Ron Reagan

You often forget, until he pops up on TV during national election cycles, that Ron Reagan has lived quietly in Magnolia for years. Reagan hasn’t traded too heavily on his famous name (remember when he hosted SNL back in 1986?), in part because he’s the liberal son of America’s most definitive postwar Republican president. His new memoir, My Father at 100 (Viking, $25.95), is a loving account of Ronald Reagan’s early years in Illinois, with some White House anecdotes and family tussles interspersed. Some of these—like teenage Ron giving his dad a hard shove/chest punch—are fit awkwardly into a narrative that’s been told before, and at much greater length, by the president’s biographers. But seven years after his death, and two decades since his presidency, Ronald Reagan’s sunny populism is worth revisiting. Unlike the radio ranters of today, he didn’t hate government, but argued for less of it. He was an ambitious self-made man who preferred to seem lucky—even if that meant folks underestimated his intelligence and work ethic. And, like our 44th president today, he knew how and when to strike deals with the opposition. As his son writes, “Dad was actually surprisingly good at catching waves and avoiding obstacles with a bit of deft compromise.” BRIAN MILLER

Thu., Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Jan. 21, 7 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 5, 2 p.m., 2011

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