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Patti Davis had a famously difficult relationship with her father, Ronald Reagan. As is not seldom the case with the children of alcoholics, he maintained a certain emotional distance from people, even including his own children. It seems quite possible that Nancy Reagan was the only one he ever allowed to completely penetrate his defenses and their son, Ron, has said that the relationship between the two was so all-consuming that they didn't have much left over for anyone else. Now, if you have a family member similar to Mr. Reagan, or know someone similar, you'll be aware of how difficult such reserve can be to deal with. But you're hopefully also aware that once you make certain allowances for what is obviously an emotional problem that they suffer from, you can learn to understand their limitations and accept that while they may not be the person you wish them to be, they can still be quite decent and loving in their own fashion.

Suffice it to say, it took Ms Davis rather awhile to get to that point, but in her father's retirement and illness she was reconciled to him and was able to look back on their lives together and appreciate what it was he had been offering even if she hadn't been able to accept it at the time. In this short spiritual memoir, she describes what she learned about God, Christianity, faith, prayer and much more from her dad:
The world knows much about Ronald Reagan; it should also be known that he passed along to his daughter a deep, resilient faith that God's love never wavers, and that no matter how harsh life seems, or how cruel the world is, that love is constant, unconditional, and eternal. The world should know that Ronald Reagan was a father who patiently answered his child's questions about God, and angels, and miracles. That child grew into an adult who has never doubted the possibility of miracles and the presence of God, and who hears her father's answers even when the dark times seem overwhelming.
As Ms Davis lets the world know all this she also presents a moving portrait of her father and of the central role of his faith in his life and his politics and how the lessons he taught helped her get through those dark times.

A couple of things he taught are especially worthwhile for everyone, first on the quality of love:
During a television interview he was asked about his divorce from Jane Wyman and the aftermath, the time before he married my mother. "It wasn't so much that I missed having someone to love me," he said, "as I missed having someone to give my love to."

I was struck by how pure that sentiment was. Rather than looking at what he was or was not getting for himself, he was focused on the beauty of giving love, which he wasn't able to do in that in-between-marriages time. He was focused on the most divine aspect of love--that of giving.
An even more hauntingly divine aspect of love that the former President partook of was his belief in the human dignity of every one of God's creatures and capacity to see past our mortal accretions to the divine spark, which was never better illustrated than in his forgiveness of his own assassin:
To know that someone aimed a gun at you with the clear intention of taking your life, and to hold to the idea that buried inside that person is a pure soul--"a God in embryo"--is a challenge few could meet. I'm not sure I could. But my father did. Even while lying in the hospital with a surgery scar winding around his torso from the doctor's frantic efforts to save his life, he believed that, while John Hinckley had committed a hideous crime, he was still, at his core, a child of God.

My father was right when he called Hinckley misguided. Hinckley had forgotten, somewhere along the line, who he was and who had created him. Ronald Reagan knew more about the nature of John Hinckley's soul than Hinckley may ever know. That's why he could forgive him. It was less an act of generosity and more a result of seeing past the rubble, the darkness, the madness, to that one tiny ray of light burning deep within another human being.

During his recovery, my father said he believed he had been spared for a reason. He said, "The rest of my days belong to God." He said he knew he had more work to do here. I don't know what his specific ideas were; a safe assumption is that he was thinking along political lines.
Indeed, one is struck by the fact that Pope John Paul II likewise survived a shooting and forgave his assassin and that it was these two men more than any others who summoned us to recall that the divine spark burns in every created being and led the fight to restore a Culture of Life and to topple the Evil Empire. It seems fair to say that they did understand the human soul better than the rest of us. Fortunately, Patti Davis's father taught the world the same lessons he taught her.


Grade: (B)


Patti Davis Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Patti Davis (Random House)
    -Patti Davis (Wikipedia)
    -Patti Davis (NNDB)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Patti Davis (
    -Remarks: Ronald Reagan Funeral Service (Patti Davis)
    -ESSAY: A Daughter's Remembrance: The Gemstones of Our Years: Time taught me to appreciate a distant father—and cherish glimpses of an elusive soul (Patti Davis, 6/14/04, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY: Writer on Trial: James Frey’s writing is under attack. I know how he feels (Patti Davis, 1/13/06, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY: Roots of Hatred: Edgar Ray Killen should be punished. But we can only beat his legacy if we refuse to hate him. (Patti Davis, 6/23/05, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY:Healthy Partner Wanted: Are there any good men (or women) out there? Honest, dependable, compassionate? Anyone? (Patti Davis, 4/25/05, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY: The Power of Listening: Why Cindy Sheehan deserves an audience with President Bush (Patti Davis, 8/19/05, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY: The Flip-Flop Flap: President Reagan’s daughter imagines a fictional history of strange footwear worn in the White House. (Patti Davis, 7/19/05, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY: Humanity Before Politics: The House has passed a bipartisan bill to help stem-cell research. We need to push the Senate to do the same, and urge the White House to skip the veto threat. (Patti Davis, 5/25/05, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY: 'The Reagans,' From One of Them: Patti Davis on why the Ronald Reagan depicted in the biopic is nothing like the father she knows (Patti Davis, Nov. 04, 2003, TIME)
    -ESSAY: My Father’s Birthday: No one can look at an Alzheimer’s patient without mourning the loss of a fully alive life, says Ronald Reagan’s daughter (Patti Davis, 2/13/04, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY: Wedded Bliss: Ronald Reagan’s daughter says marriage should be about love, not sexual orientation (Patti Davis, 2/23/04, Newsweek)
    -ESSAY: Defining Love of Country: We ought to ask our presidential candidates whether or not they love us (Patti Davis, 7/23/04, Newsweek)
    -ARCHIVES: Patti Davis in Newsweek (Google)
    -INTERVIEW: Live Talk With Patti Davis: Ronald Reagan's daughter chatted with readers about her father's Alzheimer's disease and memories of her childhood (Newsweek)
    -INTERVIEW: Interview With Patti Davis (CNN LARRY KING LIVE, November 19, 2004)
    -PROFILE: Reagan daughter's new leaf (Janet Kornblum, 11/16/04, USA TODAY)
    -ARTICLE: In Dispute, Patti Davis Sues Salvation Army (ANTHONY RAMIREZ, October 19, 2004, NY Times)
    -ARTICLE: Reagan's daughter describes reuniting (BRENT HALLENBECK, March 6, 1998, The Daily Star)
    -ARTICLE: Reagans shared one last moment: Ex-president, wife shared poignant goodbye, daughter writes (CNN, June 8, 2004)
    -PROFILE: The Reagan Children (Julie Wolf, The American Experience, PBS)
    -REVIEW: of HOME FRONT By Patti Davis with Maureen Strange Foster (EDEN ROSS LIPSON, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of DEADFALL. By Patti Davis (Kit Reed, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Playboy Celebrity Centerfold: Patti Davis (Joe Bob Briggs Drive In)

Book-related and General Links:

    -Times Topics: Reagan, Ronald Wilson (NY Times)
    -Reagan (The American Experience, PBS)
    -REVIEW: of AN AMERICAN LIFE By Ronald Reagan (Maureen Dowd, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of MY TURN The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan. By Nancy Reagan with William Novak (Fred Barnes, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of FIRST FATHER, FIRST DAUGHTER A Memoir. By Maureen Reagan (Delia Ephron, NY Times Book Review)