Remembering Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan did sacrifice herself for Ronald Reagan, but it was willing and loving. She devoted herself to his career and his legacy, but also set the tone for the modern First Lady. She was pretty, dignified but also modern in her views and charitable works. She took a more direct interest in his well being after the assassination attempt and she worried more, but also loved more and cried more when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.


By Craig Shirley | March 11, 2016

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“On behalf of a grateful nation.” With those measured words, the commander of the USS Reagan, Admiral James Symonds, handed the flag, which had covered the casket of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan in early June of 2004.

Only then, did she begin weeping. She’s been strong and stoic the entire week of the funeral but now, at the last, she was just another lonely widow, surrounded by her small family, the picture of acute sadness.

Now, twelve years later, she has joined her beloved “Ronnie” in eternal bliss. Their marriage was not supernatural but it was a true American romance. It certainly was one for the history books of White House marriages. Some White House marriages were more business deals than undying love. The marriage of FDR and Eleanor comes to mind, as does the betrothal of Bill and Hillary Clinton. There was never any doubt about the love and devotion of Ronnie and Mommy for each other.

She was once described as a “Metternich in Adolpho dresses.” Metternich was, of course, the famous and successful Austrian diplomat who got things done. Nancy certainly got things done. She did not, as has been erroneously reported, end the Cold War or make Reagan, somehow, more moderate. But she had keen political insights, as she demonstrated during the now famous Nashua debate in 1980, when her husband followed her advice and won the day, won the primary and won the election.

She did sacrifice herself for him, but it was willing and loving. She devoted herself to his career and his legacy, but also set the tone for the modern First Lady. She was pretty, dignified but also modern in her views and charitable works. She took a more direct interest in his well being after the assassination attempt and she worried more, but also loved more and cried more when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

She took his pain and suffering upon herself but is now free of that, just as he is also free of earthly pains.

In the end, the two were greater than the sum of the parts and now, in eternity, they are with a greater power.

Nancy Davis Reagan, RIP.


Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer and presidential historian. His latest book is Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Shirley is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.

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