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by John Q McDonald --- 6 February 2010

I Love You, Ronnie

The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan

by Nancy Reagan

President Ronald Reagan has entered a kind of myth shared by just a few of our greater presidents. History is the judge of this kind of greatness, though, and we are yet too close to the man's life to fully judge. Certain people of a certain political point of view (which this reader does not share) already consider Reagan to be one of our greatest presidents, if not the greatest. Reagan's was, at the time, one of the most controversial of presidencies. Anyway, since his death in 2004 after a long decline from Alzheimer's Disease, he continues to be evoked as the one true conservative in modern American politics. In this view, President Bush, either one of them, failed to live up to the ideals of Reagan's America. But, Reagan's America, too, was a myth, cobbled together from movie plots and libertarian delusion. Not that this reader has much of an opinion on the matter. Reagan's widow, Nancy, has been the caretaker of his legacy, and has, often, been surprisingly independent in her approach to this task. To her credit, she doesn't let just anyone take her husband's name for their political projects. In the meantime, she has penned a couple books on the history of Reagan's life, and maintains a low-key and matronly presence on the political stage. This book was written as she assembled some of Reagan's personal letters for the Reagan Presidential Library. It is a small collection of his letters to her over the course of their fifty-year marriage. Along the way, Nancy fills in a sketchy story of their life together, placing the letters in context. The letters, despite the span of decades, display the unwavering love Reagan had for his wife. Their selection, if representative, shows Reagan in a state of adoration that is charming but almost adolescent in its tone. Still, such love is refreshing to see, especially from the pen of an American alpha-male like Reagan. There are only a coupls spots where Nancy's narration turns political. What she wanted to share was just how loving Ronnie was for so many years, in movies, and in politics. One can not tell if this is a moving model for a romantic marriage, or a rosy-tinted vision of a 1950s middle-class relationship. Consider the source, though; Mrs. Reagan seems sincere and devoted to her husband, who died four years after this book was assembled. The devotion displayed in his letters is enviable. The book contributes to the ongoing construction of his legend.

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