Monday, March 17, 2014

Where's The Rest Of Me?: The Autobiography Of Ronald Reagan

Where's The Rest Of Me?: The Autobiography Of Ronald ReaganWhere's The Rest Of Me?: The Autobiography Of Ronald Reagan by Ronald Reagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Since I first learned of this book many years ago, I wanted to read it. My wife bought it for me as a Valentine's Day gift. This book was first copyrighted in 1965. The title is taken from a movie, King's Row, where Reagan played a role a key scene of a man that wakes up in a hospital bed after having suffered an accident in the railroad yards. As he wakes up his eyes eyes travel down to where is legs should be (they had been amputated) his line in that scene is, "Where's the rest of me?"

The majority of this book details his film and movie life. It discusses many of his movies, how he got into the business, and who helped him along the way. Reagan was in leadership positions at various times in his movie career including being the President of the SAG. The last part of the book deals with his contract with the General Electric Theater, a series of weekly dramas that became very popular. His contract required him to tour GE plants sixteen weeks out of the year, often demanding of him fourteen speeches per day. The Appendix as the coauthor. Richard G. Hubler, writing a summary of Reagan's political philosophy. Most of the quotes below are taken from the Appendix:

One does what he feels he can do best and serves where he feels he can make the greatest contribution. For me, I think that service is to continue accepting speaking engagements, in an effort to make people aware of the danger to freedom in a vast permanent government structure so big and complex it virtually entraps Presidents and legislators. Being an actor, I have access to audiences, which might be denied an office holder or candidate. There is no point in saving souls in heaven; if my speaking is to serve any purpose, then I must appear before listeners who don’t share my viewpoint.

It’s a curious thing: I talked on this theme of big government during six years of the Eisenhower administration and was accepted as presenting a nonpartisan viewpoint. The same speech delivered after January 20, 1961, brought down thunders of wrath on my head, the charge that my speech was a partisan political attack, an expression of right wing extremism. My erstwhile associates in organized labor at the top level of the AFL-CIO assail me as a “strident voice of the right wing lunatic fringe.” Sadly I have come to realize that a great many so-called liberals aren’t liberal – they will defend to the death your right to agree with them.

The classic liberal used to be the man who believed the individual was, and should be forever, the master of his destiny. That is now the conservative position. The liberal used to believe in freedom under the law. He now takes the ancient feudal position that power is everything. He believes in a stronger and stronger central government, in the philosophy that control is better than freedom. The conservative now quotes Thomas Paine, a long-time refuge of the liberals: “Government is a necessary evil; let us have as little of it as possible.” The liberal ignores what that “radical,” Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, said: “Strike for the jugular. Reduce taxes and spending. Keep government poor and remain free.” The liberal wants a well-heeled government in a Big Brother image to buy for us the things “Big Brother” thinks we should have.

The conservatives believe the collective responsibility of the qualified men in a community should decide its course. The liberals believe in remote and massive strong-arming from afar, usually Washington, D.C. The conservatives believe in the unique powers of the individual and his personal opinions. The liberals lean increasingly toward bureaucracy, operation by computer minds and forced fiat, the submergence of man in statistics.

It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, “We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. For almost two centuries we have proved man’s capacity for self-government, but today we are told we must choose between a left and right or, as others suggest, a third alternative, a kind of safe middle ground. I suggest to you there is no left or right, only an up or down. Up to the maximum of individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism, and regardless of their humanitarian purpose those who would sacrifice freedom for security have, whether they know it or not, chosen this downward path. Pultarch warned, “The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations, and benefits.”

I for one find it disturbing when a representative refers to the free men and women of this country as the masses, but beyond this the full power of centralized government was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew you don’t control things; you can’t control the economy without controlling people. So we have come to a time for choosing. Either we accept the responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual belief in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward restoring for our children the American dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him. The economist Sumner Schlicter has said, “If a visitor from Mars looked at our tax policy, he would conclude it had been designed by a Communist spy to make free enterprise unworkable.” But we cannot have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure. Senator Clark (D.-PA) says the tax issue is a class issue, and the government must use the tax to redistribute the wealth and earnings downward.

Today in our country the tax collector’s share is 37 cents of every dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp. I wish I could give you some magic formula, but each of us must find his own role. One man in Virginia found what he could do, and dozens of business firms have followed his lead. Concerned because his 200 employees seemed unworried about government extravagance he conceived the idea of taking all of their withholding out of only the fourth paycheck each month. For three paydays his employees received their full salary. On the fourth payday all withholding was taken. He has one employee who owes him $4.70 each fourth payday. It only took one month to produce 200 Conservatives.

Alexander Hamilton warned us that a nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master and deserves one. Admittedly there is a risk in any course we follow. Choosing the high road cannot eliminate that risk. Already some of the architects of accommodation have hinted what their decision will be if their plan fails and we are faced with the final ultimatum. The English commentator Tynan has put it: he would rather live on his knees than die on his feet. Some of our own have said “Better Red than dead.” If we are to believe that nothing is worth the dying, when did this begin? Should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery rather than dare the wilderness? Should Christ have refused the Cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have refused to fire the shot heard round the world? Are we to believe that all the martyrs of history died in vain?

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We can preserve for our children this the last best hope of man on earth or we can sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children, say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

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