Paul Kengor, Ph.D., is an associate professor of political science at Grove City College and a fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. He has also served as an adjunct scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. His writings have appeared in the National Review, Policy Review, Roll Call, the Washington Times, and Political Science Quarterly, among many other venues. Also the author of Wreath Layer or Policy Player?: The Vice President's Role in Foreign Policy, Kengor lives in Grove City, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children.
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God and Ronald Reagan
Chapter OneJack and Nelle
"You can be too big for God to use, but you cannot be too small."
--an annotation in Nelle Reagan's Bible
January 20, 1924, was a blustery cold, wind-swept Sunday across the plains of Illinois. According to the Dixon Evening Telegraph, tiny Alton, Illinois, had been hit the night before with "the heaviest and most spectacular "snowstorm of the winter. Rail, streetcar, and automobile traffic was plunging valiantly through the storm, but by ten o'clock all were losing the fight. The weather was so cold near Chicago, where the temperature dipped to eighteen degrees below zero, that many of the entries in the International Tournament of the Norge Ski Club failed to jump. And if that weren't enough, the Associated Press was reporting that "a new cold wave "was on its way from Alaska, threatening to exceed already-record lows.
Suffering through the freeze, in the northwest corner of the state, was idyllic little Dixon, home to Jack and Nelle Reagan and their two sons. Dixon sits some one hundred miles west of Chicago, and less than an hour's drive to the Mississippi River and the Iowa border. The town is geographically unusual by Illinois standards: the terrain of Illinois is largely flat, but Dixon is nestled among woods and rolling hills. Most of the state was dusted by a fine snow blowing across naked fields, the kind of cutting snow that hurts when it assaults uncovered faces. Dixon, however, enjoyed some protection on that frigid day.
Long before Ronald Reagan, the town already had its runins with presidential history. On May 12, 1832, Captain Abraham Lincoln and his company of mounted volunteers arrived at Fort...