Ronald Reagan at home in Santa Barbara, California, 1976 (National Archives)
Who can forget President Reagan in Berlin, daring Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Or his quip to Nancy, “Honey, I forgot to duck,” after taking an assassin’s bullet.
Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004) lived a life filled with many extraordinary moments. Born poor in small-town Illinois, he kept his eye on the prize as he progressed from radio sportscaster to Hollywood actor to California governor, and finally to the White House as our 40th President.
Forty years after he left the White House, Reagan has assumed a near-mythical place in American history, even as the public forgets the details of his life. He served two terms that had their share of success and stress. His “Reagonmics,” meant to spur economic growth, was widely criticized. The Iran-Contra affair dogged him. But his nuclear arms reduction agreement with the Soviet Union remains his greatest legacy. He was criticized for lacking intellectual heft, but admired as the Great Communicator. He was accused of leaving the hard-nosed political scheming to others. But his good nature and willingness to see the good in people was unimpeachable.
This evening, best-selling author Bob Spitz sits down with journalist Steven Roberts to talk about his new biography, Reagan: An American Journey, which portrays a man who—by dint of luck, charm, or something else—landed the role of his life.
Reagan: An American Journey (Penguin Press) is available for signing after the program.