Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nancy and Ronnie

"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." Nancy Reagan, about her husband Ronald. At the time, he was receiving full time nursing care due to Alzheimer's Disease.

Noting the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Ronald Reagan was elected 40th president of The United States during a period of profound uncertainty. Confidence in America's military had eroded, distilled into one difficult moment memorialized by the photo of single helicopter perched on a roof, evacuating people from Saigon. It was further damaged when, in an attempt to rescue embassy personnel held captive in Iran, two special operations aircraft collided while aborting the mission.

Our economy struggled along under the weight of both inflation and unemployment. Once proud companies closed their doors. Our President, a good and decent man, told us (while wearing a sweater, to demonstrate the proper response to lower thermostats) that we would all have to make due.

President Reagan was no savior. He was a man who honestly saw America as the shining city upon a hill. Despite the turmoil of his administration he restored confidence, embodied courage and vigor, and facilitated a swagger that had been missing from his beloved country. And always beside him, Nancy. 

To Nancy, he was Ronnie. They wrote love letters to each other, held hands and acted affectionately toward one another in public. In private, she could be formidable, especially when she thought something reflected badly on her husband. A quarrel involving a Chief of Staff resulted in his resignation - he had wanted one thing and Nancy, fearing for her husband's welfare in the aftermath of the attempt on his life, wanted something else.

Entering a tired, dispirited White House in 1981, she set about returning it to its former luster. She wanted her surroundings to rival those of the Kennedy Years - Camelot. She gave lavish dinner parties, demanding nothing but the best, because "That's the way Washington works." In order to remake America's House she organized private funds.

She and Ronnie retired back to California at the conclusion of his presidency. She had contracted breast cancer, beating it. Years later, she stood by him as Alzheimer's Disease took him on "a long good bye." She became an elder stateswoman of America's Greatest Generation, standing by in remarkable humility and compassion as friends with whom she and her husband had changed the world slipped away. 

Former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney said the following at Ronald Reagan's funeral:

In the spring of 1987 President Reagan and I were driven into a large hangar at the Ottawa Airport, to await the arrival of Mrs. Reagan and my wife, Mila, prior to departure ceremonies for their return to Washington. We were alone except for the security details.
President Reagan's visit had been important, demanding and successful. Our discussions reflected the international agenda of the times: The nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union and the missile deployment by NATO; pressures in the Warsaw pact, challenges resulting from the Berlin Wall and the ongoing separation of Germany; and bilateral and hemispheric free trade.
President Reagan had spoken to Parliament, handled complex files with skill and good humor -- strongly impressing his Canadian hosts -- and here we were, waiting for our wives.
When their car drove in a moment later, out stepped Nancy and Mila -- looking like a million bucks. As they headed towards us, President Reagan beamed, threw his arm around my shoulder and said with a grin: "You know, Brian, for two Irishmen we sure married up.

Now, Nancy and Ronnie are together again. Such is the nature of true love.

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