Book Review: “The Notes” by Ronald Reagan, ed. Douglas Brinkley (2011)

“Ronald Reagan’s Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom”

Image resultWhen I first came across this volume, I had just finished reading Decision Points, the memoirs of George W. Bush, and was in the mood for more presidential writings memorializing their time in office. Despite the clear subtitle, I didn’t realize at first that this volume was merely a collection of quotes and anecdotes from elsewhere. Thus, rather than being Reagan‘s own, after-the-fact explanation for the events which occurred during his time in office, this bits-and-pieces collection is more of a preemptive explanation for why he responded the way he did to the events which occurred during his time in office. Reagan himself had written each little proverb and story on its own 3×5 card and eventually stashed them away in a box in a closet for many years.

In categorizing these bits of insight into their proper categories, Douglas Brinkley provides Reagan fans with an extensive and systematic look into the makings of a great, well-read man like Ronald Reagan, though the reader had better already know the President in order to truly appreciate his wisdom. For a reader like me who grew up during the Reagan years—and was therefore merely an uninterested child through every month of his administration—I have only known the man through the memories of my ultra-conservative parents and through the pro-Reagan books I’ve read as an adult. I would say, then, that a book like this does more to explain to a reader the President Reagan he already knows rather than introduce to that reader a Reagan he’s never studied. This book is for Reagan fans and students of history alike, though simple wisdom-seekers might also benefit from the collection.

This being a collection of the wisdom (or at least the quotations) of others, I wouldn’t feel right about recording too many snippets, as I’m normally wont to do. However, there were a few notes on such topics as Communism that will likely be lost to history (save for inside this very book), unless they get repeated by folks like me. So here are just a few:

Feb. 1961, Gus Hall, American Communist Party, Funeral E. Dennis – “I dream of the hour when the last Congressman is strangled to death on the guts of the last preacher—and since the Christians seem to love to sing about blood, why not give them a little of it? Slit the throats of their children & draw them over the mourners bench and the pulpit, & allow them to drown in their own blood, & then see whether they enjoy singing those hymns.” (42)

“You cannot pray the Lord’s prayer & even once say ‘I,’ You cannot pray the Lord’s prayer & even once say ‘my’ You cannot pray the Lord’s prayer & not include another; You cannot ask for daily bread & not include your brother. For others are included in each & every plea; From the very beginning it never once says me.” [Unknown, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, No. 3] (65)

J. Edgar Hoover – “The cure for crime is not the electric chair but the high chair.” (55)

As is often the case with books of quotations, The Notes is not a volume that one can consume and appreciate in just a few sittings. In fact, this book is more like a devotional for folks to nibble and savor over a long period of time, reading perhaps just a few pages per day over the course of a year. For this reason, I haven’t yet completed everything inside, but I still feel like I can and should recommend it to Conservatives everywhere. And if a Liberal even wants to dabble in the insights of such a great man as Ronald Reagan, well, he’s more than welcome to do so.

©2017 E.T.

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