Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nancy Davis Reagan

                    Nancy Reagan was a perfect wife for Ronald Reagan, and they seemed to have a very happy marriage for more than fifty years.  "Observers described Ronald and Nancy Reagan's relationship as intimate.  As president and first lady, the Reagans were reported to display their affection frequently, with one press secretary noting, `They never took each other for granted.  They never stopped courting.'  Ronald often called Nancy `Mommy'; she called him `Ronnie'.  While the President was recuperating in the hospital after the 1981 assassination attempt, Nancy Reagan wrote in her diary, `Nothing can happen to my Ronnie.  My life would be over.'  In a letter to Nancy, Ronald wrote, whatever I treasure and enjoy … all would be without meaning if I didn't have you.'  In 1998, while here husband was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, Nancy told Vanity Fair, `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 was known for the focused and attentive look, termed `the Gaze', that she fastened upon her husband during his speeches and appearances.  President Reagan's death in June 2004 ended what Charlton Heston called `the greatest love affair in the history of theAmerican Presidency."  (Wikipedia) 

Nancy was born as Anne Frances Robbins on July 6, 1921, in New York, and was the only child of her parents who divorced soon after her birth.  Her father, Kenneth Seymour Robbins (1894-1972), was a car salesman, and her mother, Edith Luckett (1888-1987), was an actress.  Nancy lived in York until she was about two and then lived with an aunt and uncle in Maryland while her mother traveled the country to pursue an acting career.  When Edith had a job in New York, Nancy's aunt would take her by train to stay with her mother.

                    In 1929 when Nancy was about eight years old, her mother married Loyal Davis (1896-1982) who was "prominent, politically conservative neurosurgeon.  The family moved to Chicago, and Nancy got along well with her stepfather.  She later wrote that he was "a man of great integrity who exemplified old-fashioned values".  Davis legally adopted Nancy in 1935, and she always considered him to be her father.  Since Anne Frances had been commonly known since birth as Nancy, her name was legally changed at the time of her adoption to Nancy Davis.

                    Nancy Davis attended the Girls' Latin School of Chicago where she was an average student.  After her graduation she attended Smith College in Massachusetts where she majored in English and drama.  She graduated in 1943 and worked in Chicago as a sales clerk in a department store and as a nurse's aide.  With the help of her mother's colleagues in theatre - that included Spencer Tracy - Nancy became a professional actress.  Her first part as an actress was a part in Zasu Pitts' 1945 road tour of Ramshackle Inn.  She moved to New York City where she landed the role as a lady-in-waiting in  Lute Song, a 1946 Broadway musical about the Orient that starred Mary Martin and Yul Brynner (before he was a star).  She passed a screen test, moved to California, and signed a seven-year-contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios (MGM) in 1949.  She considered this experience as "walking into her dream world".   She was usually typecast as a "loyal housewife", "responsible young mother", or "the steady woman" and competed for roles at MGM with Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Leslie Caron, and Janet Leigh.  Nancy had an interesting and successful career in acting.

                    Nancy dated many actors during her days in Hollywood, including Clark Gable, Robert Stack, and Peter Lawford.  She met Ronald Reagan on November 15, 1949 while he was president of the Screen Actors Guild.  Her name had appeared on the Hollywood blacklist, and she went to Reagan for help in removing her name from the list as well as maintaining her employment as a guild actress in Hollywood.  Reagan told Nancy that she had been confused with another actress with the same name.  The two started dating, which caused their relationship to be the subject of many gossip columns.  One such account described their relationship as "the romance of a couple who have no vices".

                    Reagan was not looking to marry again because of his painful divorce from Jane Wyman in 1948 and continued to date other women.  Ronald dated Nancy for three years before he proposed to her; they married on March 4, 1952, in a simple ceremony at the Little Brown Church in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.  William Holden and his wife, actress Brenda Marshall, were the only people in attendance and served as best man and matron of honor.  Ronald and Nancy became parents of two children - Patricia Ann Reagan (known professionally by Patti Davis) and Ronald Prescott Reagan.  Nancy also became stepmother to Maureen Reagan and Michael Reagan, children of Reagan's first marriage to Jane Wyman.  The relationships between Nancy and her children and/or stepchildren were never as close as her relationship with her husband and were often controversial.

                    Nancy served as First Lady of California while her husband was Governor Reagan from 1967 to 1975, but she disliked living in Sacramento because it "lacked the excitement, social life, and mile climate" of Los Angeles.  After living in the California Governor's Mansion for four months, fire officials labeled the mansion to be a "firetrap."  The Reagan family rented a home in a wealthy suburb at their own expense but were viewed as "snobbish" by many people.  Nancy supervised the construction of a new ranch-style Governor's Mansion, which was finished just as Governor Reagan left office.  The house was sold in 1982 because Jerry Brown, Reagan's successor, refused to live there, and California's governors have been living in "improvised arrangements" every since.  While her husband was Governor, Nancy began her work with the Foster Grandparents Program.

                    Although Nancy felt that Ronald was the right man to be President of the United States, she was reluctant for him to join the 1976 presidential campaign because she was worried about his health and career.  She eventually approved of the idea and supported her husband by "holding coffees, luncheons, and talks with senior citizens."  She "oversaw personnel, monitored her husband's schedule, and occasionally provided press conferences."

                    Reagan lost the 1976 Republican nomination but ran for the presidency again in 1980.  This time he succeeded in winning the nomination and election.  Nancy's influence on her husband during this campaign was very noticeable, and "her presence at rallies, luncheons, and receptions increased his confidence."
                    After Reagan was inaugurated in January 1981, Nancy was often compared to Jackie Kennedy, and she restored the formal glamour of Kennedy years to the White House after the less formal years of the Carter Administration.  She also faced much criticism for purchasing new china, making renovations in the White House, expensive clothing, and attending the wedding of Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales.  People thought she was "out of touch with the American people because the nation was in an economic recession, and she was sometimes referred to as "Queen Nancy". 

                    Early in the Reagan Administration Nancy was criticized because she wanted to make some renovations in the White House to make it a "more suitable" as the "first home" because the building was in a "state of disrepair" because of "years of neglect."  Michael Deaver, an aide in the White House, described the second and third floor family residence as having "cracked plaster walls, chipped paint [and] beaten up floors."  Since the nation had been in a fairly severe recession during the Carter Administration, Nancy sought private donations for the renovation and redecoration rather than use government funds.  The major renovation was directed by Nancy and included all of the second and third floors as well as some rooms adjacent to the Oval Office.  During the renovation walls were repainted, floors were refinished, fireplaces were repaired, and antique pipes, windows, and wires were replaced.  Some White House antiques were taken out of storage and placed throughout the mansion.  Nancy said, "This house belongs to all Americans, and I want it to be something of which they can be proud."

                    Nancy was also criticized for ordering new state china for the White House.  Nancy felt that the White House needed new china "really badly, badly needs china."  The last time that a full china serve had been purchased was during the Truman Administration in the 1940s even though the Johnson Administration purchased a partial service in the 1960.  Nancy worked with Lenox, an American porcelain manufacturer, and chose a "design scheme of a red with etched gold band, bordering the scarlet and cream colored ivory plates with a raised presidential seal etched in gold in the center.   The full service included 4,370 pieces (19 pieces per individual set) and cost $209,508.  The china was paid for by private donations, but Nancy was criticized for spending so much money.

                    Red was Nancy's favorite color, and it was worn often.  Nancy wore red so often that the shade used for fire engines became known as "Reagan red." She was very interested in fashion and social life, and her sense of style was compared to that of Jackie Kennedy.  Nancy's dresses, gowns, and suits were made by luxury designers.  It is said that the overall price for the outfit she wore to the 1981 inaugural was $25,000 with $10,000 for the gown.  The Reagans did not purchase all of the fancy duds worn by Nancy because some of the elegant fashions were borrowed; they would be returned later or donated to museums.  This too was a controversial subject, but the American fashion industry considered the First Lady to be good for their business.   
                    Gerald Ford favored the Michigan fight song over "Hail to the Chief," and Jimmy Carter dramatically reduced the formality of presidential functions.  The Reagan Administration brought back the glamour of the Kennedy White House and hosted fifty-six state dinners over eight years.  George and Laura Bush hosted six.

                    Nancy was always protective of her husband and even more so after the 1981 attempt to assassinate him.  She created more controversy when she revealed in 1988 that she received assistant in planning the President's schedule.  Nancy had a strong influence on President Reagan and had a role in a few of his personal and diplomatic decisions.

                    At the end of the Reagan Administration in 1989, the President and Nancy retired to their home in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California.  President Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994 and publicly disclosed his illness.  Nancy devoted her time and energy in caring for President Reagan until his death in 2004.  She remains active with the Reagan Library, in politics, and in supporting stem-cell research.

                    I really like President Reagan and his First Lady.  They came to the White House following four very dark years of the Carter Administration.  They were leaders first, but they were good examples for the American way of life.  I was always very pleased that they were our First Couple.

                    Facts and quotes are from Wikipedia

1 comment:

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