Peggy Noonan

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Peggy Noonan
Peggy Noonan by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Noonan in 2016
Margaret Ellen Noonan

(1950-09-07) September 7, 1950 (age 72)
New York City, New York, U.S.
EducationFairleigh Dickinson University (BA)
Political partyRepublican

Margaret Ellen Noonan (born 1950), known as Peggy Noonan, is a weekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and contributor to NBC News and ABC News. She was a primary speechwriter and Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan from 1984 to 1986 and has maintained a center-right leaning in her writings since leaving the Reagan administration. Five of Noonan's books have been New York Times bestsellers.

Noonan was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work on America: A Tribute to Heroes.

Early life and early career[edit]

Noonan was born on September 7, 1950, in Brooklyn, New York,[1][2] 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]


Noonan in 1986
Noonan meeting with President Ronald Reagan in 1988

In 1984, Noonan, as a speechwriter for President Ronald 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 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. The "Pointe du Hoc" speech ranks as the 58th best speech of the century, according to the website American Rhetoric.[6]

She also worked on a tribute Reagan gave to honor President 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's 1988 presidential campaign, 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 Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, in which he pledged: "Read my lips: no new taxes". Bush's subsequent reversal of this pledge is often cited as a major reason for his defeat in his 1992 re-election campaign.

In 1995, Noonan received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement presented by Awards Council member and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris.[7]

Later career[edit]

Noonan 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."[8] Such commentary resulted in a backlash from many conservatives.[9] In July 2022, in a column about the rise of remote work and empty office buildings, she wrote, "I don’t want America to look like an Edward Hopper painting. He was the great artist of American loneliness—empty streets, tables for one, everyone at the bar drinking alone. We weren’t meant to be a Hopper painting. We were meant to be and work together."[10]

Noonan is an author, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and a commentator on several news shows, including CNN, where she distanced herself from more conservative Republicans and Donald Trump's presidency. She was one of the founding members of, along with Liz Smith, Lesley Stahl, Mary Wells Lawrence, and Joni Evans.

In 2017, Noonan won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, for "rising to the moment with beautifully rendered columns that connected readers to the shared virtues of Americans during one of the nation's most divisive political campaigns."[11]

Personal life[edit]

In 1985, Noonan married Richard W. Rahn, who was then chief economist at the US Chamber of Commerce. Their son Will was born in 1987.[12]

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.[13]

Noonan lives in New York City.[14] She is a practicing Roman Catholic[15] and attends St. Thomas More Church on Manhattan's Upper East Side.[16]


While Noonan's speechwriting has been praised, her books and Wall Street Journal columns have been the source of criticism and mockery. Critics have singled out her reliance on personal anecdotes to make broad assertions about current events and changes in American politics and society.[17]

In her book What I Saw at the Revolution, she recounts seeing two homeless people outside the White House and then comments: "In Washington in the eighties, as in every American city, the street people no longer tried to arouse an empathy or create a connection that might prompt a hand into a pocket. They often sought to menace ... In Washington in the eighties, the insane were coolly used to advance ideological aims—cruelty in the name of higher compassion, engineered by men and women who were lauded in the press for their decency and concern."[18]

During Hurricane Katrina, she called for looters in New Orleans to be shot.[19] Henry Giroux called it a "barely coded rationale to shoot low-income Black people."[19]

On the day prior to the 2012 United States presidential election, Noonan wrote an article on her Wall Street Journal blog predicting a Mitt Romney victory after seeing Romney yard signs during a trip to Florida, among other indicators.[20] Noonan's prediction was the subject of ridicule.[21]

Nate Silver wrote asking Noonan to present evidence concerning her charge that the IRS was auditing taxpayers for political reasons.[22]

In a March 2013 column, she used her experience staying at a short-staffed airport hotel to demonstrate the Obama administration's lack of focus on job creation and infrastructure spending, even though infrastructure was a significant component of Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Noonan had previously criticized in November 2010.[23][24] In August 2019, Noonan was mocked for writing a column on Donald Trump's support among Hispanic Americans which centered on a conversation she had with a Dominican friend who worked at the deli counter at her grocery store.[25][26][27][28][29] In June 2019, Noonan wrote a column about the loyalty of Trump's supporters that was based on conversations she had with her sister and her uncle.[30]

Recurring themes in Noonan's books and columns include the decline of civility, social graces, religiosity, patriotism, bipartisanship and statesmanship in contemporary American politics and society, as well as enduring praise for past conservative political figures such as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. As a result, her writing is criticized for being overly nostalgic.[31]

In June 2019, after Noonan called on congressional Democrats to censure President Trump in the wake of the Mueller report, he attacked her on Twitter, calling her "simplistic" and claiming that she "is stuck in the past glory of Reagan."[32][33] In June 2022, Trump issued a statement calling Noonan a "weak and frail RINO [Republican In Name Only] ... who did much less for Ronald Reagan than she claims, and who actually said bad things about him and his ability to speak" after she wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the Republican Party was "rejecting" Trump in the aftermath of the 2021 United States Capitol attack.[34]


External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Noonan on What I Saw at the Revolution, February 18, 1990, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Noonan on Simply Speaking, February 19, 1998, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Noonan on The Case Against Hillary Clinton, April 3, 2000, C-SPAN
video icon Washington Journal interview with Noonan on Patriotic Grace, October 6, 2008, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Noonan on The Time of Our Lives, November 25, 2015, C-SPAN
video icon Interview with Noonan on The Time of Our Lives, November 21, 2015, C-SPAN
  • 1990: What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (ISBN 0-8129-6989-8)
  • 1994: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (ISBN 1-55850-509-1)
  • 1998: Simply Speaking: How to Communicate Your Ideas With Style, Substance, and Clarity (ISBN 0-7881-6775-8)
  • 1999: On Speaking Well (ISBN 0-06-098740-5) (a paperback edition of "Simply Speaking")
  • 1999: Character Above All (ISBN 0-684-82709-3) (one chapter in an anthology)
  • 2000: The Case Against Hillary Clinton (ISBN 0-06-039340-8)
  • 2001: When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan (ISBN 0-14-200168-6)
  • 2003: A Heart, A Cross And A Flag (ISBN 0-7432-5005-2)
  • 2005: John Paul The Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father (ISBN 0-670-03748-6)
  • 2008: Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now (ISBN 978-0-06-173582-0)
  • 2015: The Time of Our Lives: Collected Writings (ISBN 978-1-45-556313-5)


  1. ^ Bothmer, Bernard von (2007). Blaming "The Sixties": The Political Use of an Era, 1980–2004. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-493-87308-4.
  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.
  3. ^ "Laura Bush Fascinates Ex-speechwriter".
  4. ^ About Rutherford High School Archived October 20, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, 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.
  6. ^ Michael E. Eidenmuller (February 13, 2009). "Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century by Rank". American Rhetoric. Retrieved September 26, 2011.
  7. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  8. ^ Noonan, Peggy (October 17, 2008). "Palin's Failin'". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 18, 2008.
  9. ^ Blankley, Tony (October 22, 2008). "The Birth of the Me-Too Conservative". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved January 10, 2010.
  10. ^ Noonan, Peggy (July 22, 2022). "The Lonely Office Is Bad for America". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 23, 2022.
  11. ^ "2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners & Finalists", April 10, 2017.
  12. ^ Hugh Sidey, "The Presidency: Of Poets and Word Processors", Time, May 2, 1988.
  13. ^ Anne Morse, "Meeting Peggy Noonan," Crisis Magazine, September, 2004.
  14. ^ "Astuces pour en finir avec le tabac !". Archived from the original on January 13, 2009.
  15. ^ Noonan, Peggy (December 26, 2014). "Cardinal, Please Spare This Church". Wall Street Journal.
  16. ^ Today, Rick Hampson USA (March 3, 2015). "NYC Churches Hit The Market For Millions". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  17. ^ Benoît A La Guillaume, Luc (October 15, 2008). "Reaching out to the American middle class: Peggy Noonan's conservatism". E-rea. 6 (1). doi:10.4000/erea.146.
  18. ^ Noonan, Peggy (1990). What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era. New York: Random House. p. 117. ISBN 978-0812969894.
  19. ^ a b Giroux, Henry A. (2016). Stormy weather : Katrina and the politics of disposability. Routledge. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-315-63189-9. OCLC 958105523.
  20. ^ Noonan, Peggy. "Monday Morning". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original (Blog) on November 8, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2022. We begin with the three words everyone writing about the election must say: Nobody knows anything. Everyone's guessing.
  21. ^ Multiple sources:
  22. ^ Silver, Nate. "New Audit Allegations Show Flawed Statistical Thinking". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  23. ^ Noonan, Peggy. "The Anti-Confidence Man". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  24. ^ Amira, Dan. "Peggy Noonan Wishes Obama Had Done Some Kind of Stimulus-y Thing for Jobs". New York Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  25. ^ Noonan, Peggy. "America Is So in Play". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  26. ^ Reyes, Paul A. "Noonan's new amigo". The Hill. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  27. ^ O'Connor, Lydia. "WSJ Columnist Says She Has Proof Latino Voters Actually Like Donald Trump". HuffPost. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  28. ^ Pareene, Alex. "Hack List No. 8: Peggy Noonan". Salon. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  29. ^ Benen, Steve. "The reliability of Peggy Noonan's friend". MSNBC. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  30. ^ Noonan, Peggy. "My Sister, My Uncle and Trump". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  31. ^ Multiple sources:
  32. ^ @realDonaldTrump (June 2, 2019). "Peggy Noonan, the simplistic writer for Trump Haters all, is stuck in the past glory of Reagan and has no idea what is happening with the Radical Left Democrats, or how vicious and desperate they are. Mueller had to correct his ridiculous statement, Peggy never understood it!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  33. ^ Halaschak, Zachary. "Trump blasts Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan as a 'simplistic writer for Trump Haters'". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  34. ^ Kilander, Gustaf (June 27, 2022). "Trump lashes out over rumours Republicans are ditching him over Jan 6". The Independent. Retrieved June 28, 2022.

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