Ronald Reagan’s letter to his son, Michael, on how to love the woman in your life:

Dear Mike:

You've heard all the jokes that have been rousted around by all the "unhappy marrieds" and cynics. Now, in case no one has suggested it, there is another viewpoint. You have entered into the most meaningful relationship there is in all human life. It can be whatever you decide to make it.

Some men feel their masculinity can only be proven if they play out in their own life all the locker-room stories, smugly confident that what a wife doesn't know won't hurt her. The truth is, somehow, way down inside, without her ever finding lipstick on the collar or catching a man in the flimsy excuse of where he was till three a.m., a wife does know, and with that knowing, some of the magic of this relationship disappears. There are more men griping about marriage who kicked the whole thing away themselves than there can ever be wives deserving of blame. There is an old law of physics that you can only get out of a thing as much as you put in it.

Let me tell you how really great is the challenge of proving your masculinity and charm with one woman for the rest of your life.

It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow and you will know some very beautiful music. If you truly love a girl, you shouldn't ever want her to feel, when she sees you greet a secretary or a girl you both know, that humiliation of wondering if she was someone who caused you to be late coming home.

Mike, you know better than many what an unhappy home is and what it can do to others. Now you have a chance to make it come out the way it should. There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.


P.S. You'll never get in trouble if you say "I love you" at least once a day.

Ronald Reagan recounting his difficulty getting started in radio broadcasting:

Dear Miss Kellner:

I was taught from the very beginning and accepted the idea that when all else fails, you then turn to God and put it in his hands.

Let me give one example that was not a great tragedy but, at my particular age and at that particular time seemed so: I got out of college in the depths of the Depression in 1932. The government was putting announcements on the radio urging people not to leave home looking for work because there was none. I had decided that I wanted to get into radio, and I had decided that what I wanted to be in radio was a sports announcer. I didn't listen to the government announcements. I went hitchhiking around the Midwest simply asking at radio stations for a job, a job of any kind so that I could get in the studio and then would take my chances with working up to sports announcer. Finally, after weeks of this, I hitchhiked my way home, arriving in a downpour of rain.

My mother told me that a new Montgomery Ward store had opened in our small home town and was looking for someone known to the people in town for having had athletic experience to manage the sporting goods department. Wet and bedraggled as I was, I went right down and was interviewed for the manager. I must have looked like a bum, and I realized I wasn't going over very well. The next day I found that a local high school athlete of more recent vintage had been given the job. It was a very low moment, but. . .that faith that my mother had given me was sustaining.

The next day, I hitchhiked out again. . .where there was another radio station, walked in, stated my case and was told they had just hired a young man to break in as an announcer the day before. This was a little too much for me, and on the way out the door, I mumbled, "how does a guy ever get to be a sports announcer if he can't get a job in a radio station?" I reached the elevator. But before it arrived at that floor, the program director I'd been talking to, a wonderful old Scotsman, crippled with arthritis hobbling on canes, caught up with me, and said, "what is that you said about being a sports announcer?" And I told him of my ambition. He asked me if I knew anything about football. Well, I'd played the game for eight years--through high school and college. The upshot of it was I was given a tryout. I broadcast a Big Ten football game. . .and that began my career in radio. As you can see, I look back on that Montgomery Ward job and understand very well why I didn't get it.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan comforting a long time friend after the loss of a loved one:

Dear Florence:

I have put off answering your letter of last September mainly because I was resisting the urge to "give advice." I know I shouldn't and that you have every right to tell me to mind my own business but now I'm going to play "old Professor" (of swimming probably) and speak my piece.

Your letter led me to believe you are embarked on a course which can only lead to unhappiness and a barren future and this is all wrong. You are young and very attractive and have a great deal to offer some worthwhile man and both you and your son need a man in your life or lives.

You spoke of your aunt and the "ideals" she gave you. It is high time you reviewed those teachings in the light; not of modern living; but of modern knowledge. I too was raised in a home where "ideals" similar I'm sure to yours were taught, by my Mother. Now I have the highest regard for her and for her teachings but I have had to go on from there and find a "code for living" in keeping with my conscience and knowledge of right and wrong. This does not mean casting her principles aside but rather it is building to meet my present needs on a foundation I learned from her. At the same time I have learned painfully that some "idealism" is in effect a flight from reality.

You say you believe there is one love in life for each of us—this is just not true. Can you believe that God means for millions of really young people to go on through life alone because a war robbed them of their first loves? Maybe you'll resent this Florence but I must say it—you have to look into your own heart and ask yourself if you really believe in one love now lost to you or if this is a shield behind which you hide because your past experience did not measure up to your girlhood dreams and now you fear men.

I will grant you that all of us grow up with a "moonlight and roses" outlook on romantic relationships and sometimes it comes hard to reconcile this dream with the actualities of physical contact. To show you how "over idealistic" my training was—I awoke to the realization (almost too late) that even in marriage I had a little guilty feeling about sex, as though the whole thing was tinged with evil.

A very fine old gentleman started me out on the right track by interesting me in the practices of, or I should say, moral standards of, the primitive peoples never exposed to our civilization—such as the Polynesians. These peoples who are truly children of nature and thus of God, accept physical desire as a natural, normal appetite to be satisfied honestly and fearlessly with no surrounding aura of sin and sly whispers in the darkness . . .

I guess what I am trying to say is that I oppose the dogmas of some organized religions who accept marital relationship only as a "tolerated" sin for the purpose of conceiving children and who believe all children to be born in sin. My personal belief is that God couldn't create evil so the desires he planted in us are good and the physical relationship between a man and woman is the highest form of companionship . . .

The world is full of lonely people—people capable of happiness and of giving happiness and love is not a magic touch of cosmic dust that preordains two people and two people only for each other. Love can grow slowly out of warmth and companionship and none of us should be afraid to seek it.

Now I'm going to seal this letter very quickly and mail it because if I read it over I won't have the nerve to sent it— Merry Christmas and Much Happiness.


Ronald Reagan writing to a business executive on the threat of big government:

Dear Mr. Vice President:

You were very kind to write me about my talk and I feel honored that you took the time to read it. I am grateful too for the reassurance your letter gives me in continuing to speak on such a controversial matter.

"General Electric" has had me touring quite a bit in the past few years and I have been speaking on this subject in every section of the country . . . I have been amazed at the reaction to this talk. Audiences are actually militant in their expression that "something must be done." The only adverse opinion . . . was an editorial in a local "teamster union" paper which I accept as further evidence that sound thinking is on our side.

In several instances this talk was broadcast and here too the reaction as evidenced by mail was unanimous in support of "sound economy." I am convinced there is a groundswell of economic conservatism building up which could reverse the entire tide of present day "statism." As a matter of fact we seem to be in one of those rare moments when the American people with that wisdom which is the strength of democracy are ready to say "enough." Such a wave of feeling marked the end of the "Capone era." Prohibition was ended in the same way with people (even those who opposed drinking) deciding that the wrong method had been tried.
Well I'd better stop or you'll have another "speech" to read . . .


Ronald Reagan advising his teenage daughter:

Dear Patti: Yes—turning yourself in was the right thing to do and I'm sure you feel better for having done it. I'm sure you realize also that it was proper for the school to impose a punishment as they did. If we could pay for rule breaking just by confessing it there wouldn't be much law and order. In the Bible we can read where Jesus heard confessions and promised forgiveness but on the condition that we would go forth and not commit the sin again.

These are two issues here Dear Patti. One is the fact that for two years you broke not only school rules but family rules and to do this you had to resort to tricks and deception. Why is this of such great concern to the school or to me and your mother? The answer is very simple. We are concerned that you can establish a pattern of living wherein you accept dishonesty as a way of life.

Let's turn from you and translate it into someone else. Would you be happy if you weren't sure that I was quite honest? Would you be comfortable if you had to wonder whether you could believe things I said? Or if perhaps now you had to worry that maybe I was being dishonest in this job—that some day the paper would carry a story exposing me as a lawbreaker? You know the answer of course. But don't you see—compromising with truth no matter how trivial does something to us. The next time it serves our purpose we do it again and one day we find ourselves in trouble and we're not quite sure why or how.

Now issue number two—smoking itself. I'm sure I don't have to repeat all the reasons why it's bad for you. Science leaves us very little doubt about it anymore. Yes I know many adults continue to smoke but I don't know any who don't wish they could quit. That alone should tell you something—if they want to quit and can't that's pretty good proof that tobacco is capable of forming a habit stronger than human will power. Unfortunately women are more susceptible to habits than men and find them much harder to break or change . . . I must go now. I hope you'll accept and work out your hours without bitterness and with the intention of not repeating the act that brought them about. I hope too you'll continue to improve in your studies.


Ronald Reagan gives advice to his son, Ron:

Dear Son:

This letter may ramble a bit because it has to do with some concerns of mine.

Some fathers get so uptight in their concern they wind up trying to relive their own youth by stage-directing their son's life. I hope by now I've convinced you this is not my intention or desire. Some fathers cop out and, under the pretense of being a 'pal,' don't set any ground rules at all, and thus avoid having to make any tough decisions. This I have no intention of doing.

These concerns have been on my mind for some time, and so has this letter. Now it has been triggered by your report card (which included a C- in French and a D in algebra) . . . Everything in life has a price and our biggest mistakes are when we don't really ask the price before we make our choice. Do you remember our Christmas shopping and the jolt you had when you had the gift wrapped and then heard the price?

The "trouble" the algebra teacher mentioned is the price you pay for not forcing yourself to work at something that is less interesting than other things you'd rather do. For example, the price can be ineligibility for outside activities, including athletics. It can be cancellation of summer plans because you have to make up credits in summer school. It can be limitation of your choice of colleges because you don't meet the requirements of the ones you'd really like . . .

This period of the school year, whether it be high school or college, is the toughest. Don't ask me why, but it's always been true. This is when the excitement of fall and starting the new year seems a long way back and the summer an even longer way ahead. It's easy to get bored, to complain about everything and to think the school and everyone connected with it are out to ruin your life. This is when you have to remember the price for giving up and copping out . . . We don't know what turns our life will take or what doors will open and there is nothing worse than to have such a door open and then learn you gave away your admittance ticket back in your school days.

The other day when we were talking about the POWs we spoke of self-discipline and how it saved their lives. There is an inner man within all of us we have to call on once in a while. Having the guts to do the nasty little boring tasks, sticking to them when we'd rather goof off, decides whether that inner man has enough muscle to be of any help when we need him . . .

Well, if you've read this far let me just wrap it up by telling you your mother and I have known many moments of great pride in you. We've also known moments of doubt in ourselves; times when we've worried as to whether we've made that inner man as strong as he'll need to be sometime later in life when you call on him for help. Keep an eye on the price tag; some things are very expensive and you pay for the rest of your life.


Ronald Reagan’s response to a 7th grader’s request – "Today my mother declared my bedroom a disaster area. I would like to request federal funds to hire a crew to clean up my room."

Dear Andy:

I'm sorry to be so late in answering your letter but as you know I've been in China.

Your application for disaster relief has been duly noted but I must point out one technical problem; the authority declaring the disaster is supposed to make the request. In this case your mother. However setting that aside I'll have to point out the larger problem of available funds. This has been a year of disasters, 539 hurricanes as of May 4th and several more since, numerous floods, forest fires, drought in Texas and a number of earthquakes. What I'm getting at is that funds are dangerously low.

May I make a suggestion? This administration, believing that government has done many things that could better be done by volunteers at the local level, has sponsored a Private Sector Initiative program, calling upon people to practice voluntarism in the solving of a number of local problems.

Your situation appears to be a natural. I'm sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster. Therefore you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer program to go along with the more than 3,000 already underway in our nation—congratulations . . .

Ronald Reagan