First Lady of the United States (1981—1989)
- Someone asked me if I wanted to make a New Year's wish, and I said yes — and it was that I'd like to see every young person in the world join the "Just Say No" to drugs club. Well, just the fact that Congress has proclaimed "Just Say No Week" and in light of all the activities taking place, it seems that my wish is well on its way to coming true.
- On the "Just Say No to Drugs Week" (1986), as quoted in "JUST SAY NO" at The Ronald Reagan Foundation
- Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. Thank God we found each other. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it's true. It did. Forty-six years? Can't imagine life without him.
- On her relation with her husband, Ronald Reagan, as quoted in an interview with Vanity Fair (July 1998), and in Saving The Reagan Presidency : Trust Is The Coin Of The Realm (2005) by David M. Abshire, p. 107
- Variant: Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it's true. It did. I can't imagine life without him.
- As quoted in "End of a love story" at BBC (5 June 2004)
- I must say that acting was good training for the political life that lay ahead of us.
- As quoted in Business : The Ultimate Resource (2002) by Daniel P. Goleman
- I don't intend for this to take on a political tone. I'm just here for the drugs.
- At an anti-drug rally, as quoted in 1001 Dumbest Things Ever Said (2004) by Steven D. Price, p. 19
- I am a big believer that you have to nourish any relationship. I am still very much a part of my friends' lives and they are very much a part of my life. A First Lady who does not have this source of strength and comfort can lose perspective and become isolated.
- As quoted in Winning with People : Discover the People Principles That Work for You Every Time (2005) by John C. Maxwell, p. 186
- The time for a woman to serve as our President has come – really, now is the time — and I think the idea of having a former First Lady as the leader of the free world is really quite a marvelous notion. I want Hillary to win. Even though I admire two of the current potential Republican nominees, I have no interest in seeing either of them lead this country.
- In an interview for First Ladies in Their Own Words, as quoted in Nancy Reagan: "I Want Hillary to Win" by Pierce Bublé at National Report (10 April 2015)
Just Say No (1986)Edit
- As a mother, I've always thought of September as a special month, a time when we bundled our children off to school, to the warmth of an environment in which they could fulfill the promise and hope in those restless minds. But so much has happened over these last years, so much to shake the foundations of all that we know and all that we believe in. Today there's a drug and alcohol abuse epidemic in this country, and no one is safe from it — not you, not me, and certainly not our children, because this epidemic has their names written on it. Many of you may be thinking: "Well, drugs don't concern me." But it does concern you. It concerns us all because of the way it tears at our lives and because it's aimed at destroying the brightness and life of the sons and daughters of the United States.
- For 5 years I've been traveling across the country — learning and listening. And one of the most hopeful signs I've seen is the building of an essential, new awareness of how terrible and threatening drug abuse is to our society. This was one of the main purposes when I started, so of course it makes me happy that that's been accomplished. But each time I meet with someone new or receive another letter from a troubled person on drugs, I yearn to find a way to help share the message that cries out from them.
- Drugs steal away so much. They take and take, until finally every time a drug goes into a child, something else is forced out — like love and hope and trust and confidence. Drugs take away the dream from every child's heart and replace it with a nightmare, and it's time we in America stand up and replace those dreams. Each of us has to put our principles and consciences on the line, whether in social settings or in the workplace, to set forth solid standards and stick to them. There's no moral middle ground. Indifference is not an option. We want you to help us create an outspoken intolerance for drug use. For the sake of our children, I implore each of you to be unyielding and inflexible in your opposition to drugs.
- Our young people are helping us lead the way. Not long ago, in Oakland, California, I was asked by a group of children what to do if they were offered drugs, and I answered, "Just say no." Soon after that, those children in Oakland formed a Just Say No club, and now there are over 10,000 such clubs all over the country. Well, their participation and their courage in saying no needs our encouragement. We can help by using every opportunity to force the issue of not using drugs to the point of making others uncomfortable, even if it means making ourselves unpopular.
- Our job is never easy because drug criminals are ingenious. They work everyday to plot a new and better way to steal our children's lives, just as they've done by developing this new drug, crack. For every door that we close, they open a new door to death. They prosper on our unwillingness to act. So, we must be smarter and stronger and tougher than they are. It's up to us to change attitudes and just simply dry up their markets.
- And finally, to young people watching or listening, I have a very personal message for you: There's a big, wonderful world out there for you. It belongs to you. It's exciting and stimulating and rewarding. Don't cheat yourselves out of this promise. Our country needs you, but it needs you to be clear-eyed and clear-minded. I recently read one teenager's story. She's now determined to stay clean but was once strung out on several drugs. What she remembered most clearly about her recovery was that during the time she was on drugs everything appeared to her in shades of black and gray and after her treatment she was able to see colors again.
So, to my young friends out there: Life can be great, but not when you can't see it. So, open your eyes to life: to see it in the vivid colors that God gave us as a precious gift to His children, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to make it count. Say yes to your life. And when it comes to drugs and alcohol just say NO.
- In 1981, when Ronnie and I moved to Washington, I never dreamed that our eight years there would be a time of so much emotion. But life in the White House is magnified: The highs were higher than I expected, and the lows were much lower.
While I loved being first lady, my eight years with that title were the most difficult years of my life. Both of my parents died while Ronnie was president, and my husband and I were both operated on for cancer. Before we had even settled in, Ronnie was shot and almost killed. Then there was the pressure of living under the intense scrutiny of the media, and the frustration of frequently being misunderstood. Everything I did or said seemed to generate controversy, and it often seemed that you couldn't open a newspaper without seeing a story about me — my husband and me, my children and me, Donald Regan and me, and so on.
I don't think I was as bad, or as extreme in my power or my weakness, as I was depicted — especially during the first year, when people thought I was overly concerned with trivialities, and the final year, when some of the same people were convinced I was running the show.
In many ways, I think I served as a lightning rod; and in any case, I came to realize that while Ronald Reagan was an extremely popular president, some people didn't like his wife very much. Something about me, or the image people had of me, just seemed to rub them the wrong way.
- Although there is a certain dignity in silence, which I find appealing, I have decided that for me, for our children, and for the historical record, I want to tell my side of the story. So much was said about me — about astrology, and my relationship with Raisa Gorbachev, and whether I got Donald Regan fired, and what went on between me and my children, especially Patti. Ironically, I felt I could start rebuilding our private life only by going public on these and other topics — to have my say and then to move on.
I often cried during those eight years. There were times when I just didn't know what to do, or how I would survive. But even so, I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. I did things I never dreamed I could do, went places I never imagined I'd go, grew in ways I never thought possible.
- I kept a diary during our White House years, and I have drawn upon it often in this book. I experience the world through my intuitions and feelings, and you'll find out a lot about those in these pages.
My mother used to say, “Play the hand that’s dealt you,” and that is what I have always tried to do. And this, for better or worse, is how it seemed to me.
- I was not the power behind the throne.
Did I ever give Ronnie advice? You bet I did. I'm the one who knows him best, and I was the only person in the White House who had absolutely no agenda of her own — except helping him.
And so I make no apologies for telling him what I thought. Just because you're married doesn't mean you have no right to express your opinions. For eight years I was sleeping with the president, and if that doesn't give you special access, I don't know what does!
So yes, I gave Ronnie my best advice — whenever he asked for it, and sometimes when he didn't. But that doesn't mean he always took it. Ronald Reagan has a mind of his own.
- Ch. 4 : First Lady, Dragon Lady
Quotes about ReaganEdit
- Sorted alphabetically by author or source
- Nancy Reagan became first lady during the height of the feminist movement, and women who were battling for their rights in a male-dominated world saw her as an anachronism. Reagan said her life began when she met her husband. The adoring look she focused on her Ronnie when they were in public became known as "the gaze," adding to the caricature of her as a rich Hollywood socialite who did not understand the concerns of a generation of women coming into their own as professionals and seeking equality.
What her detractors failed to understand (and I was among them) was the substantive role she played behind the scenes at the White House in keeping her husband's presidency on track. She took the long view in looking after his legacy, intervening through favored surrogates to keep conservative ideologues from driving the agenda. Her insistence that no president could be considered great without reaching out to Soviet leaders trumped resistance from the right wing of the GOP.
She was fiercely protective of her husband's image, less so of her own, and she paid the price. When some of her interventions became known, particularly in the personnel department, she was cast as Lady Macbeth —even though the firings she engineered won praise. ... Years later, with the benefit of hindsight and after watching Hillary Clinton's failed effort to achieve health-care reform, I came to believe Nancy Reagan deserved a fairer assessment. I wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in The Washington Post on Jan. 8, 1995, with the headline "Nancy with the centrist face: Derided as an elitist, Mrs. Reagan's impact was unequaled." I made the point that unlike Clinton, who took an office in the West Wing and was upfront about wanting to be a player, Reagan operated undercover, usually through a surrogate, and that she was a force for good. She rarely left fingerprints, but she got the job done, and her job was to play up her husband's strengths and cover for his weaknesses. She did both very well.
The piece concluded with this line: "She is without doubt an effective First Lady, and she may yet win our hearts." Soon after I received a handwritten note from Mrs. Reagan saying, "I don't really know how to say this but when something very nice comes from an unexpected source, it's really appreciated — and if you see me in a different light now, I'm happy. I can only hope one day 'to win the heart.' " Later that same year, she cooperated with a Newsweek cover about her reconciliation with daughter Patti Davis, and how the president's Alzheimer's disease had brought the family together after literally decades of turmoil. Another handwritten note arrived shortly after with the lighthearted comment, "We've got to stop meeting like this!" After sharing her thoughts and emotions on her family's difficult times, Reagan said, "Hopefully I'm close to 'winning the heart.' "
In looking back at these notes, I realize how much it meant to her to gain a measure of affection after being treated so harshly in the public eye.
- It took her husband's long illness and her grace in caring for him to show her critics what she was made of. Rarely did she spend more than an hour or two away from him, and during the decade of his decline, she guarded his image, his legacy, and his dignity. As his cognitive powers slipped away, eldest son Michael reminded him that he used to be president. "How did I do?" Reagan replied, his characteristic humor and humility intact. In the 1994 letter to the American people in which the former president revealed his illness, he wrote, "I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage." In their life together, Ronald Reagan never worried about anything; Nancy worried about everything, carrying a burden few appreciated until the end. She didn't have his gift for storytelling, but she made sure all the parts were in place, and by honoring him, she was true to herself, a woman for all times.
- Eleanor Clift, in "Farewell to Hollywood's Great White House Romance" in The Daily Beast (6 March 2016)
- You didn't have to be a Reagan Republican to admire and respect Nancy Reagan. ... She was a tower of strength alongside her husband, had strong beliefs, and was not afraid to chart her own course politically. She persuaded her husband to support the Brady Law, and their advocacy was instrumental in helping us pass it.
- I appreciate the attention and prayers of people I will probably never meet. Just as when my father died, there is comfort in feeling surrounded by gentle thoughts and kind wishes, often sent out by strangers. And just as when my father died, we will honor my mother publicly — stand on the public stage and share as much as we can. Then, when that is completed, we'll draw the circle in a little tighter and deal with the often complicated map of personal loss.
- Her most famous moment as First Lady came almost by accident: the Just Say No campaign against drug use at a time when abuse was running out of control. "I was in California and I was talking to, I think, fifth graders, and one little girl raised her hand and said, 'Mrs. Reagan, what do you do if somebody offers you drugs?' And I said, 'well, you just say no.' And there it was born. I think people thought that we had an advertising agency over who dreamed that up — not true." Reagan called her "my secret weapon" in his fight against drug use.
- Nancy Gibbs, in "Remembering Nancy Reagan: The End of a White House Love Story" in TIME (6 March 2016)]
- Reagan's legacy may be one of the few things Republican presidential candidates have agreed upon in recent weeks. Republican front-runner Donald Trump called Reagan an “amazing woman” on Twitter, and Sen. Ted Cruz recalled her “deep passion.”
- When she greeted Gromyko, he leaned down to her and said, "Does your husband believe in peace?"
She responded, "Yes, of course."
Gromkyo responded, "Then whisper 'peace' in your husband's ear every night."
Without missing a beat, Mrs. Reagan replied, "I will. And I'll also whisper it in your ear."
Gromyko repeated the story many times over the years. It was a clear and unmistakable message coming from President's Reagan's closet and most influential adviser — his wife — that they had turned a new page in the relationship.
The rest is history. President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev reached historic arms control agreements. Reagan went to Moscow. Gorbachev visited the United States. They ushered in a new era of peace that had been unequalled in modern times.
Feminists today look at Nancy Reagan as an example of the old world, when women worried more about frivolous things like clothes and dinner parties.
Nancy Reagan had more to do with successfully winning the Cold War than all the generals, diplomats and politicians ever could.
Nancy Reagan may have been tiny in size, but she was a giant in stature. We have peace in the world today because that indomitable first lady took the first step.
- Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House. She was right, of course. But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice.
Our former First Lady redefined the role in her time here. Later, in her long goodbye with President Reagan, she became a voice on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer's, and took on a new role, as advocate, on behalf of treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives.
We offer our sincere condolences to their children, Patti, Ron, and Michael, and to their grandchildren. And we remain grateful for Nancy Reagan's life, thankful for her guidance, and prayerful that she and her beloved husband are together again.
- I am saddened by the passing of my step mother Nancy Reagan...She is once again with the man she loved. God Bless... Nancy is where she has always wanted to be with her Ronnie...Now she is at peace...
- With charm, grace, and a passion for America, this couple reminded us of the greatness and the endurance of the American experiment. ... Some underestimate the influence of a first lady but from Martha and Abigail through Nancy and beyond, these women have shaped policy, strengthened resolve, and drawn on our better angels. God and Ronnie have finally welcomed a choice soul home.
- She will be sorely missed by those who knew her, and forever remembered by a grateful nation.
- Ronald Reagan could not have accomplished everything that he did without his wife Nancy. As first lady, she brought a sense of grace and dignity to the White House. She roused the country to redouble the fight against drugs. And she showed us all the meaning of devotion as she cared for President Reagan throughout his long goodbye. She loved her husband, and she loved her country. This was her service. It was her way of giving back. And all of us are very grateful. So on behalf of the entire House, I wish to extend our condolences to the Reagan family and offer our prayers on the passing of a great American, Nancy Reagan.
- Usually, I talk with you from my office in the West Wing of the White House. But tonight there's something special to talk about, and I've asked someone very special to join me. Nancy and I are here in the West Hall of the White House, and around us are the rooms in which we live. It's the home you've provided for us, of which we merely have temporary custody.
Nancy's joining me because the message this evening is not my message but ours. And we speak to you not simply as fellow citizens but as fellow parents and grandparents and as concerned neighbors. It's back-to-school time for America's children. And while drug and alcohol abuse cuts across all generations, it's especially damaging to the young people on whom our future depends.
- No matter how divisive the nation was during the Presidency, the First Ladies of this nation knew their job was to soften the rhetoric by loving all Americans equally – just like a mother would. ... She wants people to know that the First Ladies are tight. They get together once a year to support each other.
- Ron Reagan, on his mother's endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president of the US, as quoted in Nancy Reagan: "I Want Hillary to Win" by Pierce Bublé at National Report (10 April 2015)