January 18, 1989

Mr. Duberstein. Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, during the past few weeks, over and over again, so many members of the White House staff have asked for a chance as a group to say so long and job well done. So, today the staff has gathered for the last time to thank you both for the opportunity and the privilege of helping as you have sought to both change a nation and change the world. You both have succeeded in both endeavors.

For most Americans, the President and the First Lady are two people they see on television or read about in the newspapers and magazines, and the White House is a place that is the symbol of American leadership at home and abroad. You have given all of us the honor of being here with you, up close, to help in the challenges you faced. You've allowed us to play a role in the history of our great country. We have had a chance to help you frame the options, just as we have helped you promote your policies, schedule your trips, and bring your unique message to the American people.

Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, you both have made America proud again and respected throughout the world. I know, Mr. President, for the longest time you have been looking for the guy who has been telling you where to go and what to do every 15 minutes of the day. [Laughter] Well, Mr. President, there are a lot of those individuals, and frankly, they're all standing before you today. [Laughter]

On a serious note, you've allowed us to be part of your lives, and you are very much a part of ours. We will cherish the trust you have given us and the warmth you have shown us. You have our respect and our thanks, but you also have our affection as well as our love. For all of us who have served on your staff, being part of your administration is the highest honor of our lives. It was a labor of love that came from the heart.

Some have had that honor longer than others. Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, I would like to call on Joan DeCain, Director of the Presidential Comments and Greetings Office, an original plank-owner of your administration, having been on board since January 20, 1981. She is among the longest serving members of the President's White House staff, and she has a presentation on behalf of all of us, Mr. President, for you. Joan?

Ms. DeCain. Mr. President, I know I speak for all my fellow staff members when I asked you to please accept this gift as a token of our affection. We hope, one and all of us, that it will help you remember us when you're out there in God's country with one of those horses we know you'll be riding. Thanks on behalf of all the staff for all you've done for us. We'll miss you terribly. We wish you good health, good life, lots of fun, and God's blessing. Thank you, sir.

The President. I have a little problem. They just took the stitches out -- [laughter].

Ms. DeCain. Want me to put it down? Here, I'll hold it, and you can put it on.

The First Lady. Oh, my.

The President. Thank you very much. And when I get home, I understand that the Canadian Mounted Police are delivering a horse. [Laughter] And this will take care of that horse. Oh, thank you very much.

Mr. Duberstein. Now I'd like to ask another original plank-owner, Elaine Crispen, to come forward and present Mrs. Reagan with a gift from the staff. Elaine?

Ms. Crispen. If anyone noticed Mrs. Reagan's look, she knows I'm not going to get through it. We've tried these things before. [Laughter] And originally, I had prepared a long list of accomplishments -- everything from restoring this grand old house and making us proud of the residents of it and the place itself to a million children that just say no to drugs because of you, and everything that goes between it. But there isn't time, and I wouldn't get through it.

So, instead, as the person that hasn't allowed you to keep any secrets in the last 4 years -- [laughter] -- I'm presenting you your gift from the staff and letting you know as you open it what's inside. It's a wonderful little box for your collection of boxes. But it's very special because it's crammed full of love and hugs, and you can share it. [Laughter] And it has a bit of magic to it, because no matter how many times you open the box and take out a little hug from us, it'll always replenish itself because we aren't going to forget you. We'll always be thinking of you, and that love will come across the miles and always be in there. So, you can just open it, see us, give us a hug, and they're there for you.

But see, actually, I didn't finish, because we've been proud to call you our First Lady or Nancy or, as that taxi driver in New York said, ``a real classy broad.'' [Laughter] But it's been awfully nice to call you our friend.

Mr. Duberstein. And finally, Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan, we knew you would not want us to leave out Rex -- [laughter] -- so we have a gift for Rex. It was hand-built by the Navy Seabees at Camp David in the last few days, and it is carpeted with some of the carpet from Aspen Lodge. We wanted Rex to feel right at home. [Laughter] Now there will always be a Rex in the White House. [Laughter]

Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, thank you for what you have done for our country, our world, and for each of us. Good luck, and may God bless both of you.

The President. Thank you all, and not alone for the gifts, although they're wonderful, and particularly this last one -- [laughter] -- because he's already taken over this White House at that. [Laughter] I'm glad he's got one of his own now. [Laughter] And you know something, he doesn't get kicked out of it in two terms. [Laughter]

But there aren't any words that can properly tell you how bittersweet these days are and the things that we would like to say to all of you. You know, I keep remembering back -- and not too far -- when someplace along the line there would always be a picture of a President standing in the Oval Office looking out the window -- usually the picture from behind. And he's standing there, and then his words are quoted as a tag for that picture about this is the loneliest place -- the lonely, and so forth. I don't know about them. I haven't been lonely one minute.

I think both of us have been aware every minute we're here that we're surrounded by you, by others who may not be here in this room today but here in this house or over there in the West Wing or just here in Washington -- all a part of everything we came here to do, and it couldn't have been done without you. And we've all shared, and I like to think maybe it's kind of close to what happened 200 years ago. We were all revolutionaries, and the revolution has been a success. But there just aren't enough words to thank you for all that you've meant to all of us and how hard it is to say goodbye to all of you. But as I say, the only thing that can make it bearable at all is to remember all that you did and how much of a team we did become. And God bless you all.

And as I say, there just aren't words enough to express our appreciation to all of you. Thank you, and God bless you all.

Mrs. Reagan. Elaine said I should say something. But I'll never get through it. See? [Laughter] Thank you.

The President. I think the band was going to play something. And it -- --

[At this point, the U.S. Marine Corps Band played ``Auld Lang Syne.'']

The President. Thank you all.

Note: Kenneth M. Duberstein, Chief of Staff to the President, spoke at 3:30 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Elaine D. Crispen was the First Lady's Press Secretary. The staff gave the President a bridle and riding gear, and a doghouse.