by H.W. Brands  

H.W. Brands is a master biographer and historian. This is his account of the life of Ronald Reagan.


The book seem fair – neither overly negative or overly positive. It recounts his life from his earliest years, the son of an alcoholic father and a saintly mother, to his final years in California, struggling with Alzheimer’s.


He was a man of ambition – he wanted to be in the movies, he wanted to be governor of California, he wanted to be President of the United States, he wanted to leave his mark on history. He succeeded in all of these dreams.


What was Reagan’s greatness? Why is he considered an iconic figure by so many Americans? This is my answer:


  1. His engaging, likable personality. People liked
  2. His communication ability. He was “The Great Communicator.”
  3. His deep convictions – especially on freedom, limited government, defeating communism.
  4. His love for America and unwavering confidence in America.
  5. His vision and focus. He focused on two things – smaller government, defeating communism – and left details to others.


Basically, he was a good man, a man of character. He had courage, convictions, compassion. He had a basic humility.


He was not an intellectual, but he was bright enough.


He certainly had his weaknesses. He was not a good manager of people. He was not especially loyal to his colleagues. He was not an attentive or warm father. He could not easily admit his wrongs.


Was he a man of faith? A godly man? God knows, but it seems that he had a sincere faith, but not a deep or passionate faith. It is certainly disappointing that he tolerated Nancy’s practice of astrology.


Was Reagan a great President? That’s not so clear. He reduced taxes but he did not reduce spending. He did help end Soviet Communism. His tenure as President did have major impact. Certainly, he restored America’s confidence and optimism.