Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
  The Arts
   + [ Public Service ]
  Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


If you like Peggy Noonan's story, you might also like:
George H.W. Bush,
Sam Donaldson,
Nora Ephron,
Doris Kearns Goodwin,
Nicholas Kristof,
David McCullough
and Dan Rather

Peggy Noonan's recommended reading: The Moviegoer

Related Links:

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

Peggy Noonan
Peggy Noonan
Profile of Peggy Noonan Biography of Peggy Noonan Interview with Peggy Noonan Peggy Noonan Photo Gallery

Peggy Noonan Biography

Journalist and Presidential Speechwriter

Peggy Noonan Date of birth: September 7, 1950

Print Peggy Noonan Biography Print Biography

  Peggy Noonan

Margaret Ellen Noonan was born in Brooklyn, New York to a working class family of Irish descent. Peggy, as she was known from an early age, was one of seven children. Her father was a furniture salesman, and with so many children to raise, the family budget allowed for few luxuries. One pleasure young Peggy could afford was reading. Fiction and poetry fed her love of language and narrative, and she won praise from her teachers for her first efforts at writing verse.

Like many Irish American families, the Noonans took special pride in the election of John F. Kennedy as President of the United States. Young Peggy followed the news closely, and sometimes stayed up late into the night reading. The Noonan family moved more than once when Peggy was growing up, first to Massapequa, Long Island, then to Rutherford, New Jersey, where she graduated from Rutherford High School. She stayed in Rutherford to work her way through Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she majored in English literature.

Peggy Noonan Biography Photo
By the time she entered college, many of her fellow students were protesting against America's involvement in the Vietnam War. Noonan believed that the war was an essential component of America's struggle against communism, a commitment initiated by President Kennedy. As more and more of her contemporaries moved farther away from the values she had grown up with, she looked to more conservative thinkers and leaders for inspiration.

In 1975, she found work writing news on the overnight shift at WEEI Radio in Boston. She rose quickly to become Editorial and Public Affairs Director. In 1978 and 1979 she taught as an adjunct professor of Journalism at New York University. In 1981, she was hired by CBS Radio to write daily commentary for the network's leading personality, Dan Rather. For the next three years she wrote Rather's daily radio broadcast and they worked well together, although their views on many issues differed. Peggy Noonan had become an enthusiastic supporter of the new President, Ronald Reagan, and wanted more than anything to work in his administration. Through an editor at the conservative journal National Review, she was introduced to the head of the White House speechwriting department, and early in 1984 she went to work in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.

Peggy Noonan Biography Photo
At first she was assigned to write speeches for minor occasions for both the President and the First Lady, and went four months without ever meeting the President himself. The turning point came when she wrote remarks for the President to deliver at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. The remarks were so well received that after she met the President for the first time on his return from Europe, he singled her out for praise. In his second term, she was named a Special Assistant to the President and he called on her to prepare some of his most important speeches. One of her most memorable assignments came when she composed the remarks the President delivered after the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. He had been scheduled to deliver the annual State of the Union message to Congress that evening. Instead, he spoke to the nation from the Oval Office. The speech has been voted one of the ten best American political speeches of the 20th century. Noonan's closing words quoted the World War II-era poem "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and '"slipped the surly bonds of Earth" to "touch the face of God."

As President Reagan's second term came to an end, Noonan left the White House to write for the presidential campaign of Reagan's Vice President, George H.W. Bush. She was the principal writer for candidate Bush's speech at the 1988 Republican convention. Phrases from that speech, "a kinder, gentler nation," and "a thousand points of light," entered the language of American politics for many years. The speech was widely credited with helping to secure Bush's election as the 41st President that November.

After Bush's victory, Noonan wrote President Reagan's farewell address to the nation. After Bush's inauguration, she decided to leave speechwriting to embark on an independent writing career. While working in the White House, Noonan had met Richard Rahn, Chief Economist at the U.S Chamber of Commerce. The two were married in 1985 and their son Will was born two years later, but in 1989 the marriage ended, and she and her son moved back to New York, where she had spent most of her life.

Peggy Noonan Biography Photo
Noonan shared her experience of the Reagan administration in a bestselling memoir, What I Saw at the Revolution, published in 1990. She followed it in 1994 with Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, a collection of personal reflections on motherhood, the contemporary political scene and her own search for a deeper experience of her Christian faith. In her book Simply Speaking, she shared her expertise in speechwriting and public speaking. She took a look back at the life and presidency of her former boss, President Ronald Reagan in the biography When Character Was King. Since 2000, Noonan has written a weekly column, "Declarations," for the Wall Street Journal. Her columns from the year following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 were collected in the volume A Heart, a Cross and a Flag. .

Noonan took a leave from her duties at the Wall Street Journal to participate in President George W. Bush's re-election campaign. After the election, she returned to her writing, publishing a book on Pope John Paul II and his influence on her own spiritual journey. In 2015 she published a comprehensive collection of her columns and essays, The Time of Our Lives.

In addition to her books and newspaper column, Noonan is a highly visible participant in the national conversation through her regular appearances on the Sunday morning programs, This Week and Meet the Press.

This page last revised on Jan 15, 2016 14:57 EDT
How To Cite This Page