x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

The Notes: Reagan's box of ammunition

How did the former US president Ronald Reagan always manage to communicate so effectively? He had a box full of cards containing nuggets of folksy wisdom and cheesy one-liners, which have been published as The Notes.

How did the Great Communicator communicate so effectively?

The answer was a series of handwritten cards that Ronald Reagan turned to whenever he needed to inject everything from a nugget of folksy wisdom to a cheesy one-liner into his speeches.

Those close to Reagan, whose 100th birthday was marked earlier this year, knew of the collection, but the cards were only rediscovered last year in a cardboard box buried among other memorabilia from the former US president's personal archives.

Improbably, these are now published as The Notes, with a subtitle that may provoke the odd raised eyebrow: Ronald Reagan's Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom.

The collection shows that Reagan had catholic tastes. As well as the inevitable Winston Churchill and Abe Lincoln, there are quotes from Cicero, Mao, Gandhi and even the 14th-century philosopher, Ibn Khaldoun (on the dangers of excessive taxation).

Reagan's greatest weapon as a politician was his ability to touch the ordinary man, and his ammunition were the words of both his friends and enemies, even if it was leavened by a sense of humour clipped from the pages of Reader's Digest.

This is hardly a major work of biography, but as a footnote to history, The Notes is at least diverting.