The Two Sides of Ronald Reagan


Ronald Reagan was the inverse of an iceberg: most of him -- the public man -- was plainly visible above the surface. Public Reagan sought glory on his college football team and when he broadcast sports events over the radio, acted in films, and entered the political arena with great success. He wanted and needed acclaim and recognition. At the same time, he would disavow ambition: It was crucial to his sense of self that he be seen working on behalf of others, and not for personal gain. But all the while, another, quieter Reagan, just as vital, rested invisibly beneath the waves. This hermetic self, who found outward expression mostly in the solitary acts of writing, ranch work, and swimming, was, in effect, the producer and director for the man onstage. In this Private Reagan, the personal drive he publicly forswore burned with a cold but steady flame. This private self, glimpsed only in fleeting, unguarded moments, formed his core. Without public acclaim, he may have been unfulfilled. Deprived of the opportunity to take refuge in his castle of solitude, he would have withered altogether. The Ronald Reagan with whom everyone is familiar could not have existed without the Ronald Reagan he rarely let anyone see.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from My Father at 100: A Memoir by Ron Reagan. Copyright © 2011 by Ron Reagan.

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