LAST ACT: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan – Craig Shirley (2015)

 

a reagThe legacy of President Ronald Reagan is securely established in history. Liberals can scoff and moan but the fact remains; Ronald Wilson Reagan is one of the most influential Americans of all time. Indeed, Reagan is not only one of the loved and respected presidents in American history; he is also one of the most effective.

Most books focus on the life of President Reagan and work hard to establish his presidential accomplishments. Craig Shirley’s new masterpiece, Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan takes a different approach. Shirley sets out to help readers see Reagan in a different light and in a different context. This book serves as a lens for Americans to view President Reagan in his post-presidential days, including the days which followed his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Last Act begins with President Reagan on his death bed. The author highlights Reagan’s life and legacy from different perspectives – including friends, family, and foes. One of the constant themes that weaves through the book is the deep and abiding love that America has for the 40th president of the United States.

We would do well to listen to the words of Reagan’s old arch nemesis, Senator Ted Kennedy who offered these fitting words, upon hearing of Reagan’s death:

He brought a special grace to the White House and the country in everything he did. We often disagreed on specific issues, but he had an undeniably unique capacity to inspire and move the Nation. On foreign policy, he will be honored as the President who won the cold war. It was more than the fact that he was a superb communicator. Some attributed at least part of his success to the fact that he was a superb communicator. Some attributed at least part of his success to the fact that he had been an actor. But his deepest convictions were matters of heart and mind and spirit, and on them, he was no actor at all.

Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan bears the marks of a book which is informed by thorough research and careful study. Craig Shirley should be commended for his clear writing and respect for the 40th president of the United States. Last Act is not only a tribute to one of the most beloved leaders in American history; it is a gift to the American people.

The legacy of Ronald Wilson Reagan speaks for itself and will continue to reverberate throughout history. Antonin Scalia notes, “Ronald Reagan needs no one to sing his praises.” Justice Scalia may be on target. But the fact remains: History will not stand by in silence. The legacy of Ronald Reagan will endure for generations.

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review.

LIBERTY AND TYRANNY: A Conservative Manifesto – Mark Levin (2009)

1416562850_bMark Levin’s book, Liberty and Tyranny made quite a splash when it was originally published in 2009.  Even though the book is a bit dated now, I think it’s relevance is even greater now that President Obama’s failed policies have taken root.  The rotten fruit of liberalism litters the American landscape – conservatives are faced with the challenge of cleaning up the mess.

Levin lays his cards on the table at the beginning: “Conservatism is a way of understanding life, society, and governance.”  Indeed, conservatism is a worldview; a way of seeing the world and playing a part within it.

All of the arguments in Liberty and Tyranny find their genesis in the minds of the founding fathers: “The founders understood that the greatest threat to liberty is an all-powerful central government, where the few dictate to the many.”  Or as President Reagan once said, “The most frightening thing to hear when answering the door is, ‘Where from the government and we’re here to help.'”

Liberty and Tyranny is really an expose on the Statist ideology.  Of course, the Statist is consumed with power as we have seen displayed in the Obama administration.  Levin makes it clear that the “Conservative does not despise government.  He despises tyranny … The Conservative is alarmed by the ascent of a soft tyranny and its cheery acceptance by the neo-Statist.  He knows that liberty once lost is rarely recovered.  He knows of the decline and eventual failure of past republics.  And he knows that the best prescription for addressing society’s real and perceived ailments is not to further empower an already enormous federal government beyond its constitutional limits, but to return to the founding principles.”

So with the backing and historical muscle of the Founding Fathers, the author presents a cogent case for Conservatism  by confronting Statism with bold arguments and common sense American values.  He tackles matters of the free market, welfare state, environmentalism, and immigration among others.

I highly recommend Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin.  It will serve as an encouragement to most Americans but will be a source of irritation for social progressives.

4 stars

THE NEW THE NEW REAGAN REVOLUTION – Michael Reagan (2010)

Michael Reagan has captured the essence of President Reagan’s values, fiscal policy, 031264454X_band tough-minded leadership in his book, The New Reagan Revolution.  The sub-title should jolt any thinking American – “How Ronald Reagan’s Principles Can Restore America’s Greatness.”  Clearly, we have drifted far from President Reagan’s vision for America.  The city of the hill that he so loved has descended into the swamp of relativism and pragmatism that tolerates abortion on demand, celebrates homosexual marriage, and applauds big government and out-of-control spending.

The author walks readers on a path that traces Reagan from his days as a Democrat to his final days in the White House.  Readers learn that Reagan was a man of unwavering conviction.  He believed in a “banner of bold, unmistakable colors, with no pale pastel shades.”  The author adds, “Every leader who waves a banner of bold colors has plenty of critics.  If no one is criticizing you, you’re not being bold enough.  Ronald Reagan never worried about his critics.  He didn’t care what other people thought of him or said about him or wrote about him.”  Reagan’s son continues, “Pale pastel people try to straddle both sides of every issue in an attempt to get everyone to like them.  They try not to be too bold, because they fear offending others or drawing criticism … Ronald Reagan knew he would never please everybody, so he staked out bold positions on the issues – then he proved he was right.”  This is the kind of leadership that brought the former Soviet Union to its knees.  This is the kind of bold leadership America needs now – bold, decisive, and unwavering in the face of adversity!

The author rightly portrays his father as the great communicator.  “Every leader,” writes the younger Reagan, “must communicate his vision in a way that persuades and inspires.”  And while Reagan truly inspired America in his two terms as president, he did not compromise his cherished values.  Nor did he play both sides for the middle in order to gain the loyalty of special interest groups.  The great communicator spoke with clarity and conviction.  He knew how to capture the heart of America.  He knew the power of the spoken word.

Additionally, the author portrays President Reagan as the great unifier.  The president once said, “We’ve got to quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate to the world … We must go forth from here united, determined.”  Reagan worked to find common ground with his political opponents and even forged a friendship with his nemesis, Tip O’Neal.  America is in search of a leader who unifies like Ronald Reagan.

Finally, the author demonstrates the love that his father had for freedom.    Reagan was fond of saying, “Freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction.”  One wonders what he would say today.  One wonders what the former president would say about excessive regulation and a socialized health care system.  The author encourages readers to advance the New Reagan Revolution by “boldly standing up for the original Reagan Revolution.  Let everyone around you know the truth about Ronald Reagan, the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution.”

The New Reagan Revolution is a book that should be devoured by every American.  President Reagan is an inspiration for anyone who loves freedom, limited government, a strong military, and lower taxes.  The younger Ronald Reagan is on target when he says, “There will never be another Ronald Reagan.”  But we can certainly return to a day where the principles that President Reagan believed in are weaved into the fabric of American culture.

4.5 stars

WHEN CHARACTER WAS KING – Peggy Noonan (2001)

A number of years ago, I began devouring books about my favorite president.  When Character Was King by Peggy Noonan emerges as one of the most thoughtful and inspiring books about the former president.

Noonan paints a compelling portrait of President Reagan; a portrait that is an exceedingly human portrayal of a man who feared God, loved his country, and cherished freedom.  The author writes, “As president, Ronald Reagan believed without question that tyranny is temporary, and the hope of freedom is universal and permanent; that our nation has unique goodness, and must remain uniquely strong; that God takes the side of justice, because all our rights are His own gifts.”

Reagan opposed the godless ideology that held millions of Russians hostage from 1917 to 1991.  Lenin said in 1920, “We repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war. Everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.”  In contrast, Reagan knew that virtue and morality are directly related to one’s relationship with God.

A few quotes reveal the man we know as President Reagan:

“We had strayed a great distance from our Founding Fathers’ vision of America.  They regarded the central government’s responsibility as that of providing national security, protecting our democratic freedoms, and limiting the government’s intrusion in our lives – in sum, the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  They never envisioned vast agencies in Washington telling our farmers what to plant, our teachers what to teach, our industries what to build.”

“Don’t give up your ideals.  Don’t compromise.  Don’t turn to expediency.  And don’t for heaven’s sake, having seen the inner workings of the watch, don’t get cynical.”

“All of these things – learning to control the government, limiting the amount of money it can take from us, protecting our country through a strong defense – all of these things revolve around one word, and that word is ‘freedom.'”

President Reagan was and continues to be a breath of fresh air in an increasingly pessimistic political climate.  He was unafraid to stare evil in the face.  He courageously stood for the cause of freedom.  Indeed, he was jealous to see the flag of freedom fly in every land.  He opposed despotism, communism, and socialism.  He promoted free enterprise.  President Reagan refused to capitulate in the face of adversity.

 

THE REBELLION OF RONALD REAGAN – James Mann (2009)

1400140625_bThe day was June 12, 1987.  President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin and uttered these crucial and historic words: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate!  Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!  Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

James Mann’s, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan is a fascinating and readable account of the days leading up to the end of the Cold War.  Mann clearly describes the inner workings of the Reagan administration and the resistance from liberals and conservatives alike to the president’s approach and methodology.

The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan relentlessly presents the former president’s love for freedom and his passion to eliminate totalitarianism.   I was reminded of Reagan’s love for freedom  in 2005 as I stood on a bridge that spans the Moscow river.  As I gazed at the Kremlin and reflected on the new found and relative freedom the citizens of Russia enjoy, I glanced at the”goon-inspired” graffiti that was etched onto the bridge. The words, “Heil Hitler” were mindlessly inscribed on the edge of the bridge.  The graffiti reminded me that freedom will be short-lived if liberated people grow apathetic and fail to guard their freedom.  It reminded me that fascism is still visible in the rear view mirror, not to mention the horizon.   And it reminded me that Marxism still has momentum and must be stopped at every juncture.  Liberated people everywhere would do well to seriously consider the warning of Thomas Jefferson: “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

President Reagan was acutely aware of these concerns which helped fuel the fire of his policies and interactions with Gorbechev. The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan is a helpful reminder of events in the distant past.  While the Cold War is over, the ideology that inspired Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler is still very much alive. Ronald Reagan reminds us of the importance opposing the enemies of freedom; he reminds us to stand on the watchtower and jealously guard our freedom.  He reminds us that freedom is not free; it is a precious commodity worth dying for.  And he reminds us that freedom is never guaranteed in the future.

Reagan was aware of the protesters that gathered to voice their complaints over his appearance at the Brandenburg Gate.  His speech closes: “And I would like, before I close to say one word.  I have read, and I have been questioned since I’ve been here about certain demonstrations against my coming.  And I would like to say just one thing, and to those who demonstrate so.  I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they’re doing again.  Thank you and God bless you all.”

President Reagan is no longer with us but the Reagan revolution is still alive and well; much to the chagrin of the liberal elite and secular progressives.  Big government, nationalized health care, excessive taxation, a reduction in personal liberty, and a weakened national defense was never tolerated by Reagan.  And the current progressive agenda will not be tolerated by the American people.

3.5 stars

REAGAN ON LEADERSHIP – James M. Strock (1998)

098407743X_lHe is man who inspired the United States of America after four years of economic disaster in the Carter administration.  He is the man who called out a Communist leader as he stood before the  Brandenburg Gate in Germany.  He is the man who is largely responsible for the demise of the former Soviet Union.  He is the man who restored faith in the American ideal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  His name – President Ronald Wilson Reagan.

President Reagan was a first-rate leader.  His approach to leadership emerges clearly in James Strock’s excellent project entitled, Reagan on Leadership: Executive Lessons From the Great Communicator.

Part one discusses President Reagan’s approach to Leadership.  The author notes the importance of crafting a compelling vision.  Anyone who is familiar with Ronald Reagan will admit that he was the master of vision casting.  Reagan’s leadership was tough and decisive.  He proposed policies with boldness and humility that was laced with a depth of character the many Americans relegate to the good ol’ days.

Part two discusses the Management philosophy of President Reagan.  A plaque that set on his desk in the Oval Office communicates the heart and soul of his approach to management: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”  He repudiated a micro-management approach and was happy to delegate authority to his staff.    He said, “The way I work is to identify the problem, find the right individuals to do the job, and then let them go to it.”  So his management philosophy had an inherent trust in people.  His desire was to unleash the gifts and talents in others for a the benefit of the American people.

Part three overviews Communication.  Of course, Reagan is best known as the great communicator.  In a poignant moment, the former President admitted, “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things.”  And so the leader of the free world inspired Americans with lower taxes, a strong military, and a smaller government – three pillars that have all but crumbled under the current administration.

Part four focusses on Self-Management.  The author zero’s in on the character qualities of courage, authenticity, confidence, optimism, empathy, grace, charm, discipline, constancy, perseverance, and humility to name a few.  These are the marks that made the made.  The combined total of these characteristics shaped the man that we know as President Ronald Reagan.

Reagan on Leadership is a reminder that leadership matters.  It is a reminder that great men are great leaders.  It is a reminder that character matters; that leaders are made, not born.  This is a book that is greatly needed in our day and will help inspire the next generation of leaders committed to the rise of conservative values and policy.

THE FAITH OF RONALD REAGAN – Mary Beth Brown (2011)

February 6, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s birth.  Mary Beth Brown honors the life and legacy of the fortieth president in her book, The Faith of Ronald Reagan.

The Faith of Ronald Reagan uncovers what most books on the former President miss – a deep trust and reliance on the sovereign God of the universe.

The author explores the faith of Reagan’s mother and the spiritual influence she had on her son.  As such, she tracks the spiritual pilgrimage of former president and notes special moments that contributed to Reagan’s walk with God.

Mary Beth Brown does an excellent job highlighting President Reagan’s Christian faith and especially marks his deep trust in Christ and his reliance on the Providence of God.  She notes, “Reagan was the great communicator as we all know, but the key to his political success was his unparalleled ability to speak the language of faith and values.  This ability was a result of his strong faith and close relationship with God.”

Additionally, the author stresses Reagan’s love of personal dignity and  freedom – freedom that grows weaker as segments of America embrace liberalism.  Brown adds, “Reagan firmly believed that if we couldn’t convince the nation of the immortality of abortion, that we were in for a dire future.”

President Reagan modeled humble leadership.  The sign on his desk in the Oval Office read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

I will never forgot the day I heard of President Reagan’s death.  My wife asked, “Are you crying?”  I tried to hold it back, but the tears were welling up in my eyes.  America lost a great patriot on June 5, 2004.

Ronald Wilson Reagan will consistently be remembered by American’s as the greatest presidents of the twentieth century and one of the most influential presidents in American history.  Indeed, he stands alongside the likes of George Washington, John Adams, and Abraham Lincoln.  He taught us that freedom matters.  He taught us that freedom is not free.  He modeled good leadership.  And President Reagan demonstrated the importance of living out the Christian worldview.  We are the beneficiaries of his legacy.

4 stars

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program.