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  Reagan, What Was He Really Like?


Personal recollections of one of the true giants of the 20th century.
By Paul Tognetti

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 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 11 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 1" features 20 of these compelling interviews. A few of the names will be familiar to you but most of the people Patrick interviews 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?" 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" are the recollections of trusted Reagan staff members like Jackie Habecker who served as Governor Reagan's receptionist during his years in Sacramento. She recalls that Mr. Reagan "respected the office of the governor. He never went to work without wearing a suit." Jackie goes on to say that "I never saw Ronald Reagan treat people who worked for him as employees." Rather, Jackie Habecker felt her boss treated her as if she were a member of his extended family. Stu Spencer was the Campaign Director for Mr. Reagan's 1966 run for Governor. As far as Stu is concerned "He was probably the best candidate I ever dealt with. I've dealt with a lot of good candidates but he was exceptional! Why? Number one, he had a core, he had a sense, he had a belief system. His ego never got in the way!" Then there was Buck Ware who along with the author Curtis Patrick served as an advance man for the candidate in 1966. According to Ware "The essence of Ronald Reagan--Courtesy, Integrity, Congruency and Practical Intelligence. In private, even after long days on the campaign trail, he was always the same person everyone saw on TV. Profound decency." All these years later in nearly all of the interviews that appear in this book these are the themes that recur over and over again. You will also be treated to lots of great stories in the book. Perhaps the one I enjoyed the most was an incident that occurred on an unnamed college campus back in 1967 while Mr. Reagan was Governor. The Governor and his entourage were making their way onto the campus when suddenly the vehicle they were riding in was surrounded by an angry mob of student protesters shouting all kinds of nasty epithets. Rather than fleeing from the scene Mr. Reagan insisted on confronting one of the young women who had been swearing at him vociferously. Mr. Reagan stepped out of the vehicle, looked the young lady right in the eye and simply said "Does your mother know you use that kind of language?" This was vintage Reagan. As the story goes the young lady was totally dumbfounded and simply had no idea how to respond!


Now in addition to those 20 interviews "Reagan: What Was He Really Like? Volume 1" offers up some 40 pages of really terrific photographs many of which have not been seen in decades. The book also spends considerable time discussing the love of Ron's life Nancy Reagan. Most of those interviewed had nothing but good things to say about Mrs. Reagan. It turns out she possessed many admirable qualities and was hardly the monster she was made out to be in the media. Overall, I found the book to be exceptionally well-written and Curtis Patrick managed to hold my interest from cover-to -cover. 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 1" would be a splendid choice for both history buffs and general readers alike. Very highly recommended!




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