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John Fund: Reagan “Willed Himself” to Overcome Poverty

Pictured: It fed Ronald Reagan in the '30s.

Sadly, Our National Worship of Reagan Week isn’t over. Cue John Fund in today’s WSJ, on how Reagan became Reagan.

Years later, Reagan was uncharacteristically revealing about himself in a 1984 letter to the daughter-in-law of Harold Bell Wright, the author of “That Printer of Udell’s.” He noted that all of his boyhood reading “left an abiding belief in the triumph of good over evil,” but he singled out Wright’s work for having “an impact I shall always remember. After reading it and thinking about it for a few days, I went to my mother and told her I wanted to declare my faith and be baptized. . . . I found a role model in that traveling printer whom Harold Bell Wright had brought to life. He set me on a course I’ve tried to follow even unto this day. I shall always be grateful.”

Mr. Morris says reading that book marked the moment “when Reagan’s moral sense developed.” Peter Hannaford, a longtime Reagan aide, told me on Sunday that “Reagan profoundly empathized with the fact that, like him, Dick Falkner also had an alcoholic father and yet overcame poverty and adversity.”

So Ronald Reagan willed himself to take on the qualities that would allow him to become the hero he wanted to be.

What Fund doesn’t mention, conveniently, is that the Reagans were destitute during the Great Depression, and the only thing that kept food on their table for years was socialism FDR’s New Deal.

In his memoirs, Reagan tells us that his father “believed energy and hard work were the only ingredients for success.” During much of the Depression, however, Jack was out of work, until the New Deal employed him in the Works Progress Administration, which distributed food and food stamps to the distressed in DixonReagan does not record his reaction to his father’s work for the WPA.

Why would he?

That would just muddy up the Horatio Alger myth Reagan hagiographers like Fund love to write.

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