NBC News Presents Ronald Reagan is an impressive DVD that all Americans can appreciate - even those who opposed Reagan's policies. It features a 41-minute documentary of Reagan's life hosted by Stone Phillips, and I was actually more impressed with the documentary than I expected to be (especially since I don't subscribe to the twice-repeated boast on the back cover hailing NBC News as the most respected name in broadcast journalism). It covers Reagan's childhood years, his acting days, and of course his political career that took him from the Governor's mansion in California to the White House. The NBC folks did put a couple of subtle little jibes in there, but overall it's a professional, quite respectful look at the life of the late 40th president.
The NBC News documentary may get top billing here, but the true heart of this DVD (and the reason it is well worth your money) lies in the Special Features. You don't have to be a Reaganite to appreciate the significance of the historic speeches included here in their entirety: President Reagan's 1981 Inaugural Address, his famous 1987 Berlin speech in which he called upon Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," and his heartfelt Farewell Address in January 1989. I was especially pleased to be able to watch the complete Berlin speech of 1987. Everyone is familiar with President Reagan's "tear down this wall line," but short clips do not place the words - and the complete speech - in their full context. On the other side of the Brandenburg Gate were a large number of East Berliners who had come to hear the speech themselves (although they could not, of course, see the President). President Reagan was addressing his words not just to the Soviets, the West Germans, and the American people, he was speaking directly to East Berliners, as well. The 1981 Inaugural Address is also a fascinating speech, wherein President Reagan lays out his guiding principles on limiting government influence and achieving peace through strength. I cannot help but be drawn to some of the people in the background, however. There is a lot of milling around by camera men, for one thing; there's also the world's most obvious Secret Service agent sticking out like a sore thumb. Most interesting to me, however, is a red-headed young man sitting on about the fourth row. Early on, he keeps bending over into the aisle as if he is battling a stomachache, then a few minutes later a member of the Honor Guard comes up to him, walks him into the background, and seemingly makes him show him his ID, after which point "Opie" disappears.
The remaining bonus features will appeal strongly to my fellow Reaganites. You have "A Day with President Reagan" presented by David Brinkley; this fascinating look at a day in the President's life was made in the first month or two of Reagan's Presidency (before the assassination attempt), and it offers a wonderful look at Reagan's leadership style, commitment to reform the economy, and his personal feelings about beginning the last and most important job of his life. Several features provide an intimate look at Ronald Reagan the man. There is a Dateline feature about a woman who corresponded with Reagan from his acting days all the way up through his Presidency - wonderful glimpses of Reagan's inner thoughts can be found in these letters, and the very fact that he, even after becoming President, continued to correspond with a pen pal and long-time fan says a whole lot about the kind of man Ronald Reagan was. You also get an episode of General Electric Theater, a show Reagan hosted for some eight years. In this particular episode, Reagan himself appears in the drama, playing a former boxer turned manager dealing with an up and coming kid who doesn't realize all his victories are arranged in advance.
The most touching and memorable Bonus Features center around the love affair between Ronald and Nancy Reagan. One discusses and provides a few excerpts from Reagan's love letters to his wife - and he wrote her tons of love letters throughout his life. Then you have a Katie Couric interview with Nancy Reagan on the Reagans' 50th wedding anniversary in 2002. The features conclude with a short but poignant look at the days of national mourning following the death of President Reagan.
Ronald Reagan is, was, and always will be my hero and idol, so I enjoyed this DVD immensely, especially the Bonus Features. Those who opposed Reagan's policies can comfortably watch this DVD to get a picture of Reagan's true self, free of political partialities and biases. And those who are ambivalent toward President Reagan or are too young to really know how much he meant to this country and to the free world can benefit enormously from hearing some of Reagan's most memorable speeches and getting a sense of how he saved America and won the Cold War.