Like any good after-dinner speaker, when in need of wisdom or simply a good joke, Ronald Reagan liked to consult his note cards.
Sayings from Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and others, a letter received, or anecdotes read or overheard were duly handwritten down on note cards over the decades, as Reagan rose from an actor-turned spokesman for General Electric Co., then California governor and a two-term president. With his letters and diaries already best-sellers, Reagan's personal collection of ready-made expressions is being published May 10, part of the ongoing centennial of his birth.
"Ronnie was always collecting quotes and sayings that he might want to include in a speech," Reagan's widow, former first lady Nancy Reagan, said in a statement released Wednesday by HarperCollins. "He started when he was on the road with GE, and continued throughout his term as governor of California and his years in the White House — even after he left Washington. He kept these handwritten cards in his desk and used them as he personalized and edited all of his speeches."
Edited by historian Douglas Brinkley, who also worked on Reagan's diaries, the new book cites the famous and the anonymous, the profound and the whimsical. He records Churchill: "Socialism is the philosophy of failure," and the kind of uncredited quip you might hear at a celebrity roast: "Some people are so indecisive their favorite color is plaid."
According to the book's introduction, the index cards were found last year, in a box marked in pen "RR's desk," at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. They will be displayed at the library upon the book's release.