tv The Presidency First Ladies in Their Own Words - Nancy Reagan CSPAN May 30, 2022 2:00pm-2:46pm EDT
that churchill should believe that britain's were superior to germans for example. this was something inappropriate but think out he did because it actually turned out well for britain that he did have those beliefs. >> while you're reading words. i hope we're rolling. and mine on the teleprompter as you read the words. >> is this the way you have it? >> i hope we're rolling. [laughs] >> it's just fine with me. >> it appears to an observer that after 33 years of marriage, you too are still absolutely nuts about each other. mrs. reagan, how do you plead? >> guilty. >> mister president, how can a politician --
>> absolutely sensational, don't you think so? >> took the words right out of my mouth. [laughs] mrs. reagan, some people have suggested that you have been the driving force in your husband's career. you want to the presidency more than he did. >> i now, i read that to. it's not true. i thought i married an actor. [laughs] actually, he was asked to run for office soon after we got married, and he turned down. by the democrats, when he was still a democrat. when the governorship came along i went along with it but that wasn't something that i had carved up for our future! certainly, the presidency was not something that i said, you've got to do this!
no, that isn't true. i think people get mixed up as far as i'm concerned with this whole thing on my pushing him. they don't understand that if he had decided to go into the shoe business i would be out pushing shoes! you know? whatever -- >> aren't you glad he didn't? >> yes, that was my next point. my next point was, and actually as it all turned out he has given me the most fascinating, interesting, wonderful, frustrating at times, frightening at times, a life i never, ever, thought i would have. >> that was nancy reagan from in 1985 camp david interview conducted by then nbc news chief white house correspondent chris wallace.
the press in the public never tired about speculating how political this former hollywood actress was. how much influence he had on the 40 president. it wasn't until she left the white house that she felt fully free to address all of those questions in her memoir. her effort, and she said, to let nancy be nancy. she left plenty of clues along the way. her public image in particular was a source of continuing frustration to her. you will hear in her own voice how she experienced her white house years, featuring footage from c-span video library. first, nancy reagan on how she tried to counter negative publicity, part of an interview with journalist hendrix smith. she is talking about her 1982 surprise performance at the grid iron club, in washington. known for her political parodies. this is nancy reagan, in her own words. >> secondhand clothes,
secondhand clothes, they are all the rage at the spring fashion shows. even my new trenchcoat with full collar -- ronnie bought for ten cents on the dollar. secondhand gowns, old hand me downs, the china is the only thing that's new ♪ ♪ ♪ even though they tell me i'm no longer queen, did ronny have to balmy that knew sewing machines? ♪ ♪ ♪ secondhand clothes, secondhand clothes, i sure hope -- ♪ ♪ ♪ >> i guess i came around to thinking all right, we'll try. it can't be worse than it was! so she said originally they had thought that i would make fun of the press. no, i said no, that, gonna do.
the only way i can do this if i could make fun of myself. if i make fun of myself than maybe i have a 50/50 chance here. [laughs] you well know, that first year was not, nobody was really crazy about me. [laughs] i don't think i would've been crazy about me, really about me. >> the press was rough? >> the press was rough. i really don't know why. it started before i ever got here. they didn't know me. i never did quite figure out why. but, anyway, i didn't know until i read in a book that they were having meetings about
me. saying that i was a liability over in the west wing. maybe i was. i was pretty gun-shy. i mean, it had been rough! your inclination is to run and hide in a closet in locker self in. you tend to pull back. at least i do anyway when it's that rough. which is the wrong thing to do, you shouldn't do that, but i do. >> you're watching american history tv, listening to nancy reagan in her own words. the same year of her 1982 grid iron club appearance, the first lady spoke to the national federation of parents for drug free youth. anti drug policies were her signature issues in the white house. during the question and answer period, a young boy stood to address her. let's watch!
>> after billy it will be topper davis, that will be a questions for dr. turner. >> well mrs. reagan, just as a kid i would like to thank you. >> thank you. [applause] >> really i have a whole bunch of questions but i'll try to hold it to just one. >> oh, go ahead. [laughs] . >> the squeaky wheels, the drug users get to all of your attention. what would you recommend to parents and teachers to us many kids who are responsible and drug free. >> i know, it's true. you're absolutely right. bad news seems to get more in the good news. as a matter of fact, bill can i
tell the story? [laughs] bill was on a morning show with a couple of his children. they have drug problems but they had another child who had no drug problems at all. the two children who had had drug problems were on the program with him. that was pretty exciting to them to being on this big show. but the other one said, hand! you know, i haven't done anything? i've never smoked pot, i've never taken anything! i don't get to go on national television! that doesn't seem fair. they asked me if i would go on the program and i said, yes i'll go on if i can say kate other child on. [laughs] >> i'm not through!
[laughs] i've got more. i had a letter from a girl about your age i think. i had made the statement that i thought probably most young kids had tried pot at one time or another. she misunderstood or -- anyway, there was a misunderstanding. she thought i think all young people. she wrote me, indignantly, and said mrs. reagan i want you to know that i have never tried drugs. i have never been on drugs. my friends have never been on drugs. we have no intention of going on drugs. it's dumb! i wish she wouldn't say that anymore. >> i was very happy to get her letter. i thought that was wonderful.
i wrote her and told her i hadn't really said what she thought i had said. you know, it is a terrible problem, isn't it? not just with drugs but with everything today, we seem to be playing up the negative rather than the positive. there are so many positive things that we can talk about. so many positive things that people do. at the white house, my husband gives awards to people, young people, elderly people, to little people -- they have done really marvelous things, wonderful things! we never hear anything about it. we hear always about the ones who have done the bad things, the terrible things. we are dragged down by the, i think. all i would like to see is a little balance, you know?
fine to talk about the things that are going on that are wrong and shouldn't be going on! but for heaven sakes let's give a little pat on the back to the people who are out there doing these great things, every single day. they are out there and we never hear about them. i agree with you, it's wrong. >> late in reagan's second term, the first lady went to the united nations where she delivered a blunt warning about the dangers of drug use in the united states and throughout the world. this is nancy reagan in her own words at the united nations. >> it gives me pleasure on behalf of the third committee to welcome among us today the representative of the united states of america, mrs. nancy reagan. first lady of the united states. i invite her to make her
statement. >> thank you mister chairman. i am delighted to be here as a member of the u.s. delegation to speak before the third committee of the united nations general assembly on a matter of urgent importance to all of us. the third committee is now considering agenda items on new families and crime prevention. i want to talk to you about the illegal use of drugs and the direct impact it is having on families, especially children. i come before the united nations today as a wife, mother, and one who has had the unique opportunity to see the impact of the drug problem. not only in the united states, but in many areas of the world. i have worked on this problem with many distinguished people represented on this committee. i have had the opportunity to
travel to many parts of the world and have seen the problem firsthand. i have also been privileged to work on two occasions with mrs. perez to cuellar. in 1985 she joined me in 29 other first ladies from around the world when we gathered at the united nations to discuss the drug issue. our message was this, as mothers were concerned as first ladies we are committed. as citizens of the world we are pledged to do all that is possible to stop discourage. last year we prepared a videotape message for the first drug abuse and trafficking conference. that held at the initiative of the secretary general, 138 countries join together and declared dropping drug abuse and illicit trafficking is a universal priority. i am deeply happy that the
united nations is clear completion on a new anti drug trafficking convention which will affirm whatever mother, every parent knows. drug traffickers are international killers who deserve no rest or sanctuary the international effort against drugs are a vital importance, and must be expanded. i would add that even though i have some harsh things to say about illegal drug consumption in the united states, i also intended to be great plainly about the countries that supply this demand. however, let me say at the outset that it's the united states alone which bears responsibility for its own drug problem. i'm not blaming other nations for america's drug problem. while most of the illegal drugs are imported, the drug users are homegrown. define america's drug problem
we've had to look no further than our own communities, our neighbors, our sons, and daughters to get serious about stopping illegal drugs there can be no substitute for focusing on the user, that means confronting all those citizens who use drugs. now frankly, it's far easier for united states to focus on cocoa fields grown by 300,000 campus season is in peru and to shut down the dealer that can be found on the street corner of our cities. it's often easier to make strong speeches about foreign drug lords, or drug smugglers and to arrest a pair of wall street investment banker is buying cocaine on their lunch break. yes we need to bring -- drug cartels. we need to eradicate cocoa fields, and interject narcotics in transit, we won't get anywhere if we place a greater
burden of action on foreign governments, than americans own mayors, judges, and legislators. you see the cocaine cartel doesn't begin, it begins in the streets of new york, miami, los angeles. every american city where crack has bought and sold, it's the drug user who makes the cartel possible, who provides the market, who funds the enterprise. and the drug user is under comp and accomplished every criminal act, every word, every terrorist attack, carried out by the narcotic syndicate. if we lacked the will, fully mobilize and forces a law in our country, to arrest and punish drug users, if we can't stem the american demand for drugs, then there will be little hope for preventing foreign drug deserters -- from fulfilling that demand. but if we can control that
demand, and curtail the drug consumption in our own country, then our efforts can succeed in the international drug narcotics rings can and will be defeated. now let me state clearly notwithstanding the few buses on the fringe as, i don't believe the american people will ever allow the legalization of drugs in our country. the consensus again drugs in the united states has never been strong. we clearly understand the drugs rest may remain illegal in every step of the chain. if it's illegal to grow cocoa in peru, to process it and do cocaine in columbia, to ship it through the caribbean, then it must be illegal to buy, you used cocaine in the united states. and that is the way that it must and will remain. >> you're watching american history tv, we're listening to
nancy reagan in her own words. early in ronald reagan's presidency, he was shot in an assassination attempt as he left washington hotel speech. nancy reagan would later say that the trauma of that day never left her. she talked with c-span's bryan lam about rushing to her husband side. >> we went downstairs, we kept saying i'm going to the hospital, and he said it's not necessary, he hasn't been heard it's not necessary. and i said, george, you ever get the car or i'm gonna walk. and we got to the hospital, mike deaver matinee at the hospital, and said, he has been shot. and there were police all around, and a lot of noise, and they put me in a little small
room, there was one basket and one share, that was it. my kept wanting to see ronny, and they kept saying, he's all right but you can't see him. and i kept saying, if he's all right why can't i see him. finally they let me see him, he was lying there with that thing on his face to help him breathe. he lifted up, and i said honey, i forgot to duck. >> the first lady was asked guarded about the presidents political well-being as she was about his physical safety. and that same interview she
talked about her political antenna. >> i think i had a little antennas that went up [laughs] and told me when someone had their own agenda. and not ronny's. and then i tell i'm, he didn't always agree with me, but i tell him, usually worked out. >> what's the first thing you noticed when somebody had their own agenda? >> you just know, you just -- you just know. if you have those antennas [laughs] >> they're watching american history tv and listening to nancy reagan in her own words. in 1994, the former first lady sat down with historian carl anthony before an audience of hundreds at washington's mayflower hotel, she revealed that she had no interest in politics as a young woman, explained why she left her hollywood career behind. she talked about the tumult
>> i was thinking, something nobody i know as ever asked you, i've never seen it written or published anywhere, or on television. your mother was a very strong democrat, and your father are republican. >> yes. well yes. my mother was a strong democrat, my father really wasn't into politics, he leaned more toward republicans. >> when you were younger what were your politics was it something that you are interested in? >> i didn't know one thing about it. not a thing. and when we got married, i didn't know anything about it, everything i learned i learned during our courtship and after we were married. [laughs] obviously. >> were you a democrat? >> i was nothing. [laughs]
i don't say that with pride. because that was wrong, and you know, young people in those days weren't as involved politically, and you should be, but truth was i wasn't. have >> if your husband had not continued in politics after the governorship, do you think you would have gone back to your film career? >> oh, i got. it i got. it. i made a conscious decision and ronnie never asked me to do this, i'd seen too many marriages in hollywood fail, with people both in the business, you know, when you
are a woman in this business, in that business, everything is done for you on the set and everybody is telling you every minute how deer and call you are, how wonderful you are. it's pretty -- when you come home you expect the same thing. [laughs] and when it isn't given to you, then it's gonna be trouble, and i didn't want that to happen. so, i made the choice no, i enjoyed it i loved it when i was doing it. >> just a touch on one or two of the events and issues of the reagan years. barbara bush has recently said that she was pro-choice, while her husband wasn't, was that similar situation for you and president reagan, agreeing to
disagree but not public? >> why did i know this was gonna come up. [laughs] i just knew it was gonna come up. well, i don't know where you put me really, i'm against abortion, i don't believe in abortion on the other hand i believe in a woman's choice. so, it puts me somewhere in the middle but i don't know what you call that. [laughs] . >> also during the period the united states and the soviet union -- gorbachev first game in power after three blanco, and i don't know -- >> everybody kept dying on us [laughs]
>> you felt very strongly about the opportunity there for friendship between your husband and gorbachev of, i'm wondering, you had in a sense of personal influence may have resulted in a fact? >> well, it seemed to me so silly, to have these two huge countries here added not have them talking to each other, trying to get together as they say, everybody kept eyeing on is on the other side. so, we needed to wait for somebody to live long enough, that we could talk. but, yes, i felt strongly about that. >> one last question from me, that we wanna take some of the questions that the class had submitted last week.
i will read those and if we could stand up and introduce themselves from their seats. one last question though, in october of 1987, most difficult time for you cancer surgery, you lost your mother, book came out, written from interviews with william casey while he was dying in the hospital. and there you were, you just come out from surgery, how did you cope with all of that, what lay ahead? >> as a matter of fact, i don't know, i just don't know. betty rollins wrote a book, i don't know if you know or not, betty rollins wrote a book called, first you cry, and i'd
had, ronnie and i had never made any secret about as a matter of fact, the doctor's daughter talking. when he had his colon cancer, his prostate cancer when he was shot, we were very open about what happened. and we did, they say encouraged people to go in for exams for their colon or prostate, in my case breast. now i had heard about betty rollins book, but i hadn't read it, i didn't have any reason i think to read it. but when i had my surgery and i came home, and three days later
my mother died. , my mother and i were very close. it was very hard, i hadn't had time to adjust to the third jury. i never had time to grieve for my mother. i got on a plane and i write right away to phoenix, did everything that you do. then i had to come back because the gorbachev for coming. i had to make all those arrangements. it is very, very, important i
would say to anybody -- mine was a peculiar circumstance but, it is important to have time to just cried with it all out. otherwise, you will end up doing what i do, in just almost did, the tears come when you least expected. something will trigger. you will start to cry. if you had had a jeans to really let it out, it would've been so much better. >> do you think that is your own personal nature or again the expectations of role of first lady -- i had no chance, carl! i mean there wasn't, i came home from the hospital three days later mother was gone! >> the gorbachev game -- >> there was no, there was no chance!
it was, it was a terrible time. >> first ladies in their own words continues now on american history tv. ronald and nancy reagan's final chapter together was overshadowed by his alzheimer's disease. their long partnership ended with his death at 2004 at the age of 93. her devoted care led to a shift in her own public image as americans watched with admiration. that 1999 interview with c-span's bryan lam, she confided the depth of her loss as her husband stepped away. >> when have you learned about this disease? >> it's probably the worst disease you can ever have. >> why? >> because you lose contact. you are not able to share, in our case, they are not able to share all those wonderful memories that we have.
we have a wonderful life. >> can you have a conversation that makes sense to him? >> not now. no. >> the letter itself, what were the circumstances where you wrote the letter. were you with him? >> i was with him. where in the library, sitting at the table. he sat down and wrote it. that was the. >> first? >> first draft. he crossed out wanted to words there. i don't know what that was. only ronny could write a letter like that. >> as we close our look at nancy reagan, we will hear first on how he thought her white house life looked from the outside and how she actually experienced it. and then she will talk about how she wrote her memory in. from 1989 speech in part of the
congress -- >> i think they thought the white house was so glamorous, your role was so glamorous -- but you did, your life it's also glamorous. all they saw was the parties, meeting people. you know, i have got to tell you, i never worked harder in my life! thank you, thank you. thank you very much. you know one of the things i soon realized after i moved to the white house was the first lady has a tremendous platform which she can you speak out on
various issues. i chose the drug issue. ironically, in some ways a first lady loses her freedom of speech. there are things i long to say over those eight years. . i couldn't, and times it wasn't appropriate at times it would've further complicated my husband's life. i don't mind telling you it was very frustrating! i was thinking about this, the first role i ever played on stage i played a character who have been kidnapped and kept up in the attic. in the second act i escaped, i came down on the stage and instead my one line, a big part as you can see, my one line! and then they took me back upstairs to the attic again. there were times where i felt i
was in the attic [laughs] . run in the book was a great release for me. in the memos i did talk about the renovation of the white house, to china -- about the influence i was said to have had on my husband decision. astrology, my relation with don regan and e.l.i.s.a. gorbachev. i talk about my own family and struggles. all the things i did not think i could comment on at the time. i could say what i want because my husband didn't have to face any more elections. at first i had never thought about writing a book. but the longer we were in the white house in the more books that seem to be popping up, i decided that after eight years of silence i should! we will have to wait and see with the reviewers and people think about that. there is a certain dignity in
silence, which is very appealing to me. i felt personally, and for my children, without sounding too grandiose, for history, that i wanted to present my side of those eight years as first lady. i will tell you the hard part of writing this book, which is called my turn, there is a fine line you have to walk. you step on one side and you sound offensive, you step on the other side and you sound like you are trying to get even. i hope i have avoided those pitfalls. just honest with myself and the, the redoing. i try just to let nancy be nancy for a change. in doing the book i found that the wife of the first lady is sometimes difficult to explain to those who haven't been through it. one thing most people don't realize and i certainly didn't realize it until i had gotten a few bumps and scrapes, you just
don't move into the white house! you have to learn how to live there. life in that mansion is different. i don't mean simply because it's the only house in the country that comes equipped with surface to air missiles, and i don't mean because when your husband leave the house he often where the boat professed, it's not just the knowledge that the military officer with the black briefcase containing the nuclear codes's day or night always only seconds away from the man you married. those things of the price you pay for the honor living there. it is an! or without a moments hesitation i can tell you i would not trade our time in the white house for anything! after years added on to my life -- the remarkable thing is how magnified life is in the mansion. the highs are higher, the lows are lower. and the highs and lows are exaggerated even further and
the tremendous scrutiny of the media. i was very naive when i arrived, that sounds strange i know. particularly after listening to jim, his recitation of the fact that our lives have been part of the public life all of our lives. i was naive. i remember in the 1980 campaign telling howling thomas, director of the fbi, which would i would always have a part of my life which we private. she said, you have no idea what it's like until you get there! she was so right. i was completely unprepared for the intense scrutiny. i fully realize that in writing my memoirs, i have stripped away even more privacy. privacy that was already tattered following all the various books. and enough i thought that i
could rebuild some private life going public about other things. so that is what i have done. no matter what you do, the stories will continue. some are him using, some are maddening, and some hurt. when i finally learned is you never stop growing, you do stop being surprised. one area i got a lot of criticism for paying attention to my husband's health and welfare. i believe that this is the first lady primary concern. she is first of all a wife, which is why she's there. the book offers no apologies in this regard. i president has advisers a council who would 44, defense, economy, politics, any number matters but no on among all the is there to look after him as an individual with human needs. a flesh and blood person humans
deal with the pressure of holding the most powerful position on earth. that was my job. >> thank you for joining us on american history tv for this special look at nancy reagan in their own words. next week, hillary clinton and overtly political first lady who successfully ran for the united states senate. served as secretary as state and then campaign for the presidency herself. american history tv first lady series is also available as a podcast. you can find it wherever you get your podcasts. looking at why new african american history museum is being built in the city. >> they're putting this pompadour downtown. it's a modern sculpture. and then i read later with the structure actually meant. palm adore a, this italian
futurist was really talking about the future. how can the future be unmitigated in new? he uses this as a futurist symbol. this lasted for about 25 or 30 years. recently i was back in charlotte, working their. i notice that they had changed that entire introduction to the city with this new set of images. it was installed in 1995. -- i wondered, who is just black guy why was there a black guy in the middle town. it was in the middle when i was grew up. he is depicting the railroad. going back and looking, did north carolina have slaves? was this a free man.
-- ,. ,. ,, i mention the mayor reilly we met in macon georgia. this is a project i won a competition for. this is 1998, 1999 we have the doors of the confederacy. we, clean them off and made a steady yards -- we blue color relationship we had, we wanted people to see the all ballistic. we wanted it to continue, make it more visible. we have fountain sticking around. it and then i place combos next to it, i wanted there to be this tension between dysfunction on the borders of the confederacy, and this reality that was sort of storing cotton.
this is 20 years ago. people were somewhat not interested in this idea. i was actually blackface at the club, and trying to remember who was the mayor at the time. now he's a senator. he sent me letters that you are being portrayed with blackface and a lock hanging over your head of this kind of radical gap from california, coming to talk about making yards. in the past year people have asked for that statue to come down. anyway this was a prelude the moment we are going through now. so in charleston we have this moment where these new semiotics are beginning to challenge how actually think about ourselves. we have this on the right, we have the on the left. i love reading a piece this morning, we are not in -- how can i say the central part of charleston. there are sites where the
racetracks or out of the trees. there are in the spaces where we don't see these every day. i tend to argue that we need more places and spaces that we actually visit every day. we see every day. so we have a way to recognize. so our spirits are with us, not just pushed off to the side where they're actually with this daily. >> watch the rest of this we lecture online by visiting c-span.org slash history. search walter hood at the top of the page.
welcome to tonight's lecture. oh, they tragic life of emmett till. welcome to tonight's lecture on the tragic life of emmett tell. it was 1955 him, has been described as given rosa parks the strength to sit down, and martin lurking junior the courage to stand up. this is one of our great lives presentation, with the
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