Ronald Reagan, one of the most popular presidents of the 20th century, is remembered as the "Great Communicator." Most supporters and critics can agree—Reagan excelled in front of a crowd.
In early 2010, a set of 4-by-6-inch note cards, in Reagan's handwriting, was found in a box marked "RR's desk." The collection includes the president’s favorite quotations, proverbs, excerpts from speeches and literature, and his own writing. At the Reagan Presidential Library, the cards are known as the Rosetta Stone because they provide a window into Reagan's mind, vividly portraying his beliefs and ideology. Many of the quotes were used by Reagan in public, and by studying them, historians now have a clear picture of how he perfected his craft.
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In The Notes: Ronald Reagan's Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom, renowned historian and writer Douglas Brinkley, editor of the bestselling Reagan Diaries, shares the remarkable reflections of our 40th president. Brinkley categorizes Reagan's axioms and aphorisms in the same way Reagan stored them: On Nation, On Liberty, On War, On the People, On Religion, The World, On Character, and On Political Theater. An additional section includes Reagan's jokes, which he recorded on note cards and kept in a separate stack, secured by a rubber band. At the close of this brilliant compilation, Brinkley includes a useful glossary, sharing the biographical information of those quoted by Reagan.
The Notes is a fascinating read, a lesson in the art of elocution and a rare glimpse into the mind of a beloved American president. Here are just a few of his notecard quotes (abbreviations used by Reagan remain as is):
On the Nation: "The policy of the Am. govt. is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining them nor aiding them in their pursuits."—Thomas Jefferson
On Liberty: "Hold on my friends to the Constitution of the United States of America and to the Repub. for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster. What has happened once in 6000 yrs. may never happen again. Hold on to your const. for if the const. shall fall there will be anarchy through the world."—Daniel Webster
On War: "There can be only one possible defense policy for the U.S. It can be expressed in one word—the word is 1st. I do not mean 1st when—I don't mean 1st if—I mean 1st period."—J.F.K.
On the People: "History shows that men & nations behave reasonably only when they have exhausted all other alternatives."—Abby Eban
On Religion: "If men will not be governed by God (that is to be honest, truthful, diligent, fair & just to all) then they must be governed by tyrants."—William Penn
The World: "The Path of history is littered with the bones of dead empires. If we are to follow we will have no decades or centuries for leisurely decay & disintegration. The enemy at our gates is combat lean & hard. Hungry for all we've created."—Ronald Reagan
On Character: "The men who succeed best in pub. life are those who take the risk of standing by their own convictions."—James A. Garfield
On Political Theater: "Our Dem. friends are too Utopian, they promise too much to everyone to easily."—Norman Thomas
Humor: “Ignorance can't be bliss or a lot of people would be jumping up and down with joy.”
(Ed. Note: All quotes from an uncorrected proof. Finished copy may vary slightly.)