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Remembering Reagan - Lou Cannon

Lou Cannon

Reagan biographer

Ronald Reagan's Contributions

Ronald Reagan's great accomplishment was the enormous contribution he made to the end of the Cold War. He certainly didn't end it by himself, but he led the way. The military buildup he initiated, and Soviet concerns about the Strategic Defense Initiative, made it possible for him to negotiate with Mikhail Gorbachev from a position of strength. I discussed this extensively in the 2000 edition of my book, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime.

What is also worth remembering, and is often remarked on less, is that Reagan reached out to people in sad moments of their lives. I'll never forget his telephone call to me after my mother died. She had been ill for a long time, and I thought I was prepared for her death. I said this to President Reagan when he called. "You're never prepared for the death of your mother," he said. It was a comforting call.

During a long career of covering Reagan as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and The Washington Post and writing several books about him, I came to know many people who were comforted by a Reagan telephone call after a tragedy in their lives. He knew some of these people but not others. For instance, he regularly called family members of law enforcement officers who had died in the line of duty. Over the years, he made hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such calls. He never advertised them or used them to promote a political agenda. He acted out of a sense of compassion and respect and touched people's lives in doing so. I think he should be remembered for this as well as for his policy accomplishments.