A strange thing happened yesterday morning.
My in-laws were visiting for the weekend from Houston, and before they headed back home we decided to join them for brunch. During the meal, out of the blue, my mother-in-law said, “I wonder whatever happened to Nancy Reagan. Is she still alive?”
“Yes,” I replied.
About thirty minutes later, I discovered I was wrong. Reading the news from his phone, my husband announced, “Actually Nancy Reagan is dead. She died this morning.”
Nancy Reagan’s passing conjures up many emotions. As an American citizen, I can proudly say that the first vote I ever cast for president was for Ronald Reagan. Like many Americans my age, his administration shaped much of what I believe America should be, “that shining city on a hill,” and how I believe a president should lead and act.
While he was president, I can honestly say I didn’t give much thought to Mrs. Reagan. I knew many people admired her for the style she brought to the White House after many dreary years, but I also was quite aware that some people didn’t care for her largely for the same reason.
Everyone knew of Nancy Reagan’s “just say no” campaign against drugs and deemed it a worthy cause. It held special meaning for someone like me who grew up in Plano, Texas, an affluent community north of Dallas, where a rash of heroin overdoses killed a shocking number of young people in a single year. One of those was a boy who lived across the street from us. To this day, I can still remember him playing in the street in front of our house as a small child. Knowing that something as insidious as drug abuse killed him before his twentieth birthday always made the phrase “just say no” take on special meaning. It wasn’t just a slogan. If implemented, it could actually save lives.
Style and a war against drugs wasn’t the only thing Nancy Reagan brought to the White House. Reading her obituaries and tributes today, I realize there was something more that overrides all the rest and that’s that she was indeed one half of an exceptional team.
As a Reagan friend has said, “Without Nancy, there would have been no Governor Reagan, no President Reagan.”
That’s pretty powerful when you think about it.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s partnership was one of the great love stories of presidential history. Their bond was so great that even their own children felt a bit left out. Growing up, I loved reading stories about the lives of the presidents and the first ladies. As I got older, I discovered the sad fact that most of these people were indeed quite human with many foibles and frailties. Oftentimes, those spilled over into their personal relationships. Some were blatantly obvious. John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton were womanizers. Others were more subtle. Not until long after their deaths did the world learn of the affairs of presidents they very much admired while alive, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Unlike those presidents, you never read even a hint of unfaithfulness and scandal with Ronald Reagan. Instead, it was quite clear that he loved and was extremely devoted to Nancy.
If it’s true that without Nancy Reagan’s love, encouragement, advice, and support, there never would have been Ronald Reagan as we knew him, then Americans who admire, love, and respect President Reagan should certainly take a moment today to honor and remember the person who long stood by his side and meant the most to him, Nancy Reagan.