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Press Release

Jonathan Potts

For immediate release:
August 21, 2003

Carnegie Mellon Professor's Book Sheds Light on Reagan's Character

PITTSBURGH—A new book co-edited by Kiron K. Skinner, an assistant professor of history and political science at Carnegie Mellon University, reveals that former President Ronald Reagan was a more complex man than many people realized. "Reagan: A Life In Letters," is a collection of letters Reagan wrote over 70 years, as a young boy, a movie star, governor of California, president and elder statesmen. The book was edited by Skinner and Annelise and Martin Anderson, who are fellows at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. The book is being published in September by Free Press.

The book is a follow-up to the 2001 international bestseller "Reagan, In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America," which also was co-edited by Skinner and the Andersons. That book was a selection of approximately 220 of the 670 radio commentaries the former president delivered from 1975 to 1979. The handwritten commentaries covered virtually every national policy issue of the day, and the book prompted many Reagan detractors to reappraise his intellect.

"I think that that book changed the terms of the debate about Reagan, that he had to be taken seriously as a thinker and writer. The new book takes that debate further and says this is a more complex person than we thought," Skinner said.

Skinner said that Reagan may be America's last writing president, the product of an era when letter-writing was still an art form. His pen pals included fans of his motion pictures as well as a young boy from inner-city Washington, D.C., Rudolph Hines, who corresponded with Reagan during his presidency. Skinner said Reagan wrote to the boy about once a month. Hines was a frequent visitor to the White House, and the president and First Lady Nancy Reagan had dinner at his home.

"In my view, that relationship speaks to Reagan's character in a way that maybe no other body of letters in the book does," Skinner said.

Skinner, the director of the International Relations program at Carnegie Mellon, is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. A protégé of Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, Skinner has been a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board since 2001. She currently is working on a book with Rice that analyzes the end of the Cold War from the perspective of the rise to power of Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin.

For Pittsburgh editors: Kiron Skinner will speak during a book signing at 2 p.m. Sept. 27 at Barnes & Noble Booksellers at 1723 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill.


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