tv The Presidency First Lady Nancy Reagan - Working for Mrs. Reagan CSPAN July 3, 2022 3:38am-4:36am EDT
loyalty that i saw between them and i saw great love between them. i saw compassion and i saw a keen sense of protection and this was not something that i was necessarily exposed to in my home. it was quite different. this was a very public couple who faced some very hard times and yet this rock state it preserved and i've never forgotten that and and i try to take that away i've learned i learned how to set lovely tables. you know, i crept into kitchens and watched chefs prepare meals. i've learned a great deal that has influenced my life but more than anything else. it's the sense of europe partnership and you love and you trust and you protect each other. ladies and gentlemen, marianne facelman and pete sousa.
so we're at a distinct disadvantage us having followed two incredible panels. and who really shared so many of the stories that we had sort of teed up for today. so but you know, honestly we can all dig deep because there are many many stories and we all have them and we're going to be touching today upon a bit of a timeline of pre white house or pre like when gail was at the state department and working with the white house and then fred host white house and then ken's stories as well real early on in the administration and i was also there at the post in the post-white house years. so boy a wash in memories right getting ready for this. it's been an amazing journey
these last couple weeks getting ready and thinking of all the things and in our our panel now we want to look at it's really there's some feedback feedback here. we hearing that right better. okay is really looking at some of the personal things that we experience with mrs. reagan and they were numerous and daily and we had just some really serious times and some really fun behind the scenes times that that we really in many cases have never shared stories like these before because it was very personal to us. i know when mrs. reagan died a few years ago our local my local paper in pasadena, california called and said like i'd heard that you'd worked for her and and would you want to write something and i sat at my computer and i typed out a few few sentences and i thought now you can't have it and i called the guy back and i said, you know everything i have about my time with mrs. reagan was so pure and so personal to me that i didn't want to share it in that way. and so i never did but
nonetheless we'll pull a few of those out of our pockets today the post white house years, and i'm just gonna lead with this because it's just so telling about what the post white house years felt like i'm gonna lead with fred if you would lead to tell us a couple of stories about just a fun or funny incidents that happened post white house. you want to give me in trouble right? i do sorry i do and they're just like one story you and i were sharing earlier that you suggested. maybe it provides a dimension that the nancy reagan that i think maybe hasn't been talked about yet was when she left for california. she she learned it took her a while, i guess to learn that there was a three hour time change between washington dc and los angeles because when i came back here at about 11 o'clock at night, i would get a phone call. it'd be mrs. reagan and i would say hello just starting to go to sleep. she said oh, is there a time? yeah. yeah. there's three hour time difference here. oh good. i remember that and then two or three days later the phone ring
at 11:00 11:30 at night and this is reagan again. and so i finally i went to that store new york, scully and scully and i bought her clock that had two time zones. it had los angeles it had washington dc and i said it and send it to her and then i waited a couple days and then 11:30 at night the phone ring again. i said, did you get the clock and she said i but i haven't figured out how to set it yet. so but as we know she was a creature of the telephone in time zones. she was never really gotten away of that. yeah, you have to tell the orange story. okay, please just keep it in this room. yeah, i i will point out. i've been watching the live stream all day. this is being streamed to a large audience. we'll tell that later. so gail, let's go back to gail gail you you started early in and doing things in the protocol office at the state department and just some of the things that we talked about in preparation
about her intuitiveness and her vulnerability. would you share? some of some of them. yeah that's on that might when i went to interview for my job. mike dever said to me you should never forget that. ronald reagan would not be president of the united states were it not for nancy reagan and if you keep that in mind, you will be fine. if you get the job and so so we had a good interview and i got the job and about a week into the job. our first event was the special olympics the first event that i did was the special olympics that once again a kennedy a big sergeant shriver eunice kennedy event. we had 1,000 special olympics kids on the on the lawn. we it was a lot of work and
prior to this event we had a secretary of the interior named james watt. remember him and and james ward was already on thin ice within the administration. but then about a week before our event he was quoted in the washington post saying we will not allow the beach boys to perform on on the ellipse for the fourth of july because they are a bunch of pot smoking hippies. and so i was mildly curious about that comment, but i didn't think it would impact me at all until i get a phone call from mrs. reagan and she says, you know maybe we should invite the beach boys to perform at the
special olympics and that's when i understood what mike dever said to me that ronald reagan would not be president were it not for nancy reagan? so we did have the beach boys perform at the special olympics james. watt was no longer about a week later and but i do want to tell you they were a bunch of pot smoking hippies. today they arrived with girlfriends with shrinks. they had corvettes it thousands of corvettes. they arrived with it was bedlam so finally i took huge waka to announce the beach boys. ladies and gentlemen the beach boys and one of them said hey, man. i think they just announced us and i said they did they did they announced you if you're a
beach boy come with me and because they're entourage was thousands and we're hundreds. and so anyway, the beach boys did perform. it was terrific and james watt lost his job about it. thank you gail. that's a great segway to ken who was there in the very early days of just say no. we're like me secretary like me at all. i've been very fortunate and i think i think god and certainly thank mrs. reagan for giving an opportunity to can be here today a lot of the staff was here so many great. memories, we all have and one triggers another everything you say gail you talk about that. i remember when miami vice folks came to the white house remember that one, too. i can remember the little cat a little tattoo story. i will keep that one quiet, but
i came from a life of drugs. jewish kid from new york was running the drug program the president came to visit that program and through that whole series of events. i went to work on the campaign and then wound up in the in the white house, i actually got a job at hhs from the campaign and then i got a call from jim. who said would you come over to meet with mrs. reagan and i went over and i sat on that red and white couch in in the residents which now i work for billy graham. there's a lot of in between it but that i have a picture in my office a big picture joanne you were joanne she blew that picture up and mr. graham died. it was in the library and i had that in my office now to answer so to my office into billy graham evangelistic association down in charlotte. and i remember that couch very well and then jim brought it, but i sat there with mrs. reagan and we talked i don't know for how long i had no idea why i was
there. i met mrs. reagan on the campaign and she had visited my drug program as the president had and then i was jim came in and said, it's mrs. reagan. are you done? i don't know how it felt like hours and i was telling my story she was tearing up and crying and i was crying because it's a lot of drama to it and she said well ken, i'm really going to enjoy having worked with me. i was replacing and robleski as the director of projects. i didn't know that at the time and when she said i'm going to like i'm glad you're going to be working with us. and i said well, i'm right down the street on independence and she said no i want you right here at the white as jim says jumps this mrs. reagan. this was an interview. and i i looked at him like really and so i got offered the job on the spot, which was really incredible for where i had come from and it tells you something that you know, we all have our stories but mrs.
reagan, i will remember one one other story. after i left and i went to work for mcdonald's corporation and i became i started an organization go ronald mcdonald house charities, which you all know about it we started there was just me. in a group to a very big organization, but camp ronald mcdonald for good times was right near the ranch. and so i convinced whoever at the time might have been jim manning or somebody to get the reagan's to come visit. a camp brown mcdowell of good times so they drove and i told mrs. reagan they were sitting in the car and they had these ronald mcdonald house. ronald mcdonald for good times shirts on a night so i've got to tell you a story when we were leaving the white house my three boys wanted to know we were going so i said, well we're going to go to chicago and one of my oldest boys now with lieutenant colonel in the army said, oh great.
i love jim mcmahon played for the bears and my i said, i'm going to work from mcdonald's. so my little guy max, who was that big? he thought we were going out to eat. and i told them but my middle son adam who was seven at the time said dad you you look real sad about this. nice. well, we've had a great time here. he said look at it this way you won't be working for ronald reagan. you'll be working for ronald mcdonald. and then he said as all your kid would say and i like that clown a whole lot more. so i told the president i did i told the president he laughed and he says well there's a step up and this is reagan gave me that look the look pete just look. so, oh, thank you ken. i have i'm going to share a quick one about interviewing. i i was in france during the administration with our ambassador to france and came back and got a call. in fact gail. you helped he that up for me at some point you and your husband at the time did that for me?
and i went in for my interview and i had the new hairdo the new suit i can visit i can envision it like it was yesterday pumps the whole thing and i walk into the suite, you know through the back hallways of the hotel. i sit down in the big suite i'm ready to go and she comes bouncing through the doorway of the bedroom in running shoes blue and an oversized sweater. and i thought wow. okay, this is just real. and that's the side that i think so many of us were just really fortunate to see is just the real. nancy reagan behind the scenes that she was a wonderful supportive and protective wife and a mom and just a really wonderful human being and and fred when i think about the fierce protector that was one of the areas that we spoke about you. talking about just a bit and you saw that through the white house and some regard and certainly his legacy after i think i think we probably all did those of us at different roles worked on the campaigns worked in the white house or after i think she was i
was a very important role. she provided sometimes her the presence was felt. sometimes it was more behind the scenes, but she was there she was making sure that his that he could accomplish his objectives getting elected as you remember there were changes made on the campaign teams. she was involved in that making sure the right people were there in the white house. they were changed has made that she was involved in. i think we all know president reagan always saw the very best in people and nancy reagan saw the full dimension of people and his flaw or which led him in at times to be vulnerable to taking advantage of was protected by nancy reagan and her her scrutiny, but you could see it even more. i mean when when his physical health on the assassination attempt took place how she stepped up and was there on the scene and helped nurse him back to good health when i had one experience after when they left office it got a little bit of attention. he was giving a speech in las
vegas president reagan's former president right in the middle of speech some guy just very carefully walked out to the podium where ronald reagan was speaking and they presented him a few minutes earlier with this crystal award and the guy picked up the award and then slammed it down the ground smashed in front of him. remember this and a picture was taken of that and we got back and nancy reagan just immediately it was like a flashback to the assassination attempt. she said she said that look on his face. i could tell that look on his face and and as a result, i mean she she had the entire secret service detail replaced because it was just a type of thing that couldn't happen, but she protected in there and then when he had alzheimer's you know, she was very i think played a key role in preserving protecting his dignity and allowing him to continue to have enjoyable life finding things. he came to the office for several years afterwards and then when he couldn't do that, she found things occupied him. he would be out in the parks throwing footballs with groups of kids. she took him to see horses when
he couldn't ride any longer. she she took him up to see where his mother was buried she wanted him to see that and she took incredible care of him after he left office and it was something where she knew with alzheimer. she know there was no going back and one thing that certainly caught my attention was that he was always as you know, perfectly dressed beautiful suits and ties and she realized he wouldn't be using those he wouldn't be going in public places anymore. so she started giving them away and i think was los angeles times discovered down on scared row in los angeles. there were these guys wearing these searches said rwr they were ronald reagan shirts and suits and that she had made sure they got to the needy in los angeles, but the other thing that i think there's kind of ties into what we're doing today that she was such a fierce protector of his legacy with the presidential library. she got actively involved in that when he passed away. she really don't more deeply into it making sure his legacy his story was told and his legacy was protected and and even this place today the ronald reagan institute, which has
actually has even opened officially. yeah roger but this was decided several years ago, and it was something that nancy reagan thought would be a very important part of his legacy and she was a key driver behind it. so all of those different forms of protecting him, i i think contributed his success we can't ignore the fact too that you have been a protector of their legacies and years and years and years of dedication to the library and to them so yeah, actually, so thank you. they're so many of us so many of us who had the chance to work with them all have been doing our share and just turned out today. tell us that story. okay, so gail you shared a story. we've talked a little bit about how intuitive mrs. reagan was and you shared a story about a state visit that i'd love to you for you to share with the crowd the african state visit so for we had a state.
visit for 11 months the 12 is but we had every other month we had a state visit so it kept you busy. there were no computers back then. so you you were a constantly planning for the next one in the next one. um, we had a state visit from from a country a third country and the the she always mrs. reagan always t for the visiting first lady after this the ceremony on the south lawn. and the this particular first lady you were invited to sign the guest book before you had tea this particular first lady sort of paused and she didn't. she didn't sign it and then she was talking with her ambassador's wife and there was some to and fro there and and
mrs. reagan immediately took this woman by the arm and took her on into the living room when they sat down and had tea and it was only afterward that the ambassador's wife told me that she was illiterate and could not write and and no one of course had told us this in advance. so so mrs. reagan picked up on it before i did and and i i sort never forgot that she sort of tuned in this way. i think one of the things that that has informed my opinion of the reagans and their marriage is a study that i read some a few years ago. it's called the grant study and it is a harvard study.
they it's a longitudinal study that they started in the year 1940. and they followed all of the harvard men only men then. until now there are a few that are still alive. they interview them every year. and the title of the grant study is what makes us happy. and the it's a long study. you can access it online. it's really interesting. but the bottom line of this study is what? makes for success and happiness is companionship. that is their that is their bottom line word is a successful steady. companion through life not necessarily a spouse but a partner of some sort. they also talk about business relationships that are partnerships and and they go
into a lot of the how this makes for a study normal happy life and you know both president and mrs. reagan didn't have that as children. and they so i think they clung to each other. i mean i used to say that they were two halves that made a hole, you know, her strings were his weaknesses. his strings were her weaknesses fred knows is better than i do, but they were constantly compensating for each other looking out for each other. and and i i've always thought about it as such a lovely thing because not everybody has that. you're not always dealt those cards and i think they finally were and they both knew it and
they both cherished it and i have always thought about it in in those terms. so i i think it's it's lovely that they eventually found each other. and even in hollywood and that it blossomed into into what it really really good. they were good people both of them. and and it came through i mean i was single you were single she played she played cupid for me all the time. she would constantly tell my boyfriend at the time. you know, it's valentine's day next week. you know women like jewelry. so, so anyway, they they were both really good stable people and they cherish the stability that each one of them gave each other.
it's beautiful beautiful girl. thank you, and and i have to laugh because i was just thinking when you said she liked jewelry or that women like jewelry, this is reagan had a very organized wardrobe it had listings on the front of each of her hangers where she had worn a particular outfit. it had a an image of it. so she knew what to what accessorized with it because if you can imagine she's dressing, you know, six or seven days a week for various events and things and i just remember just being sort of awestruck looking at her closeting. oh, it's just perfectly organized and her jewelry was the same it was it was a little bags. everything was in its own little ziploc and it was just all these little compartments and she knew what was what you know, it's just a really special part of her. putting herself together so well at least on that side because you know with traveling with her when the president was in office. there was a person who accompanying him a military aid who carried the football with the nuclear codes and when they left office there was a person who traveled to carried the football with her jewelry and yeah, exactly it was guess what it was a red leather.
overnight bag always knew where that was. in jim's here. it could be different people, but we always knew exactly where it was. good recollection fred. thank you. i asked can the other day? what was one of the funniest moments and and then one of the names that you brought up was somebody who a couple days ago. i thought they're two people who were so dear to here dear to her who are not here with us. and it's elaine crispin whose daughter was here earlier. i'm not sure if she's still here. oh, she had to go back to work. but so wonderful to see her and also robert higdon who just was a dear dear friend of hers, but the one funniest story that you shared. involved elaine oh, yes, you would tell me that. there's so many things that come to mind every one of these stories all the events that jim talked about the aircraft carrier all the things that he talked about. they're just say no events. one thing i want to do is is correct on the just say no thing. it was actually the reverse mrs.
reagan asked a little girl. what would you say if someone offered drugs and she said just saying no, i think in the translation of the years that's got kind of put on mrs. reagan, but that's how that started and then it picked up from there and it wasn't this huge elaborate program. it turned into that because of parents parents people like mac mcdonald who's sitting over here and people have had children involved. i lost my oldest daughter to drugs in 2009. well after i had been of course in the white house and now i have a five year old great grandson that i'm raising as a result of that and my mother just the hundred last week and she's very active but that's how i felt about mrs. reagan. she was that same era and that's how i dealt. that's how i dealt with mrs. reagan. look i didn't have the political background to the washington background during that. so i talked to elect she was my mother most of the time which sometimes didn't go over too.
well, but one time that i got called up to the residence was after the president had had an event in the roosevelt room. somebody mentioned that earlier and here, i don't know if was you there kathy or whoever was running things, but you were also social office was real busy. and this was supposed to be an outside event. the rose garden it was raining so i moved into the roosevelt room. it was i think the hundredth anniversary of the boy scouts and the chief scout leader getting ben love was there. he was also the chairman of texas commerce bank. i don't know why i remember these things, but i'm sure all these things we just remember and i had been told i had been asked to help with the event and there was some strategic arms limitations stuff going on. in fact, that's another story mrs. reagan wants to ask me on a plane ken. what is strategic what does salt to i said? well, it's strategic arms limitation treaty 2 that's all i
knew i she said. and she said to me that's all i know. and she says something that's gone through the theme throughout this. she always would remind us. nobody elected me. you would always say that to us. nobody elected me. so that was to tell us why are they bothering me with this question? but anyway this event in the roosevelt room, and i don't mean to talk too long, but but the president came in and the mike was hot. and as we check in the other room to make sure our mics weren't hot so you don't go and bathroom and flush the toilet. but he came in and somebody yelled out. we had told the press don't ask any other questions. this is about the boy scouts. well, somebody yelled out. i don't think it was sam donaldson, but somebody yelled out mr. president. what's this about salt too, and he just muttered something under his breath. they got picked up on the
microphone. well, that was early in the morning nine o'clock 10 o'clock event. about noon i got a call that said can you come over to the residents? so i went over and i get off the elevator and i said mrs. reagan, and she said ken and she was back in the bedroom and sprawled out across the bed was a lane. elaine chrisman was just she was sprawled out just laying like this. and and you had to know a lane to notice cervic tongue quick funny never let anything go and she's laying mrs. reagan is sitting on the other side of the bed and the president comes in at the same time. now it this is being broadcast a lot of places. so too late, ken we can change the subject i could never well. let me say i i we were talking a little earlier how the president
was dressed. he had his tie on his shirt on his shoes on his socks with but he didn't have his pants on. and he had these garters that you know. but that's how he was dressed, but he came in and he's interrupted the conversation because mrs. reagan immediately asked me what did the president say you were handling that event because elaine had told him that i was involved and and he said what did the president say? i said, i don't know what you're talking about. she said well. and in the president jumps in and says well, i was just telling them that the weather was terrible here and it's not like the sunny beaches of, california. and then i realize i'm going to leave that story like it was instead of what he really said under his breath when the reporter yelled out something. that was inappropriate. i'll leave it there. that's very good.
thank you, ken and fred. let's throw it back to you as as the white house years ended and you were you were really leading the effort the post white house years and coming up with how that would all look. can you just share a few things on the ground like how mrs. reagan was involved in the various pieces of that and the strategy and what they would do and and certainly the the start of the library sure. she well actually the start, you know, they knew they were leaving because he was the first president in recent history to have two terms. so like nancy reagan the advanced planner a lot of thought was given on what their life after the white house would be like they found a home they started thinking about where the is going to be they reached out to serverless lisa. you meet some of the other people who are going to be on the staff, but i remember she said that starting with the last year in the white house that it was her term was we really want to wrap it up with a bow meaning to kind of showcase what had happened over the last eight years and there were a number of things that were symbolically
done. for example, margaret thatcher the very first state visit president reagan has with margaret thatcher and the last visit was with margaret thatcher kind of bookending because of their their close relationship. they did a lot cheap to begin to pick the cause issue of being involved with when she left office continuing the her anti drug efforts working with ken with you and your organizations and others. so a lot of thought was given to that president what he would do when he left office speaking going out, you know what he called his unfinished work campaigning for for political like candidates republicans. he supported traveling around speaking out on the issues that were important to him and then traveling and we had we found when he left. you know, you don't really know when a present leaves office you look at the polls, but you don't really know how the world feels about you and several trips of president. did lisa and joanne and others organized word other countries, and it was amazing just to see the the pouring out of emotion
towards him and the gratitude that countries had for what he had done including going to berlin the berlin wall being there when the wall was still up and him getting that moment with the hammer as a famous photo of him chipping a piece of the berlin wall off. so there was just enormous kind of a reflexive. thank you to him for what he had done and then the humans and asked what the library that was. that was where they were both going to be involved in it and then as time went on it was president reagan was less able to i remember mrs. reagan saying that she was so fortunate that very few people with a six spouse a spouse or someone who had lost their spouse had something that represented that spouse that they could pour themselves into and continue to support them as she did because she had the reagan presidential library and that really became her last her life's work. can i just say one thing? it's a bed story that ties on this this really is not that substantive but you might think it's funny it reminded me when
you mentioned robert higdon and elaine in the bed. i got a call one night. this was probably 10 years ago when robert higgin was still alive and nancy reagan was still alive. she's about 90 years old. and of course, it was like 11 o'clock at night because that clock and i answer and they're it's robert higdon and nancy reagan and i said, what are you doing? he said we're in bed together i said, i couldn't hear what you said and they said we're in bed together and they were sitting there telling stories laying in her bed out in california. she had enormous affection for him as you know, and he thought very highly of her and it was like i thought this is like a couple of teenagers calling me that are having a sleepover but one of them is 90 years old. but it just kind of showed. i thought it showed her her fun personality the light side of her and her her enjoyment of things like that. oh, yeah, and that makes me think of something that we used to fly around in private planes because after the white house people were throwing their
planes at us to take our trips. well, not such a bad thing and one time they had we were it was robert mrs. me and some secret service agents and that we were playing a movie. it was really loud. i don't know why it wasn't she didn't have hearing problem, but it was really loud and i heard it at some point her saying to robert. i need to take my calcium and this is when things i was going to touch on how health conscious conscience conscious she was for herself and for her husband, i think which also played into being a fierce protector very concerned about what she was eating when he was eating robert heard her say i need to take some halcyon. oh and the two of them were yelling back and forth at each other him saying no, what are you saying? and she said i need my calcium and he's screaming. i i just jumped and i said, i don't know what's happening here, but i think she's saying calcium anyway clearing it up, but they just were famous friends. just he just really touched a very important sweet part of her heart and lisa you'll remember
after things were after the white house and you were running things and mr. graham billy graham would get get second. they had a really good relationship with the grams and any time mr. grant was reported by mr. graham going in the hospital. i get a call from lisa or i'd call out there mrs. reagan. wanted to inquire about how he was doing. and i know the president had great respect but president was an extremely spiritual person. i think that led to the optimism of course, like if all christians could live like the president thought it would be great. i'm a jewish guy converted to being a christian hence where i work now, but it was mahatma. gandhi said if a warrant for christians, i'd be a christian and and and the president really did exude that example of what a
real christian was the optimism the face the hope that he had in the country and and mrs. reagan was there to support that. of course, we had a little few bubbles about other things the stars, but she supported all of that that he did in boosted that up and it was so to what you said gail about them. just being one whole and that's what i think said an example for us and and for all the work that we did and and for everybody sitting here that was on that staff. what a great team of people and we see each other we haven't seen each other in 40 30 years or 20 years. and it's like this great feeling of camaraderie and that we are part of that family. and and that it'll never be it will never be duplicated in my time ever and i've worked in some pretty good places. yes you have ken. thank you, and i think it also
touches up on her relationship with her friends and gail you were going to speak to that just a little her when i took over the job with her. i was given a copy which she had her own handwritten. address book red leather and then there i had a big fat copy of it and it was all of her friends and they meant so much to her gail. do you have some experiences of well, she she was the most connected woman to the outside world that you possibly could be in those days. i mean there which was a a landline there were no cell phones, but it was a landline. she once told me she wanted to be buried with her telephone. and and i came to understand that. she would hear bad news. if you didn't give it to her she would hear it from someone very
soon. so i always would try to get to her with bad news before one of the friends put their twist on it we had. young shall ping came to the white house first date dinner. i want to say in 1985. and isaac stern had just done a documentary from now to mozart and we had isaac stern come to perform. for that state dinner. and he was interesting to work with and then he got even more interesting when he demanded 18 seats at the state dinner for his film crew. and of course state dinners were very small. i mean at 142 people, you know, you do the us delegation the foreign delegation and the
supreme court and you know, you fill in all the slots and there's very little room to play with so we we didn't seats and and he was he was very upset with me. and and so i figured you know, i better tell her. before because he knows some way to get to her. and indeed so i told her and she i put my spin on it that we didn't have 18 seats. and sure enough. sure enough pat buckley called her and said, you know gail hodges should be fired because she won't let isaac stern have 18 seats and mrs. reagan defended me and and then called me to tell me she defended me so i was like, yes, i did get to
her first get to her first the other the other the i was getting ready to leave. i i moved away and i was leaving and in in late 1985 and they just been reelected and we had a state dinner for the danish prime minister and i this had been a pet peeve of mine jim what helped me mike dever helped me. jim baker helped me. i loved miami vice. but i knew that the reagan's probably wouldn't. but i thought oh, you know it would make them feel so modern. if if somehow they could incorporate miami vice into the just say drug drug program. and so i sent a movie up to camp david a video of one of the
episodes. of course. it was not a good one and and there was you know, some some nudities some you know, anyway anyway, deep mike dever called me said forget about it. and i said, okay, i'll forget about it. but before i left. i'm like, i just have to make this happen. i just have to make this happen. and and so i went at her again and she finally agreed. and we invited them and they accepted. and this on monday time magazine, all the magazines would arrive in my office at like 7 am and i would always be there at 7 am and on monday time magazine arrived. this nr state dinner was on tuesday and who is on the cover of time magazine? and i had nothing to do with this but don johnson and philip michael thomas and i was like
she's going to miss me so much. haha, she you know she gonna think i did i had i was so surprised but did you take credit? i miss me so much and the morning goes by and she doesn't call. and it's like nine o'clock and then it's 10 o'clock, and she doesn't call so finally i had a reason to call her and i called her and we discussed whatever it was in. finally at the end of the call. i said well have you seen? time magazine and she says have you read time magazine? got you, which i hadn't and of course, don johnson had married melanie griffith for the first time as opposed to the second time was 14.
and so once again, my my my aspiration was dash she wanted nothing to do with them, but they both charmed her at dinner and i want you to know she kept in touch with me over the years and she started traveling around with don johnson and philip michael thomas on they're just say no drugs. so i finally got my dream. that's great. okay. i've got a i've got a magazine story that jim will remember. okay and ken if you go long, i'll just do it mrs. reagan used to do should say no should say move it along. we went to new york in new york leslie goodman here. so we're in new york it there's you and and so secret service couldn't get cars to move or anybody. anyway, we get to this hotel and
mrs. reagan and jim go up to their room and we had to get any frank mckay who was doing advance for us and here jim come over the radio and he says became mckay rose bush here. that's how we used to talk you guys doing and frank says a rose bush go and jim said mrs. reagan wants to know where her w magazine is. remember this one jim? and and and and frank says what's an fnw magazine? i won't repeat the words, but but he said that and jim says very casually mckay. this is reagan standing right here. so the next day frank franco's out, and he's frank's ball. i'm completely bald guys. always remember a big mustard.
he goes out and buys a week black wig some weird wig puts it on the next morning. this is reagan comes down to get into the motorcade frank opens the door and and mrs. reagan says, good morning frank. he was great. it was great. she did have such a nice sense of humor and love to have fun. so timing wise. i think we're gonna open it up. i'm gonna have each person give a last little statement or something before we close, but what i'd like to first open it up to see if questions from the floor if that's all right here in front. you will need it with a microphone. we had meetings every six months and joanne knows this and fred knows this every six months. we had the reagan. funeral plan meeting i mean the entire network was involved. it was like nothing you'd ever
seen in your life. and of course, you know wendy ran the meetings. we went through a lot of new presidents and they had to just deal with the fact that we would have a reagan meeting and we knew that it would be nothing like anyone had ever seen in their lives. and then when we did lose the president, i was at the white house and president bush did turn the the white house over to the dragons and mrs. reagan and the the media. i never seen anything like it and anne knows and and knows i mean barbara walters katie katie couric, diane sawyer anyone you could possibly think of as there and and the roofs of every single every single building had already been determined which network would have but it was in it was such an honor and the media had such a feeling for president reagan and the money that they put into it and the
time that they had all put into it we had. never done that before and we never done it since anyway, and you like to say that to my friend joanne drake all the chi has done for all of these years with the reagan agreed joanne. beautiful are there other questions? over here. yes. so i wanted to i don't think that's on. it's on i wanted to ask about one high and one low and the sort of behind the scenes influence of the first lady the low being bitburg and the high being tear down this wall in berlin. yeah, so right after ronald reagan was reelected.
you all may remember bitburg that happened. um, and it was we was pretty aggressive. and and he ronald reagan really got creamed for it. um we and we had a event in the east room where elie wiesel was getting the presidential medal of freedom and he took that opportun. to really publicly rebuke the president for going to bitburg and and so it was it was it was pretty aggressive and it was it was everybody he just been re-elected. so, you know. we weren't up for reelection. everybody told the president he needed to pull out a bitburg. and everybody george old jim baker mike dever.
everybody told him he needed to pull out a bitburg. and then helmet cole called him and by the way, mrs. reagan also thought that he was just getting so creamed that that he should also pull out a bitburg. helmet cole called him. and everybody was in the room with the president when the call came, they knew it was coming. and and the president listened and he listened and he listened and then he said helmet, i gave you my word and i'll be there. and he went and even though there was a lot of pushback in this country particularly from the jewish community. um, and he went i mean we we added another event to a to bergen-belson to pay homage to the holocaust. of course. we didn't know we'd been on an advanced trip. we didn't know that waffen ss
were buried. in bitburg when we went the gravestones were covered in snow the lightning bolts were on the gravestones, but anyway, it was bad advanced work and and ronald reagan somehow pulled it pulled it off. and and then there was mr. gorbachev tear down this wall in 1985. and it was a great day. were you there? no, i know you were yeah, you were front row. yeah. it was a beautiful day. it was sunny and there was a lot of pushback amongst the staff and the speech writers about adding that tagline mr. gorbachev tear down this wall. and and i don't think anyone really knew until he got up on the podium if he was going to say it or not.
and and he did and he felt he felt very comfortable saying it i mean ronald reagan when i say that the two halves made a whole he was like the big picture guy, you know communism bad. democracy good and and mrs. reagan was always you know, this is trying to strategically make all work and and he really believed that communism was was really bad. i mean he believed in the evil empire and and and it was great that at the end of the day and before he died and and i know jim said he got his diagnosis in 1974 and it was 1994. but before he got his diagnosis he was able to see the wall come down. he went to the wall and i think that meant a great deal to him.
yes, thank you. thank you. so we just have about five more minutes. so who wants to go first? i'd love just to have a last thought about really the the personal side of your relationship with mrs. reagan. it may be a a quick story or might just be a thought. one thing i don't know if it's been talked about today is is nancy reagan's tremendous power persuasion. and one story comes to mind was it was not me directly, but it showed the her persuasive power. this was when john roberts who worked in the reagan white house was made chief justice with supreme court, nancy regulus still alive and she said we should her part of the plan with the library was to have the you know, the people who were in the key decision makers influential people come and speak at the library. and she said well, we shouldn't it's invite john rod roberts and so we did an inquiry to the court and they said well, you know, he's not accepting invitations yet. okay, and then about a week
later she got an invitation to come to the white house. i think it was the queen who was here for state visit that the bushes invited and they invited nancy reagan to come for the state visit and seated at the table with the president. the next to nancy reagan was john roberts. and when john roberts was at library he began the story by saying as they sat down nancy reagan immediately extended an invitation to him to come to the library. he explained to her that he wasn't accepting invitations yet and as he described it by the third course, they were penciling in the date for his visit. if justice of the united states susceptible to her powers of persuasion thank you. gaylor can yeah i get i like jim. i remember my last visit with her which was in october of 2015. she passed away in march of 16. and she was in her wheelchair.
she was perfectly quaffed the nails were done the earrings were on. but she was frail and and she had sort of half sentences not whole sentences. words, but it was clear to me. she was following the election. it was clear to me. she was up on everything that was going on at the library. i think they're just been a debate at the library. and and at one point sitting in this wheelchair and she was frail and small and and she said i think god has forgotten me. and i was so i didn't i didn't know what to say. oh mrs. reagan, of course. he didn't forget you because you wouldn't let him forget you. but but that moment of this very
very powerful woman. who was so alone? and so frail at the end of her life and and she was faithful. their faith ran i think throughout their lives and for her to say to me the end that she thought god had forgotten her and i'm like, oh, i'm sure he hasn't and who could forget you mrs. reagan and they don't dare but it was it was something that i'll never forget, and i'm so grateful that i got to have that last visit with her. that's very poignant gail, and i think it follows on a very similar conversation. i had where she said it's not all it's cracked up to be to live longer than all of your friends. and she really had lost. you know, i think of like merv griffin and others who meant so much to her in her lifetime and and she saw them all go mike
dever mike. yeah. oh the list is long. the list is long. yeah, ken many many many stories, but i remember i i i very much mean this i was i didn't have a great self-image. i was running a drug program because i just got dumped me in that position. and when i when you get a job at the white house, and i've been living in the streets when i was much younger. i never forgot that and i tried not to let mrs. reagan forget that because i sent flowers all the time and every event i would send flowers lisa. you probably wrote the letters back to me, but i could tell that she i could tell that it wasn't the auto pan because i'd watch her her signature gets more script was just like the presidents did and you could tell it was good and then, you know a month after the last letter i got she passed. remember how much she did for
me? by the grace of god in nancy reagan, i'm here and and i've had a wonderful life with some exceptions in here, but it has been a very it doesn't make sense. other than i know god's in control of this whole thing and he hasn't forgotten her. he never forgot her and he never forgets any of us. so thank you for allowing me to be here lisa and to all friends. i love you all. thank you. well, it's been a pleasure to be with all of you today and all of you as well. thank you. ladies and gentlemen the first lady of the united states accompanied by postmaster general lewis dejoy, mr. fred ryan and mrs. ann peterson.