Reagan's diaries reveal White House years

The diaries of former US president Ronald Reagan – described as the most detailed presidential record in American history – have been unveiled.

The diaries of former US president Ronald Reagan – described as the most detailed presidential record in American history – have been unveiled.

They made their debut at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, before the book’s national release today.

Few presidents since John Adams kept personal diaries, and the Reagan diaries certify him as one of the most prolific writers ever in the Oval Office.

The 784-page The Reagan Diaries, edited by Douglas Brinkley and published by The Reagan Library Foundation and HarperCollins Publishers, focus on the themes of God and country and most of all Reagan’s wife, Nancy.

Reagan wrote in his diary each night of his eight years as one of the 20th century’s most popular presidents, with the exception of a few days after he was shot by John Hinckley Jr.

And on January 19, 1989, Reagan wrote simply: “Tomorrow I stop being President.”

The turbulent sweep of the White House years provides details of optimism after meeting Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (Reagan refers to him as Gorby) and fears of war in the Middle East. “Sometimes I wonder if we are destined to witness Armageddon,” he wrote.

Reagan wrote of the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger (“A day we’ll remember for the rest of our lives”) and the 1981 assassination of Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat (“He was truly a great man, a kind man with warmth and humour”).

“Many times when books by historians or authors or journalists are out, it’s their take. This is the president writing. No spin. No agenda,” library executive director Duke Blackwood said.

The diaries also detail what Blackwood calls “the strongest love affair ever written from the White House”.

An entry noting Reagan’s wedding anniversary described his marriage to Nancy as “29 years of more happiness than any man could rightly deserve”.

“We didn’t like being apart. In the White House, it is a lonely place,” Mrs. Reagan said in an interview videotaped last week for yesterday’s Good Morning America. As for the diaries, “I can hear him, see him, it’s just Ronnie”.

Reagan’s innermost thoughts range from the mundane – “Changed our clocks back to standard time” – to the pain of telling Mrs Reagan her mother was dead – “I came home and told her the news. It was heartbreaking”.

After he was shot on March 30, 1981, Reagan said he prayed.

“But I realised I couldn’t ask for God’s help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep? We are all God’s children and therefore equally beloved by him. I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold,” the president wrote.

When he saw Nancy at his bedside, he wrote: “I pray I’ll never face a day when she isn’t there.”

Reagan, who died in June 2004 at the age of 93 after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, never kept a diary before entering the White House in 1981.

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