Reagan, A Letter to his Son

(Source: Reagan: A Life In Letters; Image: Ronald Reagan, via.)

Ronald Reagan sent the following to his son June 1971, days before his son, Michael, was married:

Michael Reagan
Manhattan Beach, California
June 1971

Dear Mike:

Enclosed is the item I mentioned (with which goes a torn up IOU). I could stop here but I won’t.

You’ve heard all the jokes that have been rousted around by all the “unhappy marrieds” and cynics. Now, in case no one has suggested it, there is another viewpoint. You have entered into the most meaningful relationship there is in all human life. It can be whatever you decide to make it.

Some men feel their masculinity can only be proven if they play out in their own life all the locker-room stories, smugly confident that what a wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her. The truth is, somehow, way down inside, without her ever finding lipstick on the collar or catching a man in the flimsy excuse of where he was till three A.M., a wife does know, and with that knowing, some of the magic of this relationship disappears. There are more men griping about marriage who kicked the whole thing away themselves than there can ever be wives deserving of blame. There is an old law of physics that you can only get out of a thing as much as you put in it. The man who puts into the marriage only half of what he owns will get that out. Sure, there will be moments when you will see someone or think back to an earlier time and you will be challenged to see if you can still make the grade, but let me tell you how really great is the challenge of proving your masculinity and charm with one woman for the rest of your life. Any man can find a twerp here and there who will go along with cheating, and it doesn’t take all that much manhood. It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow and you will know some very beautiful music. If you truly love a girl, you shouldn’t ever want her to feel, when she sees you greet a secretary or a girl you both know, that humiliation of wondering if she was someone who caused you to be late coming home, nor should you want any other woman to be able to meet your wife and know she was smiling behind her eyes as she looked at her, the woman you love, remembering this was the woman you rejected even momentarily for her favors.

Mike, you know better than many what an unhappy home is and what it can do to others. Now you have a chance to make it come out the way it should. There is no greater happiness for a man than approaching a door at the end of a day knowing someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.

Love,

Dad

P.S. You’ll never get in trouble if you say “I love you” at least once a day.

On Manliness

You’ve met a man, so you say? How dare you use that wraith of a word? Yes, the ghost of manliness still haunts us to remind us that we are its killers. Do you know what that word once meant with all its embodied virility and strength? Perhaps you meant that you met a man like Gilgamesh the great king of Uruk. Your man, has he built the walls of Uruk-Haven, opened the mountain passes, fought the bull of heaven, and carved in a stone stela all his toils? What ambition does your man have? Or perhaps, he is more like David, with his cunning and righteous honor? Does your man brave death to face those who defy the name of God? Has your man withheld his hand from smiting his most loathsome enemy merely for the sake of God’s name? Yet, perhaps, this man of yours is different entirely. Perhaps his manliness is one of wisdom and piety. Has he governed his people well and made peace like that reluctant ruler, Numa Pompilius. Has your man seen the folly of youthful strife? Has he, by his strength of character, sealed the doors of Janus’s temple, washing clean hands filthy with blood? Or rather, is he like Gaius Mucius, who realized that while war may be inevitable it is better to die and freedom to be preserved? Tell me please, what is this man like, if you choose to call him that. Or if I may be so bold to ask, is he like that man, incredibly enfleshed who gave humanity its truest vision of manhood? Would he, like Jesus, courageously face death to serve and to call men and women to a higher vision of humanity, one which sees as its highest calling the service of the glory of God? Does his passion against sin burn to the point where he could brazenly flout the insidious religious traditions which enslave mankind? Would he bear with patience the consequences of others sin? Does he love like the lamb of God? Please, tell me if your man dares even to admire these men. If so, perhaps by the grace of God, you can say you’ve met a man.