President Ronald Reagan was the first president I was old enough to vote for, so he’s always held a special place in my own personal history. After reading several books about President Reagan, I wanted to read something in his own words. I’m so glad I did! The Reagan Diaries is a forthright look at an amazing man.
If you have studied American history during the Reagan presidency—or maybe you lived through that era of our history—you will gain a greater appreciation for the tough decisions that were made during this time. Reagan came into office on a platform that brought a sense of encouragement to an American people who were feeling a bit beat up, and then he tirelessly worked to follow through on the promises he had made, despite a Congress that was initially very antagonistic toward his policies.
Several things really stood out in these diaries. First is Reagan’s reliance on God. Time and again he writes about the wisdom he found in the Scriptures, or the strength he received in prayer. His faith is inseparable from his success in the White House. His faith was one that came to the forefront especially in dark times. Laying in the emergency room after being shot by a would-be assassin, he wrote:
“I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayer. But I realized I couldn’t ask for God’s help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep? We are all God’s children & therefore equally beloved by Him. I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold. …Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve Him in every way I can.”
Another thing that appears in page after page is his love for Nancy. He writes frequently about how lonely the White House seemed when she was gone, he counted down the days until they would be reunited, and he looked forward to the all-too-short times when they could vacation together or take a break on the weekend just to be alone. On the first wedding anniversary they celebrated in the White House, he wrote, “more happiness than any man could rightly deserve.” And back at George Washington Hospital after the assassination attempt he said,
“I opened my eyes to find Nancy there. I pray I’ll never face a day when she isn’t there. Of all the ways God has blessed me giving her to me is the greatest and beyond anything I can ever hope to deserve.”
Finally, I love Reagan’s “realness.” He never took himself too seriously. He remained accessible to as many people in the White House as he could, and spent a lot of time calling and mailing United States’ citizens he read about in the newspapers or saw on the news reports. He was also brutally honest about his own shortcomings. After one press conference he wrote, “I wasn’t very scintillating.”
This is an excellent book to read for both a study in leadership, and as a companion to other U.S. history books of that period. At 700+ pages, it’s a hefty read, but well worth your time.