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Reagan's Son Sees His 'Father At 100'

Ronald Reagan — then governor of California — and his son, Ron Reagan Jr., play touch football in the backyard of their Sacramento home in the fall of 1971.
Ronald Reagan — then governor of California — and his son, Ron Reagan Jr., play touch football in the backyard of their Sacramento home in the fall of 1971.

Many books have been written about the 40th president of the United States, but very few have come from those who knew Ronald Wilson Reagan best.

Ron Reagan, the former president's son, searches for the roots of his father's nature in his book, My Father At 100.

"It wasn't that I had in mind some particular thing that I wanted to say about him that other people hadn't said," Ron Reagan tells Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "I felt that the keys to my father's character would probably be found in his early life."

In search of these clues, Reagan journeyed to his father's birthplace in Tampico, Ill., and to his hometown of Dixon, Ill. He visited several museums and the Reagan library, where he pored over hundreds of photos, letters and books — including many famous biographies about his father.

Ron Reagan and his father didn't always see eye-to-eye. President Reagan was a staunch conservative, a Christian and a Republican. His son is the exact opposite: a liberal, an atheist and a Democrat.

Growing up, Ron Reagan says, the two of them frequently argued about politics, especially when he was a teenager. But even through their disagreements, the pair remained very close, tied by the bonds of father and son.

Although the younger Reagan says that he ultimately found nothing incredibly surprising or shocking about his father while writing the book, he did find himself uncovering parts of the childhood that shaped the president and made him the man he was.

"I have a new and, I hope, deeper appreciation for the solitary, undersized little boy that he was," Reagan explains, "who spent a lot of time by himself, poring over books and strange artifacts, some of them from the West, which filled his head with visions of this wide-open frontier and this broad landscape of which he could be a hero, the guy who saves the day. I think I have a better appreciation of that."

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