I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan To Nancy Reagan
Random House, 2000, 189
As communication tools, email and the telephone cannot be equaled for speed and efficiency. But, as one reads former First Lady Nancy Reagan's I Love You, Ronnie, one gains an appreciation for the old fashioned handwritten letter. Unlike email, which is quickly deleted, or telephone calls which exist for the moment only, paper based letters can survive – especially when the recipient is a sentimentalist, like Nancy Reagan, who can't bear to discard these daily mementos from her loving husband whom she adores.
The public life of famous people is well documented and the public life of Ronald Reagan – actor, governor and President – is no exception. But in most cases one's public life is only part of the story. To truly know a person one has to see their private life and this is usually not as accessible or well documented. Even autobiographies tend to be sanitized and dwell mainly on public rather than private events. But personal letters, especially those written from the heart with no expectation of their being read by any but the recipient, can give a truer picture of the writer. Nancy Reagan has been Ronald Reagan's wife for over fifty years and only the most jaded cynic will question the depth and sincerity of their mutual love. Yet, unlike other Hollywood tell it all publications, these letters are not published for personal gain or vengeance but are the result of a conscious decision by Nancy Reagan to share Ronald Reagan the man with the world.
Ronald Reagan began writing a daily letter, card or telegram to Nancy Reagan shortly after their first meeting in 1949 and continued the practice until Alzheimer's disease took away his ability to write. The letters in this book are the simple communication from a loving husband to his adoring wife. They rarely contain references to the big issues of the world and, taken individually, are really rather insignificant. Their value lies in their intent and consistency. Here was a man who not only loved his wife deeply, but took time every day from his busy life to tell her, in writing, that he loved her.
Critics of Ronald Reagan have dismissed him as simplistic and uncomplicated. Nancy Reagan in this book acknowledges that he is an uncomplicated man. But this is his strength rather than a weakness. Unlike fashionable elite's who view the world with moral ambiguity, Ronald Reagan saw a clear distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. He had a deep religious faith as reflected in this letter to Nancy explaining his decision to resume traveling on airplanes during his campaign for governor. "I have to write this because of all our talks about flying and because you'd try to take the blame personally if ever something did happen. That would be wrong. God has a plan and it isn't for us to understand, only to know that He has his reasons and because He is all merciful and all loving we can depend on it that there is a purpose in whatever He does and it is for our own good. What you must understand without any question or doubt is that I believe this and trust him and you must, too. What you must also believe is that I love you more and more each day and it grows more bright and shining all the time." This is a man whose faith is both humbling and a source of strength. Humbling because he clearly recognizes that God, not himself, is in charge, but also a source of strength in that he knows that God is with him as he faces the challenge of life.
All in all this is an excellent book both to better understand Ronald Reagan the man and to realize that, by keeping keeping focused on what is really valuable in life, one can achieve that enviable balance of professional success and personal happiness. Ronald Reagan as President managed to both launch the longest peacetime economic boom in the U.S. and bring the Cold War to an end without firing a shot while simultaneously taking time each day to tell his wife he loved her.
The review of this Book prepared by Chuck Nugent