Because I was born early into Ronald Reagan’s presidential career, I was far too young to care anything about the man. For all I knew, he was just a face on TV that was neither Mr. Rogers nor Captain Kangaroo, and therefore none of my concern. In fact, I never got interested in politics at all until President Clinton’s scandal with Monica Lewisnky fit into every news minute and Limbaugh monologue for months on end. Since those early years, major political events have since stamped themselves into my memory like major personal milestones.
The 2000 election was the first major event that grabbed my attention, and I was a proud high schooler staying awake all night in order to see my first voting process to the end. Of course I was as disappointed as anyone to discover that I’d have to wait nearly three more months to actually find out that “Bush 43” had pulled it off. The events of 9-11 found me while I was inexplicably skipping a university class in order to listen to AM radio. For all I knew, I was the only person in the dorm who knew what had happened, which is why I rushed down the hall to tell anyone I could see that America had been attacked.
The death of Ronald Reagan also hit me hard, not so much because I loved the man himself, but because my dad had. In fact, I was sitting in a hotel room with my dad while on a business trip in MN when we first heard the news, and I can clearly recall seeing my dad cry at the passing of this Conservative legend. Though everything pre-Clinton had been as fuzzy as a dust-bunny to me, Ronald Reagan’s death and its effect on my dad instilled in me a strong desire to research and understand history. Fifteen years later, the desire is still present and strong, which is why Ronald Reagan: A Life in Pictures drew me in as it did.
Being a product of LIFE magazine, this book is presented virtually like a single-topic magazine issue, an hour-long biography program in print. Introduced by Dan Rather, this book is absolutely filled with historical and candid photographs and traces the actor-President’s life from birth through the movies and politics to his debilitating battle with Alzheimer’s. It’s a complete tale of highlights, and it has left me with a strong desire to pick up Reagan’s Notes eventually, in order to understand all the underpinnings to those wonderful highlights.
When I read this book, I wasn’t sitting at home in an armchair with a cup of coffee, but was instead driving a semi-truck with a co-worker as we delivered bags of ice across the Midwest. My shotgun buddy read the book aloud as we cruised down I-94, and I glanced at the pics while spitting sunflower seeds into a dirty cup. In some ways, this book about Reagan has been more memorable to me than anything I can recall from his actual life, and I suppose that’s one of the wonders of history and of books. Though we might not have been present when certain events occurred, we can all take pleasure in reading about them decades later, of taking a formal part in the wonder of it all. My love for political history has never abated, and books like this, as simple as they are, only help to encourage that love to grow.