The humble and humane persona of Ronald Reagan

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The President Will See You Now: My Stories and Lessons from Ronald Reagan’s Final Years by Peggy Grande, Hachette Books/Hachette Book Group, US $28.00, Pp 262, February 2017, ISBN 978-0316396455

 Many Conservative and Republican Americans believe that President Reagan and his legacy represent the best of America. Although a lot has been written on his political and economic legacies, his personal life remains largely ignored. In The President Will See You Now, his executive secretary Peggy Grande tells us about the man we know very little. Grande worked in the Office of Ronald Reagan from 1989-1999 in California. Grande started working in the Office of Ronald Reagan while she was still a college student and quickly earned her way into a coveted role as the president’s Executive Assistant. Here are some excerpts from The President Will See You Now, showing the humble and humane persona of Ronald Reagan.

Peggy Grande says she especially loved the old-fashioned aspects of his personality, his adherence to protocols, and his humble nature. She writes, “He didn’t like using the phone to ‘buzz’ me from his office. If he needed something, he got up and walked out to my desk. Seated with my back to his office, if I happened to be on the phone and on my computer simultaneously, it might take me a few moments to sense he was standing there, and I would startle when I did. He always apologized for interrupting me. I responded that nothing and no one was more important than him and what he needed. Each day after he had finished his lunch, he would push out his own lunch cart than calling me in to do so. And when we would walk up and down stairs he would reach over and hold my elbow to steady me — keep in mind I was in my twenties and he was in his eighties!”

Peggy Grande narrates a very interesting anecdote!

“I remember one occasion when I helped prepare the president’s office for a small press conference. We took in extra chairs and set up lighting. After the event I was walking in and out of his office carrying the extra chairs one at a time back to the conference room. During one of these trips, I sensed that someone was following me. I turned around to see President Reagan behind me carrying one of the chairs.

I stopped and said, ‘Mr. President — don’t worry about that – I can come back and get it.’

He firmly set the chair down and looked at me, saying, ‘what makes to think you can carry a chair any better than I can?’

I was momentarily speechless, then replied, OK, follow me!”

Peggy Grande says that the gentlemanly side of him never liked women doing heavy lifting — literally — but the professional side of him deeply believed that men and women were equally qualified to do any job. After all, he was the first president to put a woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, on the Supreme Court. This was not a gratuitous appointment, but one that was done because he absolutely was convinced she was well qualified and the right person for the job, and he felt strongly it was time for a woman to serve in this capacity.

President Reagan would handwrite a long personal letter and would ask Peggy Grande if she could type it up for him and send. Peggy Grande says she always knew the recipient would much prefer the handwritten version to her typed version. Peggy Grande says the president had always been a bit self-conscious about his penmanship since he was born left-handed back in the day when teachers required everyone to write right-handed. Peggy Grande assured him that the recipient would not be critical of him penmanship. Peggy Grande writes, “I am sure there are many recipients of these personally handwritten letters who are grateful for my intervention.”

The President Will See You Now is an intimate portrait of the man who was once considered the most powerful man on the planet. Not many people knew President Reagan as well and as intimately as Peggy Grande. Grande brings out the humble and humane persona of Ronald Reagan to life in a way nobody else can. Reviewed by Jonathan T. Rich