Peggy Noonan

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Peggy Noonan
Reagan with Peggy Noonan.jpg
Noonan meeting with President Ronald Reagan in 1988
Born Margaret Ellen Noonan
(1950-09-07) September 7, 1950 (age 72)[1][2]
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality American
Occupation Author, columnist, speechwriter
Known for Presidential speechwriter

Margaret Ellen "Peggy" Noonan (born September 7, 1950) is an American author of several books on politics, religion, and culture, and a weekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal. She was a primary speech writer and Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and has maintained a conservative leaning in her writings since leaving the Reagan Administration.

Five of Noonan's books have been New York Times bestsellers. Noonan is a trustee of the Manhattan Institute. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from Miami University; St. John Fisher College; her alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Adelphi College; and Saint Francis College. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on America: A Tribute to Heroes. She has also been widely recognized for her regular appearances on ABC's This Week and NBC's Meet The Press.

In her political writings, Noonan frequently cites the political figures she admires, including Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and Edmund Burke.

Early life

Noonan was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of a merchant seaman. She is of Irish descent.[3] Noonan is a graduate of Rutherford High School in Rutherford, New Jersey, and Fairleigh Dickinson University.[4]

Noonan worked as the daily CBS Radio commentary writer for anchorman Dan Rather at CBS News, whom she once called "the best boss I ever had." From 1975 through 1977 she worked the overnight shift as a newswriter at WEEI Radio in Boston, where she was later Editorial and Public Affairs Director.

In 1978 and 1979 she was an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.[5]

Career in presidential politics

In 1984, Noonan, as a speechwriter for President Reagan, authored his "Boys of Pointe du Hoc" speech on the 40th anniversary of D-day. She also wrote Reagan's address to the nation after the Challenger explosion, drawing upon the poet John Magee's famous words about aviators who "slipped the surly bonds of earth... and touched the face of God." The latter is ranked as the eighth best American political speech of the 20th century, according to a list compiled by professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M University and based on the opinions of "137 leading scholars of American public address." The "Pointe du Hoc" speech ranks as the 58th best speech of the century.[6]

She also worked on a tribute Reagan gave to honor John F. Kennedy at a fundraising event held at the McLean, Virginia, home of Senator Edward M. Kennedy in the spring of 1984.

Later, while working for then Vice President George H. W. Bush, Noonan coined the phrase "a kinder, gentler nation" and also popularized "a thousand points of light," two memorable catchphrases used by Bush. Noonan also wrote the speech in which Bush pledged: "Read my lips: no new taxes" during his 1988 presidential nomination acceptance speech in New Orleans (Bush's subsequent reversal of this pledge is often cited as a reason for his defeat in his 1992 re-election campaign).

Later career

Noonan also worked as a consultant on the American television drama The West Wing.

In mid August 2004, Noonan took a brief unpaid leave from the Wall Street Journal to campaign for George W. Bush's reelection.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Noonan wrote about Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy in the Wall Street Journal. In one opinion piece, Noonan expressed her view that Palin did not demonstrate "the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office," concluding that Palin's candidacy marked a "vulgarization in American Politics" that is "no good... for conservatism... [or] the country."[7] Such commentary resulted in a backlash from many conservatives.[8] In the 2012 presidential campaign, in the days prior to the November election, she expressed optimism for a Mitt Romney victory over Barack Obama because she said she saw happy faces and optimism among Republicans.

Noonan is now an author, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and a commentator on several news shows. She is a member of the Manhattan Institute's board of trustees and one of the founding members of, along with Liz Smith, Lesley Stahl, Mary Wells Lawrence and Joni Evans.

Personal life

In 1985, Noonan married Richard W. Rahn, who was then chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They lived in Great Falls, Virginia. Their son Will was born in 1987.[9]

Noonan and her husband were divorced after five years of marriage. In 1989 she returned with her son to her native New York. In 2004, according to an interview with Crisis Magazine, she lived in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights with her son, who attended the nearby Saint Ann's School.[10]

Noonan currently lives in New York City.[11] Noonan is a practicing Roman Catholic.[12]


In 2004, Noonan conducted a controversial interview with Mel Gibson for Reader’s Digest that addressed issues of anti-Semitism in his movie The Passion of The Christ. At one point Noonan asked Gibson, “The Holocaust happened, right?” Gibson responded, “Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. Many people lost their lives.”

Gibson’s muted response and Noonan's failure to press him on it drew widespread criticism. "Rather than challenge Mel Gibson on this, Ms. Noonan merely reinforces his junk history," wrote Frank Rich in The New York Times.[13] “Reading this,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, “I have to conclude that, at best, Mr. Gibson is ignorant and, at worse, he is insensitive. War was not the cause of the Holocaust; Jews died because of who they were.” Similarly, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, sent Gibson a letter that read, "I had hoped that your remarks on the Holocaust during your interview with Peggy Noonan for Reader's Digest would be an opportunity to take us in an entirely new direction. Sadly, according to the excerpt I read, I was mistaken.” [14]

In, Christopher Hitchens called Noonan’s questions “simperingly lenient” and Gibson’s response to the Holocaust question “one of the most frigid and shrugging things I have ever read.” [15]



  1. Bothmer, Bernard von (2007). Blaming "The Sixties": The Political Use of an Era, 1980--2004. ProQuest. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-493-87308-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Noonan, Peggy (2003). What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era. Random House Publishing Group. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-8129-6989-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. About Rutherford High School, Rutherford High School. Accessed July 7, 2007. "Career diplomat and ambassador Thomas H. Pickering and presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan are among those honored as part of this tradition."
  5. "Peggy Noonan -". Retrieved September 26, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Michael E. Eidenmuller (February 13, 2009). "Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century by Rank". "American Rhetoric. Retrieved September 26, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Noonan, Peggy (October 17, 2008). "Palin's Failin'". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 18, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Blankley, Tony (October 22, 2008). "The Birth of the Me-Too Conservative". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved January 10, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hugh Sidey, "The Presidency: Of Poets and Word Processors", Time (magazine), May 2, 1988.
  10. Anne Morse, "Meeting Peggy Noonan," Crisis Magazine, September, 2004. Archived October 22, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Margaret Rahn in Busch/Quayle (sic) Alumni Directory.
  12. Noonan, Peggy (December 26, 2014). "Cardinal, Please Spare This Church". Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links