The book: The never-before-told story of Ronald Reagan’s first quest for the presidency in the late 1960s is the focus of a new book by Gene Kopelson ’73, which also expands upon Reagan’s relationship with his private mentor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and with Robert F. Kennedy, his public political foe. Reagan’s 1968 Dress Rehearsal: Ike, RFK, and Reagan’s Emergence as a World Statesman takes readers behind the scenes, shedding light on Reagan’s relationship with Eisenhower. Ike tutored Reagan through his 1966 gubernatorial primary and his general election campaigns, and also mentored him on matters of foreign affairs.
Kopelson analysis includes information from newly uncovered audiotapes from Reagan’s days as governor of California, the Eisenhower-Reagan correspondence and files, Ike’s post-presidential diary, and interviews with 35 grassroots Reagan activists from 1968.
The author: Kopelson is president of the New England chapter of the Theodore Roosevelt Association and a Holocaust educator. Reagan’s 1968 Dress Rehearsal is his first book, but he has written numerous articles about Theodore Roosevelt and Reagan. While not studying and researching history, Kopelson practices medicine as a cancer physician.
Opening lines: “Ronald Reagan turned over in bed the evening of October 27, 1964 to kiss his wife Nancy good night, but he was worrying about the speech, A Time for Choosing, he had just given on behalf of Republican candidate for president, Barry Goldwater. ‘I hope I haven’t let Barry down,’ he fretted. The Reagans had returned home after watching his nationwide speech at the home of some friends who would become his future political supporters.”
Reviews: Secretary of State under Reagan George P. Schultz says, “Kopelson sheds new light on a neglected side of Reagan’s development into an astute statesman.” According to former Attorney General Edwin Meese, “Kopelson has provided an extensively detailed and carefully documented account of Ronald Reagan’s first foray into presidential candidacy.”