Nancy Reagan and Jackie Kennedy Onassis both inscribed for me this picture of their meeting. (Please do not copy to Pinterest or other curating sites.) “What about Jackie?” The first person Nancy Reagan asked me about was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Inside Marine One, the presidential helicopter. 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. Mrs. Reagan visiting her husband as he recuperates in Bethesda Naval Hospital, July 1985. 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 Ladies. On the helicopter, Mrs. Reagan’s eyes were on me as I spoke – carefully. Rather than one sit-down interview, he suggested I might observe the First Lady both in public and behind-the-scenes, asking her questions along the way. From his point of view, I could provide prepared remarks for her to rely upon as she ascended platforms and faced her audiences from podiums. While she had begun to make longer and more serious speeches, at that point, four and a half years into her tenure as First Lady, she really didn’t need speech cards except to make reference to statistics or names, having become
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