President Ronald Reagan was born 103 years ago today.
As we remember his legacy, it is important to note Reagan’s greatest intellectual influences.
Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College, author of 2012 title ”The Communist” (published under our Mercury Ink imprint), and a Reagan historian who penned “God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life,” along with the upcoming title “11 Principles of Reagan Conservative,” wrote an article back in 2004 on books that influenced Reagan.
In the article, Kengor reveals Reagan’s two favorite titles.
What were they?
1. That Printer of Udell’s by Harold Bell Wright
As Kengor notes, “That Printer of Udell’s” had an indelible impact on Reagan during his formative years as its main character proved to be a role model for the future president and upon closing the book led Reagan to say “I want to be baptized.”
Here’s Reagan in his own words writing to author Harold Bell Wright’s daughter-in-law on the book:
It is true that your father-in-law’s book, indeed books, played a definite part in my growing-up years. When I was only ten or eleven years old, I picked up Harold Bell Wright’s book, That Printer of Udell’s … and read it from cover to cover….
That book … had an impact I shall always remember. After reading it and thinking about it for a few days, I went to my mother and told her I wanted to declare my faith and be baptized. We attended the Christian Church in Dixon, and I was baptized several days after finishing the book.
The term, “role model,” was not a familiar term in that time and place. But I realize I found a role model in that traveling printer whom Harold Bell Wright had brought to life. He set me on a course I’ve tried to follow even unto this day. I shall always be grateful.
2. “Witness” by Whitaker Chambers
Kengor says the following of Witness’ effect on Reagan:
“Whittaker Chambers’s Witness was, to Reagan, a mesmerizing source of information and affirmation. All of those interviewed for my book talk of how Reagan could recite passages from Witness verbatim. This is evident in speeches throughout his public life. There are copies of Reagan speeches in which he crossed out lines and inserted whole sections from Witness. These verbatim insertions were made from his outstanding memory.”
The title of course shaped and confirmed Reagan’s views of the evils of G-dless Communism and why it needed to be defeated.
“Witness,” is also a favorite of folks ranging from TheBlaze’s Buck Sexton, who said “You must read this book” to frequent Glenn Beck guest Rabbi Daniel Lapin who said “Given the sacrifices made by its author and the ostracization he endured from America’s left, the book is haunting and unforgettable.”
Kengor also notes a handful of other worthy intellectual influences [hyperlinks ours]:
“C.S. Lewis, from whom he even borrowed apologetics. He was especially drawn to conservative intellectuals who converted from atheism/agnosticism to an anti-communist Christianity–figures that remarked upon the relationship (or lack thereof) between God, freedom, and communism. These were thinkers like Malcolm Muggeridge, Wilhelm Roepke, and Frank Meyer. Reagan also devoured the work of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and he greatly respected the lesser known writings of an attorney named Laurence W. Beilenson. (Beilenson and Reagan carried on a longtime relationship, exchanging ideas in numerous letters.)”
Also worth noting are some of Reagan’s libertarian influences, as reflected in a 1975 interview with Reason [again links ours]:
REASON: Are there any particular books or authors or economists that have been influential in terms of your intellectual development?