“What about Jackie?”
The first person Nancy Reagan asked me about was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
I’d never flown in a helicopter before, let alone the presidential one, but there I was in the sky, whirring through the lower stratosphere above a landscape of ancient Virginia forests being rapidly consumed into suburban housing developments. The chopper was headed to a large clearing of land known as Camp A.P. Hill, near Bowling Green.
This was not just any whirlybird, however, nor a day of knot-tying contests. It was Marine One, the presidential helicopter on its way to the annual Boy Scouts Jamboree, a massive gathering of scouts that were waiting for a speech from the President of the United States that would be delivered by – the First Lady of the United States.
At that moment, Ronald Reagan was still recuperating at Bethesda Naval Hospital, following colon cancer surgery. In a dramatic shift that signaled a new level of public confidence, Nancy Reagan decided to assume more presidential duties until her husband was able to resume his schedule. She decided that she would give the speech expected of him.
I had only recently been brought on, in a contracted position, to write the First Lady’s speeches. It came about as a response to a request for an interview with her that I had submitted to her Chief of Staff James Rosebush, to be used in the book I had already begun researching on the political power of First
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