Nancy Clark Reynolds reveals fascinating stories: “Reagan was absolutely Numero Uno in Nancy’s life. All the time. And she was with him! They were totally wound into each other, to the exclusion of everybody else!” “Reagan was gracious and funny! He had people in ‘stitches’ all the time---and he was a total gentleman. You always knew where Reagan stood. He never equated disagreement with disloyalty. Even after working fourteen and eighteen hour days, I could hardly wait to get to work the next morning!”
Edwin Meese III said with that understated smile, “Ronald Reagan thrived on being underestimated.”
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