By Thornton Crowe
When I was in my mid-teens, the Reagans came to DC with all the pomp and circumstance. Ronald Reagan won triumphantly over one-term president Jimmy Carter, and the sights were set for him to restore the Republican party’s reputation to Americans after Nixon’s Watergate debauchery.
As a youngster, I didn’t think too much about politics in those days. I was more concerned with MTV (a new cool video network), getting a Walkman for Christmas and having the latest Flock of Seagulls cassette. I didn’t see what the ‘adults’ saw, but he seemed like a cool guy to me.
As I grew older, I found it was a comfort having President Reagan around; like the horrible afternoon when the Challenger blew up and everyone was stunned as we watched what was left of those people fall from the sky. Was also glad that he seemed to embrace peace and quashed on the Cold War, using some pretty provocative tactics with Gorbechev (whom became a lifelong friend to him after their arguments were resolved.) In truth, it was Reagan, not Bush Sr., that told him to “Take down that wall.” Unfortunately, much of his credit was swallowed up by media toting Bush’s presidency when the groundwork was all RR.
Reagans brought a sense of Hollywood to Washington much like the popular TV show at the time, Dynasty or Dallas. We seldom saw this celebritism in the White House unless you count John F. Kennedy’s tawdry affair with Marilyn Monroe or friendship with Sinatra or the Elvis visit during the Nixon years. They had a much more permanence. While Mrs. Reagan was not of the Lady Di fame, her presence was well-known to us.
Mrs. Reagan was often looked upon as a nut for her insistence of using Astrology to plan the president’s travels after the assassination attempt. She told my generation to “Just Say No” in her war on drugs and became a pop culture hero in her own right. She portended her devotion for her husband (and our President) that has not been seen since their time in the White House. Let’s face it, who believes anyone after them actually had such a close, devoted and loving relationship?
She was an inspiration to women in my age group – and all men would love nothing more than to marry a Nancy – much like men of the early 60s wanted a Jackie. A great lady, Mrs. Reagan was an example of the woman behind a great man. She was our last truly inspiring First Lady and she served us well. In fact, I never doubted for a moment that her children were not just the biological ones but all of us Generation Xers whose destinations were unknown – grew up with her as our surrogate mother.
In years after their time in the White House, they lived quietly in Bel Air. I remember when I lived in Los Angeles, I used to drive by their home every once in awhile, thinking about the greatness that sat at the other end of the driveway. While their compound was obviously guarded and they were never seen out in public, one could still feel them there on the warm summer nights high in on the hill overlooking the city.
The older I got (along with the more education I gained) I learned to appreciate his presidency and her influence even more. She was the voice behind his – and the beacon for him. When he died in June 2004, it was a sad moment for the world. I mourned with many of my Reaganite friends at his passing and watched her kiss her beloved’s casket while it lay in state. That day we said goodbye to a great president, but she said goodbye to her best friend, lover, confidante and soulmate.
Now, that Mrs. Reagan has left us, there is nothing left but their legacy. A love story filled with devotion and true partnership.
Today, it saddens me to see she’s left this world as her presence will be missed – knowing we will never see her again. However, that being said, I am happy for her and her Ronnie, as now they can be together – soulmates – once again.
Farewell, great lady of peace. Godspeed you in your next journey among the stars and Mr. Reagan. You both have left very big shoes to fill for which I scarcely think many shall achieve — at least, not in my remaining lifetime.