Dear American: Letters from the Desk of Ronald ReaganReview.
Editors Ralph E. Weber and Ralph A. Weber produced a volume of letter taken from the files at the Reagan Presidential Library, The book is published by Doubleday Press, New York, New York in 2003. The volume I read was a large-print edition published by Thorndike Press, 2004. Because it is large print, the book is 656 pages.
The letters were originally handwritten in response to letters written to President Reagan by private citizens and divided into the years of his presidency, 1981-1989. The last letter was written on January 17, 1989 just three days before the inauguration of incoming president, George H.W. Bush.
One of the most interesting narratives in the book is the accumulation of letters to a young boy in Washington D.C named Ruddy. Reagan wrote to Ruddy in a rather “Uncle” like fashion sometimes gently rebuking him for not studying or following his mother’s wishes, and other times giving Ruddy a pat on the back for achievements. It was refreshing to see the interaction between the two of them. Reagan refers to Ruddy as his pen pal. Ruddy is featured in a picture in the center of the book when President and Mrs. Reagan visited Ruddy at his home and brought him a jar of jelly beans.
Some letters are answers to letters regarding political choices the President had made. Ever so carefully Reagan responded with reasons and never degraded any of his questioners. He did from time to time rebuke the press for uncomely and sometimes vicious lies about him and let the writer’s know that they had been given a false narrative.
Included at random throughout the book are thank you letters to personal friends and family. One thank you goes out to some lady neighbors of his in California who sent him leather works and he talks about his ranch. Others are replies to children who ask him about his horse. Still others are to a whole class of third-grade students who sent him jelly beams. He expressed to a cousin, Bess, that he found it best to mention her birthday as the “47th anniversary of her 39th birthday.”
Several letters mention newspaper clippings that the sender mailed along with the letter. He expresses genuine gratitude. Most of the letters sign off with “Sincerely” but some end with a friendly, “Best Regards,” and most use the signature, Ronald Reagan, but to friends and family, Ron. To college friends, he signs off as “Dutch” or “Ronnie.”
I found this book in my public library on the 973 shelves. I predict this book will be on shelves for a good long time. The selection of letters by the editors show both a serious and a warm-hearted President whom I will always know in my mind as the Great Communicator.