Remarks at a Luncheon Honoring Nancy Reagan at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana


August 15, 1988


Mrs. Reagan. Well, wait till I tell my husband about this. [Laughter] Maureen, you really did surprise me -- everything. I was told that this was going to be a surprise luncheon. I was not to ask any questions, which I didn't, so that I never knew what exactly was going to happen. But really, I do thank you. Thank you. And I want to thank Rich Little, my good friend, and Barbara Cook, who was so wonderful and sang my favorite song, and everybody who spoke up here so nicely about me. I appreciate it so much. And all these wonderful kids -- I mean, you were the topping on the cake. And the contribution, of course, was -- I never, never expected -- the whole thing has been a big, big surprise.


Well, now, if I can come down to Earth for a minute here. You know, obviously, this convention is a very warm and nostalgic one for my husband and me. We can't help but think of previous conventions and all the remarkable people that we've met over the years. So many memories come flooding back: Kansas City, Detroit, Dallas. The Republican Party has given Ronnie and me 8 of the most wonderful years we ever had. Of course, sometimes they were a little bit frustrating and a little bit frightening, but they were wonderful. So, I'd like to express our thanks to you for giving us those years.


But you know, there are cycles and rhythms to life. There are times to enter, times to stay, and times to leave. And today the curtain begins to close on the Reagan era of the Republican Party. We've had a wonderful run. But the time has come for the Bushes to step into the political leading roles, and for the Reagans to step into the wings. And that's as it should be.


During our two terms together, George and Bar have been totally supportive and helpful and gracious. And they have our gratitude and affection. My husband couldn't have selected a better Vice President than George Bush. He's a man of integrity and conscience and loyalty -- qualities that aren't always in great abundance in Washington. And I know I couldn't have found a warmer, more considerate, more caring counterpart than Barbara Bush. And I think she'll be a remarkable First Lady.


So, I want to thank George and Bar for that letter that they sent also. And I want to thank all of you here and so many others who aren't here, who have stood by us over these past 8 years. I can't tell you how important it is to know that you have friends. So, to my friends, I say a very heartfelt thank you. Thank you very much.


Maureen Reagan. We have one more surprise for you. It wouldn't be complete to pay a tribute to the First Lady of the United States without the real leader of the Republican Party, President Ronald Reagan.


The President. I came over on such short notice that I haven't had a chance to read my remarks yet. [Laughter] But the speechwriters usually do a pretty good job, so I'll just begin.


I've known the guest of honor for many years. [Laughter] Well, yes, that's true. [Laughter] She was once one of the original members of the Reagan inner circle -- [laughter] -- well, I can't dispute that -- [laughter] -- who's been involved in some of the most delicate White House matters, such as high-level staff -- maybe I better do this by myself. [Laughter]


In fact, I've been thinking for several days about what exactly I wanted to say today and how to put Nancy's role in my life in perspective for you. But what do you say about someone who gives your life meaning? What do you say about someone who's always there with support and understanding, someone who makes sacrifices so that your life will be easier and more successful? Well, what you say is that you love that person and treasure her. I simply can't imagine the last 8 years without Nancy. The Presidency wouldn't have been the joy it's been for me without her there beside me. And that second-floor living quarters in the White House would have seemed a big and lonely spot without her waiting for me every day at the end of the day. You know, she once said that a President has all kinds of advisers and experts who look after his interests when it comes to foreign policy or the economy or whatever, but no one who looks after his needs as a human being. Well, Nancy has done that for me through recuperations and crises. Every President should be so lucky.


I think it's all too common in marriages that, no matter how much partners love each other, they don't thank each other enough. And I suppose I don't thank Nancy enough for all that she does for me. So, Nancy, in front of all your friends here today, let me say: Thank you for all you do. Thank you for your love. And thank you for just being you.


Mrs. Reagan. Oh, dear!


The President. You going to puddle up?


Mrs. Reagan. Yes.


Note: Mrs. Reagan spoke at 2:13 p.m. in Hall A at the New Orleans Convention Center.