Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio : a History Illustrated from the Collection of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum

By Lou Cannon; Michael Beschloss | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Michael Beschloss

One reason why the story you are about
to read is so captivating is that the cul-
mination is so unexpected. If a visitor to the
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and
Museum did not know how the story ends,
who would anticipate that exhibit after
exhibit, showing the son of a hard-drinking
itinerant salesman; the lifeguard on the Rock
River; the ostentatiously carefree sports
announcer and actor; the depressed man aban-
doned after World War II by his motion pic-
ture audience; the spokesman for General
Electric and "twenty-mule-team" Borax; even
the two-term California governor would cul-
minate in artifacts, images, and documents
that tell us about one of the most important
presidents in American history?

A decade after his presidency, we can
glimpse the qualities and accomplishments for
which future generations are likely to honor
Ronald Reagan. They will begin with Reagan's
life history, demonstrating the old American
ideal that the most seemingly ordinary people
among us possess inner strengths, not easily
visible, that will let them accomplish extraordi-
nary things if given the chance.

They will note the best aspects of Reagan's
personality and character—the modesty that
caused him through his successes to be appeal-
ingly startled at how far he had traveled in life;
the equanimity that allowed him to joke about
his near-fatal shooting and write that breath‐
taking farewell letter to Americans about his
Alzheimer's disease; the persistence that kept
him faithful to basic principles; the sunny
optimism that revived an America demoralized
by the Vietnam defeat, the Watergate scandal,
and frustration with the failures and the
excesses of big government.

Whatever their party or creed, future
Americans are likely to be impressed by the
political skills that made Ronald Reagan an
exceptional leader. He was often exalted as a
"great communicator" for his powerful
speeches like the one praising "the boys of
Pointe du Hoc" on the fortieth anniversary
of D-Day or his eulogy for the perished Chal-
lenger
astronauts. More telling were the spon-
taneous moments when Reagan summoned
just the right words to change the American
mind—at the 1976 Republican convention,
when the defeated candidate gave an
impromptu call to arms so stirring that some
delegates lamented that they had nominated
the wrong man, or in the 1980 debate with
Jimmy Carter, when he asked voters whether

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Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio : a History Illustrated from the Collection of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ronald Reagan - The Presidential Portfolio *
  • Contents *
  • Introduction *
  • Reagan's Journey *
  • Start the Music *
  • Governor Reagan *
  • A New Beginning *
  • Triumph and Tragedy *
  • Reagan Remembered *
  • The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum *
  • Sources and Acknowledgments *
  • Photo Credits *
  • Index *
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