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When Character Was King

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  1,676 ratings  ·  132 reviews
From the bestselling author of What I Saw at the Revolution comes an elegiac tribute to one of America's most beloved leaders.

It is twenty years—a full generation—since Ronald Reagan first walked into the White House and ignited a revolution. From the beginning, he enjoyed the American people's affection but now, as he approaches the end of his life, he has received what h
Hardcover, Large Print, 576 pages
Published November 20th 2001 by Random House Large Print (first published 2001)
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Doran Barton
I finished reading Peggy Noonan’s book about Ronald Reagan last night. It’s a great book about a great man that ends on a sad note (just like Reagan’s life will end after his long battle with Alzheimers).

There was one part of the book that really stood out and impressed me — so much so that I felt I needed to excerpt it here.


Once, in the mid 1990s, I was asked by the University of Texas at Austin to take part in a lecture series in which various historians
BJ Rose
Aug 25, 2009 BJ Rose rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history lovers
Recommended to BJ Rose by: my sister
It is very obvious in the reading that Peggy Noonan admired Reagan - for his kindness, for his honesty, for his reliability. She states that the most important thing a man can bring to the presidency is his character, and she goes on to show - through interviews with Reagan, his family members, close friends, and some political enemies - why she is convinced that Reagan's character was of a high, moral fiber. She doesn't sugarcoat his first failed marriage or the major scandal of his administrat ...more
Even if I was a fan of Ronald Reagan, this simpering biography would probably have still made me upchuck. Particularly amusing was the foreword where Noonan, in 2001, predicts that George W. Bush would become one of the greatest presidents the US has ever seen. I bet she wants to take that back now. A good biography does not oversell someone's successes and skim over their faults. This book does both.
"In a time of malice he was not malicious; in a time of lies he did not falsify; in a time of great pressure he didn't bend or break; in a time of disingenuousness he was clear and candid about where he stood and why. And in a time when people just gave up after awhile and changed the subject, he remained on the field for the long haul."

I had seen this book on a number of reading lists of people whom I admire and so it has been on my "to read" shelf for some time. I knew when I read this quote,
Mick Wright
Peggy Noonan does a wonderful job reminding us that Ronald Reagan was not only a President worth celebrating but also a man of character worth honoring.

Noonan takes readers on a fast-paced tour through Reagan's formative years, his professional career and his political journey, stopping only long enough to mention a few illustrative anecdotes from each period.

At times Noonan has a hard time leaving herself out of the story, but she succeeds in explaining Reagan by interviewing the people closest
This was a great book about Ronald Reagan. What struck me so much about it is how relevant his philosophy is towards today's economic woes, despite the fact it was written in 2001. It's impossible not to compare the past climates in 1964 and again in 1979 with today's huge deficit and general malaise in the country. Among some of the things that struck me was his desire to reduce the size of an unwieldy and ineffectual government, hearkening back to the original intent of the U.S.'s founding fat ...more
My New Year's resolution was to read more non-fiction and to try to read about people that are outside of my normal interest and point of view. So, that's how I ended up reading this book and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed Noonan's writing style. She made it clear from the beginning that she really admired Ronald Reagan so I knew it would have that slant, but still I feel like I learned a great deal about him and the time in which he was president.
Feb 04, 2010 Joseph marked it as guacátela  ·  review of another edition
The juxtaposition of a phrase like "when character was king" with the smiling face of the man who, about people with AIDS, said "Those who live in sin, die in sin" is really, really, too much.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tom Stamper
Peggy Noonan wrote what I think is the greatest book about working for and around politicians, "What I Saw at the Revolution." This time Noonan mixes her own memories of Ronald Reagan with research about the rest of Reagan's life, and she never strikes a bad note. Noonan's style is the usual graceful and insightful and with Reagan she picks her perfect subject. I wasn't a big fan of Peggy Noonan's anti-Hilary written in 2000, because her style seems all wrong for a hatchet job. Barbara Olsen was ...more
Chris Comis
I haven't read too many biographies of our American presidents-- maybe just two or three. But this was definitely a great read and Noonan is a wonderful writer, even though she jumps around a bit too much, and you aren't quite sure which part of Reagan's life she's dealing with at times. Reagan was definitely a man's man. One could probably argue that he was the manliest president since old Theodore Roosevelt. You get the sense that if Reagan would've been allowed to do so, he would've had his o ...more
Janis Knecht
In "When Character Was King" Peggy Noonan wrote her story of a great man and the building of his character as Ronald Reagan lay dying. Now that he's gone, Peggy Noonan is our era's great communicator. Not every word of "When Character Was King" is the utterly necessary word at the absolutely necessary time -- a few of her words don't fit and an occasional fact is flubbed -- but for the most part all other words fit perfectly into the best portrait we have of a good and great man.

Noonan, I belie
I absolutely loved this book! Having been too young or too unaware to truly appreciate the two terms of Reagan's presidency, it was both fascinating and endearing to discover Reagan's rise to fame, his political experiences and what was really behind his shooting, the Iran-Contra scandal, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and other monumental incidents. Beyond all that, what I truly enjoyed was understanding what kind of man he was, the essence of his character, that made him so warm, genuine ...more
So, I don't normally write reviews, but some of the lines/passages had me rolling and need to be repeated:

"In March 2001, I met with Rush Limbaugh, a man I admire..." (250) -- that really tells you just about all you need to know about this book.

"Truman had followed a charismatic leader, had seemed too plain and uninteresting to fill a president's shoes and was, his first few years in office at least, a bland public speaker, an uninspiring man. But this plain, uninteresting, colorless man had m
Darren Labrum
When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan takes us through Reagan's life from childhood until his final farewell address and beyond. All is explored with key insights from Peggy Noonan who had an insider's look into the administration during his two terms as president. The book gives important looks into his battles with communists in Hollywood, the Goldwater Speech, his governorship, the air controller strike, Grenada, Libya and Gaddafi, Iran-contra, his assassination attempt, his direc ...more
I love Ronald Reagan. Part of it is irrational: when I was a little boy, and became aware of politics, Reagan was the President. Sure, I vaguely remember Watergate and the end of the Viet Nam war; I sort of remember Ford. In the second grade, when my teacher told us that our new President, Jimmy Carter, had been a peanut farmer, I remember thinking, "Huh?" But it was Reagan who first captured my young mind and heart. I remember when he was shot. I remember seeing him bounding around the White Ho ...more
Mary Mason
Heath urged me to read this for two or three years before I finally got to it. I don't know why I waited so long! Peggy Noonan is a fine writer; interesting, adept, well-researched. Certainly she has a conservative slant, but is not blind to the good and worthy on any side of the aisle.

Reagan was quite an interesting person--achieving a great deal, not just as president but as a man of conviction guided by an ideal that was constant and sure. He is no saint, but is a man of honor, and, as Noona
Fabulous biography, written by Peggy Noonan, who worked closely with Reagan for several years. She obviously admired and respected the man, yet still wrote a very unbiased, objective biography. Here are a couple excerpts that I loved:

"In a time of malice he was not malicious; in a time of lies he did not falsify; in a time of great pressure he didn't bend or break; in a time of disingenuousness he was clear and candid about where he stood and why. And in a time when people just gave up after a w
This is the second book I've read on the life of the wonderful man. Truly, President Ronald Reagan was a man of excellence in character.

Peggy Noonan's biography is infinitely better written than that of Edmund Morris. It's evident all throughout the book, from the first page to the last, that Ms. Noonan loved and respected President Reagan. In Mr. Morris's fictionalized memoir, the leaven of his antipathy contaminates each and every page.

Although Reagan demonstrated his greatness in so many way
I don’t know if I would have necessarily chosen this title if I had written this book, but after finishing this biography on Ronald Reagan, I think it really fits.

Peggy Noonan — for the most part — did a really fabulous job of giving the reader a clearer idea of who Ronald Reagan was; and it’s clear from every story that is told in this book that Reagan was a really good man.

In recalling the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Reagan, Noonan tells the story of how, a few days after he’d be
Jodi Z
In 1964 Reagan made his "Goldwater speech" in which he sums up the dilemma that I think our nation is again (still?) facing:

"This is the issue...: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

"You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose between a left or a right. Tthere is only an up or down: up t
I love Peggy Noonan and her writing and I am glad that I read this book. I learned a lot about Reagan that I didn't know (since I was 7-15 while he was in office not paying too much attention to politics at the time) particularly about his character as the title suggests. It left me wanting more detail about the man and his presidency but I don't think the purpose of the book was to cover all of the facts but rather to give the author's perception of the President as a person having worked with ...more
Jessie Gussman
An inspiring book about a man of integrity who did what he thought was right and always tried to tell the truth. And had an amazing sense of humor--the chapter on his shooting had me in stitches and tears. He prayed for the man who shot him even as he lay bleeding and watching as his friends who had also taken bullets were wheeled by. Writing humorous notes and quipping one-liners as he recovered in ICU. Character, indeed, was king.

A true role model for all Americans.

I loved this quote from th
I didn't know much about Reagan before this book except that I had fond memories of watching him on TV growing up and then watched his funeral from West Africa. The analysis of how his childhood circumstances and "bad luck" shaped his life was eye-opening. The author combines personal stories, history, and analysis into this story of a regular guy who did so much with his life. I hardly know how to do this book justice. Regean said, "I never considered myself a great man, just a man committed to ...more
I started reading this forever ago, and then found it again with forty-some pages left. So I decided to just finish it.
I am an admirer of Ronald Reagan, not only as a politician, but even more so as a person. I think this biography captures less about his presidency but more about his character (hence the title).
But I also realized, coming to review it, that there will genuinely be people who review it for the writing. But I knew that a grand majority of the reviews would either gush about Reaga
M. L. Wilson
In the current corrosive political climate, I needed to remind myself what a true patriot as President was like. I've always admired Ronald Reagan from the time I became aware of him when he was the governor of California. I was a child then, but even I could see that he presented a stark contrast to the men who held that office before and then after.

Peggy Noonan paints a very bright portrait of the man who did so very much for this country. Despite critic's attempts to sully his reputation, the
Raymond Spitzer
I already thought that Ronald Reagan was the best president of my lifetime. This book had some thngs about him I didn't already know which made me esteem him even more. How I miss him! How our country misses him. His admirable traits are just like those of George Washington and Abrham Lincoln. He literally saved our country from oblivion with his presidency, although we have since thrown away all the reforms he made to get us back on track. He maintained that it wasn't him. He simply reminded pe ...more
Kimball Ungerman
Recommended by more than one friend. The publisher describes the book: No one has ever captured Ronald Reagan like Peggy Noonan. In When Character Was King, Noonan brings her own reflections on Reagan to bear as well as new stories - from Presidents George W. Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush, his Secret Service men and White House colleagues, his wife, his daughter Patti Davis, and his close friends - to reveal the true nature of a man even his opponents now view as a maker of big history. ...more
Jul 09, 2007 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: republicans or cons. liberals
I love Reagan. It's really not fair for me to read a book that is Pro-Reagan, because I just loved him. As a president and a person. He was so humble, kind and romantic that I fail to remember any of his "failures" but that's okay...

This book is a total PRO-REAGAN book. Don't read it if you don't like the idea that he switched from being a democrat to a republican right before he ran for Gov., became a true republican, spent tons of money on building our military to win the cold world, or simpl
Have you ever read a book and wanted to meet a character from it? Well, after reading this book, I really wish that I had had a chance to meet Ronald Reagan at some point.

Ronald Reagan is the first president that I have clear memories of, although I do have a vague recollection of Jimmy Carter. So many historic events happened under Ronald Reagan's watch and it was interesting to read about his thought process and how his character shaped his actions while in office.

I've heard Ronald Reagan re
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Goodreads Librari...: page number update 3 18 Jun 02, 2013 06:49PM  
  • Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader
  • The Reagan Diaries
  • Reagan, in His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America
  • God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life
  • How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life
  • The Reagan I Knew
  • A Different Drummer: My Thirty Years with Ronald Reagan
  • I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan
  • The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush
  • Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism
  • The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989
  • The Way Things Ought to Be
  • All The Best, George Bush: My Life and Other Writings
  • In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir
  • Dutch : A Memoir of Ronald Reagan
  • President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime
  • My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H. W. Bush
  • Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full
Peggy Noonan is an author of seven books on politics, religion and culture, a weekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and was a Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. She is considered a political conservative.

More about Peggy Noonan...
John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era On Speaking Well Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now The Case Against Hillary Clinton

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