Nancy Reagan, 94, died earlier today from congestive heart failure at her home in BelAir, California. She served as First Lady from January 20, 1981 through January 20, 1989.
The Reagans were in the White House during the time of “Dynasty” and “ladies who lunch.” America had come back from some of the worst double-digit interest rates and inflation the country had seen in decades, and was on its way to winning the cold war.
But what I remember most about Mrs. Reagan was not only her style, graciousness and class that she brought back to the White House after the Carter years, but her devotion to, and love for, her husband. A behind-the-scenes power in the White House, she had no problem being called Mrs. Ronald Reagan. He was first in her life, and she dedicated her years during her term as First Lady of California and then later in the White House to ensuring her husband had the love and support a man in his position, as leader of the free world, was certain to need. She was the embodiment of a woman who embodied the phrase, “behind every successful man is a woman.” Sorry, friends, but you don’t see a too much of that these days, in our self-absorbed, “it’s all about me” culture.
During her years in the White House, she also firmly believed that the White House was the “people’s house.” She got, what I call a bum wrap during her first two years, as there was the big brouhaha over the White House china episode. However, the china was purchased through private donations, not taxpayer money. She also redecorated the private living quarters of the White House, much of which still remains today.
With all this said, the passing of Nancy Reagan during this time in the campaign cycle during the run for the nomination for the Presidency in both parties, is quite poignant. Ronald Reagan was viciously attacked from all sides as being a right-wing extremist, not very good ex-movie actor, with no chance of getting elected to the highest office in the land. Yet Reagan did not respond in kind, instead he used humor combined with wit.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan remain as icons of an era they ushered in, believing that America’s best days were yet to come, believing in the power of the people to decide their fate and determine their aspirations. Small government that stood out of the way of businesses and entrepreneurs. An America that was respected on the international stage, and led from the front and not from behind.
Ronald Reagan would not recognize the America we have today. And yet, if he were here, I’ll wager he’d roll up his sleeves, and tell us Americans, “we have work to do. Now let’s get this done, turn this country around, and ensure that we give our children and grandchildren a better life.”
A truly great couple. A truly great love story. Together again. R.I.P.