Michael Reagan joined the Center for Individual Freedom’s Corporate Counsel Renee Giachino on “Your Turn — Meeting Nonsense with Common Sense” to talk about issues that confront our culture today. The interview, which aired on WEBY 1330 AM Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio, included a discussion of his recently released book Twice Adopted. What follows are excerpts from the interview.
GIACHINO: My first guest is perhaps best known as the eldest son of President Reagan and actress Jane Wyman. But he is famous in his own right, as host of the incredibly popular radio program “The Michael Reagan Show” heard across over 200 stations every day, including this one. He is also the author of many successful books.
About every other week I invite an author on the program to talk about a recently released book. This week I have invited Mr. Reagan on to talk about his book Twice Adopted. Mr. Reagan are you with us?
REAGAN: I am here.
GIACHINO: Thank you very much. I greatly appreciate you coming on talk about the book and I am especially appreciative because I know that you have to go on the air yourself in just a short time.
REAGAN: Yes, I have to do that thing — that radio thing.
GIACHINO: I have a confession for the listeners. They know that every other week I have an author on, and I pledged to myself when I started doing this that I was going to read the books before I interviewed the author because I feel that I owe them that.
REAGAN: What kind of a host are you?
GIACHINO: I know. Well here is my confession: sometimes it is very hard to get through the entire book. Well, listeners out there, that was not at all true of my next guest’s book Twice Adopted by Michael Reagan. I feel like I neglected my children — which is exactly what this book teaches you not to do — because I could not put it down. What a wonderful book.
REAGAN: Well, the book is written for parents and for children who have lived through some of the things that I have lived through and ultimately made it out the other side. Many do not make it out of the other side, and I wanted to give them hope but also try to get parents to understand that we all too often as parents think that children think like tiny little adults. They don’t. They think like tiny little children and we internalize things within our own mindset and this can do so much damage to us if indeed our parents leave us alone.
I talk about in the book parents who say they spend quality time with their children — quality time has nothing to do with it. It is about the quantity of time with the children. Children need to know that they are number one in the household, and if we don’t allow them to be number one and give them the accolades that they need then someone else will move into that void and do it. And can you trust the person coming to that void?
GIACHINO: It certainly makes you want to bring all of your children into the nest and not let them out — the book Twice Adopted.
Let me give the listeners just a little overview. One review of your book, Twice Adopted, says the following: “Michael Reagan’s life is much more than just an interesting story. It is a testimony of how Christ allowed him to find healing from many of the issues that confront our culture today, such as sexual abuse, divorce, loneliness, the feeling of rejection, and the belief that God does not care about us. Michael Reagan’s first adoption gave him an identity, but he did not find his true identity until he found Christ.” Do you think that is a fair description of the book?
REAGAN: That is, it really is, for so many years of my life. People can turn the book over and look at the back chapter and go through the list. I thought that God hated me so what I thought I needed to do was hate God more than God hated me. I felt — in fact, I knew in my own child’s mind — that I was going to hell, that I was unwanted by anybody and that I was going to hell, and so I was doing my best to earn my way there of my own fruition not anybody else’s.
And it all started very early on that I was adopted, which was suppose to be a wonderful moment but then children at school would tease me that I was the illegitimate “Reagan.” But children did not use the word illegitimate they used the “b” word and the “b” word to me did not sound uplifting at all. So I started to internalize and think to myself that possibly the reason my birth mother Irene had given me away at birth was because I was illegitimate — I was the “b” word and she did not want to live with someone like that so she gave me up for adoption.
So I felt that Jane and Ron were not aware of my birth. They were not aware that I was illegitimate. So if I shared with them that I might be and they confirmed that, they might give me up like my birth mother. So I internalized it and never said a word — never said a word. And that stayed with me for many, many years of my life.
I run into adopted kids all of the time and what they will tell me behind their parents’ back is unbelievable. Parents, for some reason, have this feeling that they need to introduce their children as “Bob and Sally and these are my adopted kids George and Henrietta.” And every one of these kids come up to me and say that they wish their parents would stop telling everyone that they are adopted. I am their child and can I not be their child?
I said at my father’s eulogy a year ago that I was adopted into this family, but my mother and dad never once in their entire life referred to me in front of anybody as adopted. But I hear that all the time from adoptive parents and adoptees — that, in fact, they don’t like being called adopted. And that really is where all of this started with me when I was four and five years old.
GIACHINO: I think that probably because of your father’s position in politics it would have come out, but had Maureen not told you, as talk about in the book — had you not disclosed to her what she was getting for her birthday, she may not have told you.
REAGAN: That’s right. If I had not told her about that blue dress she might not have told me that I was adopted.
GIACHINO: For 97 cents, I think you said.
REAGAN: She thought that was a fair trade. She paid 97 cents for me, so she thought she could tell me anything she wanted to tell me. Back then though what they told parents to say was that they were lucky they were chosen and go on from there. And I bought into it.
Unfortunately though children do not approach it as adults — they approach it as children and it is like an Achilles heel and it just gnaws on you. And that certainly is what it did to me, and that is just the beginning of things that started to go south with me in my life.
I read the Bible when I was six or seven years old. I went home and thought the Bible might have some answers about the “b” word and found out that it did. And in Deuteronomy 23:2, which said that all illegitimate children and their children to the tenth generation shall never enter the kingdom of Heaven. And that just rubber stamped everything that I was believing. And I closed the Bible — it was 1952 and I was in my mother’s den, and I did not reopen the Bible until 1978. Twenty-six years later I finally reopened the Bible.
And I tell this story and people say, “Well, Michael, don’t you know the Old Testament from the New Testament?” Well, yes, I do now. But I did not as a seven year old. And that is what people need to understand. You think that as a four year old, five year old, six year old and seven year old that you think like an adult. You don’t. As a seven year old it was devastating to read that passage in the Bible. I thought my life was over. And I thought that I could never share with my mother the information about my illegitimacy.
GIACHINO: In the book, as an adult, you write about how you found the “lost piece of the puzzle.” And I agree with you that we all may have a missing puzzle piece in our lives at one time or another. Sometimes I feel like I am missing a couple of them. How did you come to this realization, and can you explain to the listeners what you meant, what you still mean by the lost piece of the puzzle?
REAGAN: Well, you have to go through my life because there really were a lot of lost pieces of the puzzle for me because I was so internalizing everything and playing off the victim side of it for so many years. You have to explain to the listeners that I go from finding out and thinking about the illegitimacy and what I read in the Bible in 1952 to my mother taking me out of private school when I was in third grade and putting me into public school for the first time in my life and put me with an after-school counsel. Now I begin at the ripe old age of seven to be sexually molested by this pedophile for almost a year of my life, and ultimately he takes me up to the Santa Monica mountains and by the time I am eight years old he has me developing nude photographs of me, pornographic photographs he had taken of me when I was eight years old, and he was putting a hand on my right shoulder and telling me “wouldn’t my mother like to have a copy of this photograph?” that he just had me develop in the darkroom in his apartment in Los Angeles. And so at that point I knew that my life was over and I became hell on wheels.
It took me six years to figure a way out of my mother’s house, but I wanted to make sure that I got out of there before she found out about the pictures and kicked me out. I moved in with my dad when I was fourteen.
But I was not much better with my dad and Nancy because I thought I was the evil one in the family. It was not until really a Christian woman comes into my life in 1973 — my wife — and begins praying for me. And she does not even know why she is praying for me. We get married in 1975, and she is the one, ultimately, who begins to put this person back together through her prayers and Christian life. She is putting up with this angry kid — I’m still a child in so many ways. I am mad and losing my temper, and I am mad at God and I am blaming God and I am mad at my parents and thinking that if I was not a famous kid all of this stuff would not have happened to me. And wondering why God allowed all of these things to happen to me. And I am doing all of this and I am not successful at anything that I am doing. Even though I become a success in boat racing, I am still not successful because I cannot get rid of those photographs in my mind that that man took and what happened to me because I could not let the world know a man had touched me, and I was the son of Ronald Reagan who is now running for President of the United States of America.
And so she gets me back into church, which is the hardest thing for her to do, and begins the process of having me finally start looking to God for answers instead of blaming God for all that is going on in my entire life. She is the one who ultimately is responsible for putting all of the pieces back together and helping me once again find God and latch on to God instead of pushing God away.
GIACHINO: I cannot imagine anything worse than what you went through as a third grader being sexually molested by a man. But even before then, you write about how lonely your life was. You were adopted and people kept referring to you as illegitimate — using the “b” word and then you were sent off when you were old enough to boarding school to feel rejected again. At three, your parents divorced and again you felt rejected. It is just an amazing book, Twice Adopted, how you allowed the Lord into your life to overcome so many barriers. To get over any one of these major hurdles is really an amazing task.
REAGAN: Renee, it’s really interesting. I sit here and I think about this and I sometimes chuckle. I do sit back and I do sometimes say, “My God, what were you thinking?” You are right. In radio, how often do we talk about children born out of wedlock? How often do we talk about single-parent homes and raising a family? How often do we talk about a child in a divorce situation and what a child goes through? And as you see in my book, I define divorce basically as two people walking into a child’s room and breaking everything that is important to the child and then walking out and expecting the child to put everything together.
So I lived through that era and then the sexual abuse and the child pornography being a part of that. Ultimately, God chose this woman in my life, Colleen, my wife, and brings me through this fire to the other side of it. My pastor, Jack Hayford, mentors me through all of this and I don’t think I got through all of this to sit back — and God and I have had this conversation, and say, “Well, I did it and now it’s up to you to do it, too.” Hence, I end up writing the book.
This past year I spoke at the Billy Graham Crusade at the Rose Bowl in November. They asked me to speak the final day of the Crusade and I was just amazed. There were 88,000 people and I thought to myself as people come up to me and say “I love the eulogy you gave about your father,” as I said at the Billy Graham Crusade: “If my dad had died 20 years earlier you would not have gotten that eulogy.” Because 20 years earlier I was not even a Christian. Twenty years earlier I was still blaming God for the things going on in my life. I was still blaming my dad for being so important that he had to spend time with everybody else but me and I wanted him to be with me. And I would have been and angry man, and you would not have seen what you saw at the funeral of my father one year ago.
GIACHINO: On the subject of divorce, you write about how quite ironic it was that you were a kid with five parents. You had your birth mother, your adopted mother and father, a step-mother and then a step-father, but you still felt like you had no parents at all. What advice can you offer to kids who may feel that way and to their parents, but particularly to those parents who are divorced for what you have determined “good cause.” In the book you define “good cause” as one of the three “a’s” — adultery, addiction or abuse. What advice do you have for them?
REAGAN: We have friends doing the very things that I write about in the book not to do. So often in divorce, parents will use their children against the other member of the divorce. They use their children as pawns. Children so often, unfortunately, feel responsible for the divorce. And we need to know that we are not responsible. We need to know that whatever is happening between our mothers and fathers, that we are still loved by both. One of the big problems in the world today is the lack of fathers in the home.
The one great thing — you know, as I became a Christian again — I am able to look back and see the part my father played. That my father, even though he was divorced from my mother, he was with us as much as he could be with us. And spent the time and was there. I did not see it because I had so many issues going on in my life.
What we need to sit there and understand is that if we are going to have children they need to know that they are the most important products in our homes. They need to know that they are loved by us and they are loved by us enough that they do not have to find it elsewhere. They do not have to reach out or allow someone else to reach into their lives while they are vulnerable and give them the love that they were searching for at home.
Divorces happen because people are selfish. They are selfish about this and they are selfish about that. Children are suffering in
GIACHINO: That’s right. We are talking with Michael Reagan, author and famous radio show host. We have talked about sexual abuse, child molestation and divorce. Another controversial subject you bring up in the book is abortion. We all know that abortion does not just happen in bad families or even those families without faith. In fact, I think you make a pretty good case that many kids in Christian homes feel that they are left with no other option when faced with an unwanted pregnancy because they may be hearing, as you put it in the book, “you better not come home and tell me that you are pregnant because if you get pregnant you can just get out of my house.” Can you help us understand what you mean?
REAGAN: Yes, I talk about that in my book. If you want to cut back on abortions, us Christians need to be more like Christ. God sends his only Son to die for my sins, but so often we fathers are unwilling to do the same thing for our children. Our children get in trouble and we dump on them — we tell them, “That’s it, you are out of the house, we don’t want you around anymore.” I think to myself that if God had played that card we would not be saved.
How many of our own daughters are we sending to abortion clinics to get abortions because they are so worried about coming home and telling their father that they made a mistake and got pregnant? If we as fathers can be more Christ like in our homes and raising our children and have the forgiveness of God, we will be cutting back on the abortions. The reality is that there are plenty of Christian girls getting abortions today because they are fearful of coming home and facing the wrath of their father — not so much their mother, but their father.
GIACHINO: One of the things that prompted me to read your book and to invite you on the program to talk about Twice Adopted is some information that you have in the book about the “.xxx” Internet extension. As everyone knows, over the last several months there has been a battle over sex offenders and obscenity in our country and that battle has elevated.
Recently, right here in the State of Florida, we have seen far too many high profile cases of missing and sexually abused children and legislation has finally been introduced in this state that will require sex offenders to wear tracking devices. But we cannot fool ourselves. Even the ability to track these sex offenders in our communities is not going to keep them out of our houses and away from our children.
As we discussed, you are a victim of sexual abuse and child pornography, what can you tell us about the “.xxx” Internet extension and your plan for that?
REAGAN: Renee, I am going to take a guess that you have never actually interviewed anyone who has been the actual photo in child pornography?
GIACHINO: That’s right, not on the radio.
REAGAN: Right. Well, we always hear that we know child pornography or that we know pornography when we see it. Well, I know it because I was it. We always talk about the person looking at pornography. We never talk about the damage done to the person who is the photograph because it is the worst damage that you can ever think of. I talk about it in the book as the slayer of the soul — your molester.
I write about “xxx.com” in the book. I write about the opinions of Sandra Day O’Connor and how the Supreme Court tried to protect children the last time and what the Court rejected. I’ve talked to lawyers about what we need to do is write legislation that hopefully will go to the Congress in this year, in this session, that will make it mandatory for pornographers to be on their domain. That way their First Amendment is covered, so that argument goes away. But the other side of the coin is that we can protect our homes and our families and we can just block the “xxx.com” sites from coming in.
Pornography today is so pervasive. It is in our churches. As you read in my book, 50% of the church workers today are into pornography. This is going on in the workplace and it is going on in the home. It is ruining marriages and it is ruining lives. It is titillating children and getting them addicted to pornography at a young age. We need to take pornography and put it in its own domain and on its own highway so that we can block it out of our workplace and block it out of our homes and block it out of those areas of our lives so they don’t come in and ruin marriages and children and families.
So we are actively writing legislation that we hopefully will give to Congress after the August recess and hopefully be voted on by the end of the year and make it mandatory for these things to happen and to protect the children and to protect the families.
GIACHINO: In the book you borrow a phrase from your father, Ronald Reagan, that he used to discuss the Soviet Union — that is “trust, but verify.” You talk about using that same phrase as parents with respect to child molestation. Can you tell us what you mean by that?
REAGAN: What we have to do as parents is be vigilant with our children. What I talk about in the book is that we put computers in our children’s rooms and we put them in the privacy of their rooms and we don’t know who they are talking about. We should put them in the family room so we know what is going on on the computers.
What is happening in
We need to be parents to our children. Our children want us to be parents to them. And we have to verify the things that they are doing and where they are on the Web. And to protect our children from all of these things that are trying to get into their lives and destroy them at a very early age.
GIACHINO: That’s right. The book is Twice Adopted by Michael Reagan. I do appreciate your coming on the program. This half hour has gone way too fast for me. I know you have to get ready for your show.
I know that you can find the book in any bookstore and pretty soon you will find it at the front counter as a best seller. It’s a wonderful book, Twice Adopted by Michael Reagan.
REAGAN: Also, if I can, they can get signed copies from my website, and if they cannot find it at their bookstore they can go to Amazon.com.
GIACHINO: Your website address?
REAGAN: It’s Reagan.com.
GIACHINO: Thank you very much, Michael Reagan.
REAGAN: Thank you.July 14, 2005