These are Ronald Reagan’s days, or rather, Ronald Reagan’s week, and all we can do is watch the television coverage about his life as recalled by scores of those who worked with him and knew him through his several careers. We have tried to keep up with all the articles on Reagan in the news coverage that recount his long and many faceted life. I’ve mentioned my own brief encounters with Reagan — two meetings with other pro-lifers in the White House, and a walk with him at O’Hare Airport.
But there is one encounter I overlooked, and this was special because two of my daughters, Annie and Sarah, were with me that time. We had flown to Washington on September 29, 1988, for a short vacation, a tour of the Capitol and to give a talk at the University of Maryland.
During a guided tour of the White House I ran into an old friend, Gary Bower, who was working for Reagan at the time, and who introduced me to some of the White House staff, one of whom was Chuck Donovan. Returning to our own Hotel later, I got a call from Chuck asking if my daughters and I could come back to the White House to greet President Reagan returning from Chicago, where he had announced one inning of the Cubs game at the request of Jack Brickhouse.
Reagan had in fact begun his radio career announcing Cubs games for WOC in Davenport, Iowa. He announced the inning in Chicago, which was a big hit with the Wrigley Field crowd. Chuck thought it would be appropriate to have a few Chicagoans and especially Chicago kids meet Reagan when he arrived by helicopter on the White House lawn.
To prepare for the visit I took Annie, 13, and Sarah, 10, to the restaurant on the roof of the Hotel Washington for dinner, and to show them the great view of the White House from this roof top restaurant. When we checked into White House security we each got a large badge on a chain, and went through the kitchen and through the Rose Garden to await Reagan’s arrival.
As the helicopter landed the blades created a whirlwind that spun our badges and almost choked us. As Reagan approached us he wave to Annie and Sarah, but there was so much noise and cheering from other guests that I can’t recall what he said. But there was the broad Reagan smile, the familiar nod of the head and the famous Reagan gait.
The only other Reagan story I have was something of a disaster when Paul Brown and I asked him about pro-lifers who were doing jail time and would he consider a visit with some of the family members of certain jailed pro-lifers. This was before any abortionist had been shot.
Reagan made a courteous but non-committal remark, but the media couldn’t report the incident without sensationalizing it and tried to make our request appear sinister.
Later the White House spin, reacting to the press, also misrepresented the remark, and even some pro-lifers were upset that we had brought up the issue. Reagan had handled the question with more class than the either the press or his staff. A photo taken with Reagan at this meeting appears in the June Action News.
To conclude this message with a tribute to Ronald Regan we can do no better than quote from a letter he wrote Nancy in 1966:
God has a plan and it isn’t for us to understand, only to know that He has His reasons and because He is all merciful and all loving we can depend on it that there is a purpose in whatever He does and it is for our own good. What you must understand without any question or doubt is that I believe this and trust Him and you must, too.
. . . And so must we all.