25 July, 2011
Review: My Father At 100 by Ron Reagan
I love this book. Flat out love it.
Let's get the politics out of the way first. I was not a fan of Reagan as a President. I think a large part of our failing economic situation today is a direct result of his True Believers perpetuation of ill conceived faith based economic policies. When he talked about his America I wanted to drag him to my America for a session of Compare And Contrast. This made my interest in reading My Father At 100 pretty darn low. (On the other hand, I respect the hell out of Ron Reagan. Your father is the most revered conservative icon since ever and you've consistently got the fortitude to calmly say "Well, I don't agree.") Back to my point - the cover of this book does not say Portrait Of An Icon it says My Father At 100. I've never respected the former president more than I did at the close of Ron's ruminations on his father's life.
Partly a biographical sketch, partly an examination of the father and son dynamic, partly a love letter, My Father At 100 isn't shy about saying "Well, I don't agree." Ron leaves the myth making behind yet - through his detailed examinations of his father's flaws - the strengths are exposed. Reagan was a diplomatic man. He did not encourage the level of hostility his worshippers have embraced. He was a man with a vision and the determination to see it through, even if that vision was hopelessly rose colored. Reagan was a man who strove to overcome his own limitations through hard work. If 99% of success is just showing up prepared, his move into politics becomes less surprising.
Ron explores his father's childhood, Ron Sr's troubled relationship with his own father and their strong family values. The picture that emerges is of an imperfect man that I simply didn't agree with. Ron's father being an iconic American is secondary to the man that Ron reveals, a man I might have liked to sit and talk with about things not related to Communism or Economic Policy. Ron Jr and Sr could not have been farther apart. Born of different generations, inclined toward different politics, one a cynic and the other a pie in the sky idealist, the two men are held together by a core honesty, a willingness to speak their minds. My Father At 100 was truly a rewarding read.