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on June 6, 2004
Why do I think Ronald Reagan was the greatest President of the 20th Century, on par with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt? Aside from his good character, his economic triumphs and patriotism, it comes down to a theory that I came up with after hearing Margaret Thatcher say he won the Cold War "without firing a shot." First, it entails an analysis of World War II, in which some 50 to 60 million people died, yet the world says it was worth it to defeat Hitler and Japan. This leads to my theory, which is based on the unfought World War III. Say this struggle was fought between freedom, led by the U.S., and Communism, led by the U.S.S.R., between 1983 and 1989. Say that during this period, 50 to 60 million people died, and the world was caught up in an Apocalypse just as terrible as the one fought in the 1940s. Say that, through better technology, leadership, military doctrine, and with the help of God, the U.S. wins World War III. Say further that the political fallout of the war is exactly and precisecly that with which actually happened in 1989-91. I say that had it happened this way, the world would again say it was worth it, to defeat Communism. Reagan did it without firing a shot, and this is why I love him so much. Furthermore, in an ironic twist, Bill Clinton owes much of his success to Reagan. The Republicans were victims of their own success in 1992. Having defeated Communism, the Military Industrial Complex came to a standstill, causing the brief economic downturn that cost George Bush his re-election. This in turn led to the Cold War dividend in which all those smart defense techies fueled the Internet revolution. Clinton, presiding over a world made peaceful by Reagan-Bush policies, his feet held to the fire by a Republican Congress bent on maintaining Reagan's economic principles, takes credit (and some of it rightly so) for a period of huge expansion of the economy.
Author of "Barry Bonds: Baseball's Superman"
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on April 15, 2004
Robinson's book is equal parts a memoir from his time in the White House as a young speechwriter for the Reagan administration, a core-sample biography of the 40th president, and Chicken Soup-like advice for the young professional. By juxtaposing Reagan's work habits in the White House (he was an avid reader and writer, and was very hands-on when it came to his speeches) and bringing up the formative experiences of Reagan's life, you get a portrait - not a comprehensive one, but an indicative one - of a president who was working very hard to make it look very easy. Drawing a contrast to Martin Sheen's portrayal of a fictional president on television, Robinson highlights the contrast between image and reality:
"My mistake lay in assuming that the intensity must reach a peak or climax in the person of the President. If the people who worked for him were driven and harried, it stood to reason that the President himself must be the most driven and harried of all. "The West Wing" makes the same assumption. Just look at the way Martin Sheen plays the role of chief executive. The man's anguished soul searching never lets up.
"Yet in the Reagan White House, the intensity didn't peak in the person of the President. It evaporated..."
With the enigma that still seems to surround those who search for the "real Reagan", a portrait of his life and work put in contrast to the author, an underling in the White House who was at the beginning stages of his professional career, provides a fresh comparison that helps the reader learn about Reagan's better qualities and why they should be emulated.
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on December 31, 2003
The pony story, one that Reagan told often, epitomizes his unbridled optimism, even in the face of sheer adversity. Peter Robinson, speechwriter for VP Bush and later for President Reagan, recounts this story along with many other amusing and inspiring anecdotes of his Reagan years. Robinson, a lifelong Republican and the speechwriter behind the "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall" speech, delineates 10 sagacious lessons learned from his commander in chief, all of which I found applicable to my own life, in an entertaining and informative read that any conservative is sure to enjoy.
Robinson, just 25 years old when he became the VP's speechwriter, speaks candidly of the ongoing battle of the speechwriters, the unwavering true believers, versus the malleable, if not subversive, pragmatists in the administration. Of Baker, Robinson recorded in his journal in 1983, "As far as I'm concerned, the list of adjectives that applies to the pragmatist reads like the entry in Roget's Thesaurus under the heading for 'jerk.'"
Robinson tells of the amusingly pointed speech written by his buddy Josh Gilder that, for all intents and purposes, quashed the Democrats' bid for raising taxes: "'My veto pen is drawn and ready, and I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers.' Reagan paused for a full, rounded beat, his eyes alight with pleasure. 'Go ahead. Make my day.' A couple of hours later, the effort to raise taxes collapsed. Josh and I exchanged high fives." Classic Reagan. Firm, resolute, doing what's in the best interest of Americans, and, as always, sticking to his guns.
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on December 27, 2003
I was sitting in a classified military briefing in Berlin in the early summer of 1987. It was announced to us, "It is expected that when President Reagan visits next month, he will make a statement asking Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall."
To our utter discredit, we only considered this a political statement, with the only real consequences perhaps reactions from some looney left-wing West Germans.
Two year later Gorbachev, his Evil Empire, the very concept of "East" and "West" Germans, and the Berlin Wall itself were on the ash-heap of history.
Pete Robinson is the man who wrote Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" speech in 1987, showing the extent that words do have real consequences. He combines a great number of fascinating anecdotes on Reagan's style and substance, along with "Ten Lessons Ronald Reagan Taught Me", showing his transition from callow youth to mature adult.
This is a fine work of history, biography, and autobriography combined, written in highly readable prose.
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on January 13, 2004
I thought Peggy Noonan's book about Reagan, "When Character Was King" was the definitive book on the subject until I read this one. Peter Robinson explains why this deceptively simple man is one of our greatest presidents.
Reagan's ability to communicate with the public, hold to his conservative ideals, deal with subordinates, delegate authority and change history are explained clearly.
Most famous and powerful men do not make good family men. Reagan was no exception. Robinson allows how Reagan could have been a better father. But Reagan also had the qualities that make for greatness. He never lost sight of his ideals. He dealt with people in every station of life fairly and equally. Reagan's optimism comes through here and his dedication to hard work.
Ronald Reagan truly believed in the power of the individual. He rejuvenated conservativism when it was at its low point.
Above all President Reagan believed in America--her goodness and essential decency--two qualities that this man possessed in abundance.
Peter Robinson explains why Reagan changed his life. We can all use the same knowledge to change ours.
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on September 14, 2003
This is a good story about how Ronald Reagan "the man" behaved as Ronald Reagan "the President." There are some interesting stories, amusing anecdotes and plenty of moral lessons. I enjoyed the first half of this book, but felt it really fizzled out in the middle and dragged on at the end. It was almost as if the author lost interest and had to fill some extra pages.
I bought it after hearing Peter Robinson doing a radio interview and was really looking forward to a great read. Unfortunately, the anecdotes I enjoyed most I had already heard in his radio interview.
The title is the true story - How Ronald Reagan changed Peter Robinson's life. While interesting, not worth the money for hardcover. I wish I waited for it to come out in paperback or show up at the library.
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on June 7, 2004
Peter Robinson takes a close look, a very intimate look at the things Ronald Reagan stood for and 10 of his maxims that effected a life change in Robinson and in Robinson's view, a whole nation.
His premise was that he wanted to tell his daughter about his former boss. She was nine years old when Mr. Reagan's 90th birthday rolled around and did not understand his importance to her nation and to her dad.
Robinson's book although a little unsung in the world of great books, is a tribute to a great man yet, it will also influence any who read it apply the Ten Maxims that are the subjects for each chapter.
The Ten Maxims Are in My Words:
When life gets difficult, dig in.
Do the work you are intended to do.
Life is a stage, act now.
What you say matters.
Use the brain you have been given.
Take things in stride.
Marry the right person and it will help your life.
Remember to pray daily.
Use your God given talents to influence the world around you.
You are important and can make a difference.
These maxims of life, seen through the life and actions of one of Americas greatest presidents are ours to learn, to understand and even to use.
This is a great book. I will give this as a gift to my friends.
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on June 24, 2004
No matter your politics HOW RONALD REAGAN CHANGED MY LIFE is worth reading, worth learning from. Peter Robinson has a fluency & articulateness that is both charming & informative. What he has to tell, to teach, is eminently useful as we go about our lives earning our quota of daily bread, & perhaps most importantly, how to live a fully savored & flavored life.
Rebeccasreads highly recommends HOW RONALD REAGAN CHANGED MY LIFE as a keeper. A book every young professional could do with reading. It is profound & humorous, interesting & whimsical, filled with vignettes & cameo appearances, history & philosophy...all written with a light touch.
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on August 18, 2003
I often wondered what it would have been like to work for President Reagan. I always hear interesting stories from the people who worked with him. This book is no exception.
Make no mistake, this book is not meant to be a critical look at either President Reagan or his policies, nor should it be. Like other lessons learned/motivational books it is a summation of what is good and what the author learned from it.
In some areas the text has the "template" feel to it, but overall it is a nice read. The author voices some of the same impressions I have about President Reagan, including his demeanor. You can't help liking him once you've spent any time with him.
My favorite part of the book is seeing how a speech developed, and in particular the "Tear Down This Wall" speech. I think every President would be well advised to ignore the State Department concerns about "offending someone" when a point has to be made forcefully.
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on September 25, 2003
I just finished reading this book. There are some good stories in it. For example, the story about the joke Reagan liked to tell--about the extremely optimistic kid trying to find a pony in a pile of manure--"There must be a pony in here somewhere." The story conveys the optimism demonstrated by Reagan throughout his presidency. The other great story was about how "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" worked its way into the Reagan speech at Berlin Wall couple years before it really collapsed. The author himself was the speech writer, and he gave detailed account of how it was drafted, shaped, and finally delivered in its now well-known form. The better stories like the above appear in the first half of the book however. Overall I enjoyed reading it.
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