New Book Reveals Personal Reagan Letters

Nancy Reagan hopes a collection of more than 1,000 of her husband's personal letters will provide new insights into "the charm, the humor, the intelligence" her husband, former President Ronald Reagan, displayed to friends.

A new book, Reagan: A Life in Letters, includes letters to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, the former president's daughter Patti, and hundreds of ordinary citizens.

Read the following introduction and chapter two of the book below.


You specified that you wanted to hear from me personally, so here I am," Ronald Reagan wrote to a citizen in 1981. And here he is, in his own words, in over 1,000 letters — to family, friends, colleagues, and often to people he had never met.

This book presents letters by Ronald Reagan written during 72 years of his life, from 1922 to 1994. Reagan revealed himself -- his beliefs, his values, his character, and his policies -- through these private letters. He made candid, considerate, and tough statements that he rarely made in a public speech or an open forum. He enjoyed responding to citizens, and comforting or giving advice or encouragement to friends. Throughout some periods of his life, there are many thousands of surviving letters written in his own hand. We created a database of over 5,000 letters of interest for which we have a hand-written draft or which he dictated. We have found thousands of others of lesser interest, and we believe that there are still scores more in private collections. Over the course of his life, Reagan may have written upwards of 10,000 letters.

Reagan wrote to many people. He wrote to members of his family; to old friends from high school and college; to old friends from his years as a radio announcer, an actor, and a spokesman for General Electric. He wrote to Californians he came to know when he ran for and served as governor. He wrote to people who supported him financially, politically, and philosophically when he was running for president. He wrote to members of the media, some of whom were also friends; to movie fans who became friends and supporters; to heads of government; to civic and intellectual leaders; and to children and young people. Among Reagan's most unguarded correspondents were old friends such as Walter Annenberg, Laurence Beilenson, George Murphy, William F. Buckley Jr., Victor Krulak, and Barney Oldfield.

He also wrote to "uncommon" people, as he called them -- typical Americans who wrote to him about his policies or their problems. Nancy Clark Reynolds, one of Reagan's secretaries during his governorship, reports that "Reagan was willing to talk to anybody. He was willing to write to anybody."

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