Kennedy and Reagan

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Advance praise for KENNEDY AND REAGAN:

Kennedy and Reagan for blog“An engrossing ‘comparative biography’ of two presidents who remain enduringly popular. . . . In a smooth, well-written chronological narrative, the author explores and compares each stage of their lives, seeking to explain the continuing appeal of these disparate men, both of whom are frequently ranked in polls as being among the great presidents. . . . A fresh, welcome view of two much-revered leaders.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Two presidents, stylishly defining their times, great communicators who fashioned personal legends even while defying political labels—John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were historical agents of change who transformed themselves before renewing their country. How they did so forms the heart of this deeply moving portrait, from their nomadic early years, whose loneliness was offset by the romance of books, to adult power and acclaim sharply at odds with their emotional isolation. Farris has distilled a vast amount of the historical and biographical literature to create a stunningly original narrative. Long before he concludes, you will appreciate as never before just how much these uncommon leaders have in common, and why Americans of both parties look to each as their presidential beau ideal.”—Richard Norton Smith, presidential historian and author 

It’s been fifty years since JFK’s assassination and nearly twenty since Ronald Reagan disappeared from public life. While they never ran head-to-head, they developed their legacies in competing ways and those legacies battle each other even today. The story of one illuminates the other, and explains our expectations for the presidency and whom we elect. Even though one is the model Democrat and the other the model Republican, their appeal is now bipartisan. Republicans quote Kennedy to justify tax cuts or aggressive national defense; Democrats use Reagan’s pragmatism to shame Republicans into supporting tax increases and compromise.

Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, is proud to announce the release of KENNEDY AND REAGAN: WHY THEIR LEGACIES ENDURE, by Scott Farris (November 5, 2013, 978-0-7627-8144-7; $27.95 hardcover). Partly a “comparative biography” that explores John F. Kennedy’s and Ronald Reagan’s contemporaneous lives from birth until 1960, Scott Farris’s follow-up to his widely praised Almost President shows how the experiences, attitudes, and skills developed by each man later impacted his presidency. 

Farris also tackles the key issues—civil rights, foreign affairs, etc.—that impacted each man’s time in office. How did previous life experiences form their views on these issues, and how do their dealings around each issue compare and contrast? Bookended by an examination of their standing in public opinion and how that has influenced subsequent politicians, plus an exploration of how the assassination of Kennedy and attempted assassination of Reagan colored our memories, KENNEDY AND REAGAN also shows how aides, friends and families of each man have burnished their reputations long after their presidencies ended:

  • While Reagan was the son of a shoe salesman and Kennedy an heir to one of America’s greatest fortunes, their family dynamics were remarkably similar—roguish fathers, pious mothers, a domineering and favored older brother, and a rootless childhood. (Reagan because his parents never owned a home; Kennedy because his family owned so many.)
  • Both Kennedy and Regan enjoyed astonishing success while still in their early 20s, giving them both confidence and impatience. Neither waited his turn in politics, and both changed the way we select our presidents.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans are hostage to Kennedy’s and Reagan’s legacies. Every four years, depending on who is in or out of power, Republicans search for the “next Reagan” to be their presidential nominee, while Democrats yearn for a “new Kennedy.”
  • While there are many areas where Kennedy and Reagan pursued similar policies, such as income tax reduction, their differences define current differences between the two parties.
  • Kennedy’s assassination and Reagan’s near-assassination serve as bookends to a very turbulent era in American history. These shocking events shaped each man’s legacy.

Scott Farris, author of Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation (Lyons Press), is a former bureau chief for United Press International and a political columnist. He has managed several political campaigns and has appeared on the 2011 C-SPAN television series The Contenders, MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Melissa Harris-Perry. His work has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.  He lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit him at

Praise for Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation

“An engaging study of men who came up short in the presidential arena but still had a significant effect on the life of the nation.” —Wall Street Journal


 “Farris writes with a lively flair, skillfully illustrating his solid historical research with revelatory anecdotes and facts.” —Publishers Weekly

“Farris succeeds in making the book as much a celebration of American democracy as it is a collection of biographies.”—Roll Call


Engrossing biographical sketches.”—Christian Science Monitor


 “A lively, opinionated examination of the instructive role of the loser in presidential races.” —Kirkus Reviews

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