I just finished reading Craig Shirley’s book, Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan, and it is amazing! I am a huge fan of Ronald Reagan, and a huge fan of Craig Shirley’s writing, so it was a win/win for me.
This book does a wonderful job of filling in for the reader those 10 years between President Reagan’s announcement of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1994, and his death in 2004. The book provides a lot of interesting background information on the planning and implementation of President Reagan’s state funeral, and his burial at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.
Shirley reports directly from Reagan’s closest friends, and the aides who knew him better than anyone else, save Nancy. To read the description of the hundreds of thousands of everyday Americans who lined the streets to watch the motorcade bearing the body of the late President make its way through the streets of Washington, D. C., and California, is to remember what it was like to have a true statesman as our President. To hear of the thousands of people who waited long hours in the hot June sun just to walk past the casket of President Reagan, is to realize the love and respect that Americans had for this extraordinary man.
Craig Shirley also authored, Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America, again a fabulous book that gives an in-depth look at the effect that the “citizen President” had on a nation experiencing the malaise of the Carter Years. In order to really appreciate the character of Ronald Reagan, it is well worth the time to read about his life as told by those who had an up close and personal view.
Ronald Reagan penned his autobiography, An American Life, after he left the White House, and in it he gives a fascinating account of his journey from a child in Dixon, Illinois, through his college years at Eureka College and ultimately Hollywood and the White House. In reading the book, and hearing him tell the story of the events and changes of fortune that ultimately led him to politics, I believe I was most overcome by his humility.
One of my favorite anecdotes about President Reagan took place when he was in the hospital recuperating from the assassination attempt in 1981. He had spilled some water on the floor in the bathroom of his hospital room, and he got down on his hands and knees with paper towels to clean it up. About that time an aide came in and said, “Mr. President, what are you doing? We have people for that.” President Reagan said, “No, it’s my mess, I don’t want a nurse to have clean it up.”
Bill O’Reilly’s, Killing Reagan, has been in the news and at the top of the bestseller’s list since its publication a few months ago, but after reading it, I can honestly say that it pales in comparison with these other books. Do yourself a favor, and take the time to read about one of our greatest presidents, and what he accomplished out of a sincere love of country, and belief in American exceptionalism.
Warning: After reading about Ronald Reagan, and remembering the pride and prestige that he brought to the office of the presidency, Barack Obama will seem even more ignominious.