Nancy Davis Reagan, the former First Lady of the United States, passed away Sunday after congestive heart failure at the age of 94. For decades, she used her influence to drive positive social change for her beloved country.
A Faithful Companion
Nancy and Ronald Reagan had an incontrovertible devotion towards each other. In multiple interviews, she would highlight their profound and reciprocal adoration.
Nancy was a successful Broadway and Hollywood actress. When she sought reassurance after being mistakenly accused of being a suspected communist sympathizer; she had a meeting with the then President of the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan. This began one of the most famous love stories of the red carpets and Washington.
Their relationship proved to be both authentic and strong during President Reagan’s fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. She immediately began to develop research initiatives, advocating for not only medical advances but also recognition and awareness of the disease. In fact, she challenged the George H. W. Bush administration when it attempted to curb research efforts on embryonic stem cell research, a potential holder to the cure of Alzheimer.
A Leader of Her Own
As the First Lady of the state of California, she would work with charitable groups and organizations, like the mentally and physically disabled, veterans, and senior citizens. Nancy also developed a sharp interest in public policy, becoming one of President Reagan’s most trusted advisors, staffing, and influencing political decisions. Sound familiar?
Nancy Reagan also engaged in American foreign relations in a minor capacity. With her husband’s rhetoric deeming the Soviet Union an evil empire, Nancy would offer a balance to his words. She coordinated a dinner with Secretary of State George Schultz to the Soviet ambassador to ease tensions. In 1987, when Gorbachev visited the White House, Nancy would serve as Raisa Gorbachev’s (USSR First Lady) combatant. Raisa would attack Nancy, but she swiftly and diplomatically defended herself and the interests of the nation.
One of Nancy’s most famous initiatives was “Just Say No”. The campaign aimed to prevent children and adolescents to partake in illegal drugs. In 1985, she held a conference at the White House with First Ladies from seventeen countries to engage in dialogue and solutions for the issue. She championed the initiatives throughout Ronald Reagan’s years as president and continued to do it until her last days.
Nancy was the object of intense criticism for her opulent style. She raised approximately 1 million dollars for White House renovations. Although no taxpayer money was spent, that became a symbol of superficiality.
However, she was praised for her grace and glamor. Many designers wished to dress her, particularly in what became her signature color, red. This was overshadowed by the major contributions she gave to this country and the reinvention of the role of a First Lady.
President Obama: “Our former First Lady redefined the role in her time here.”
Nancy was the pioneer in the reevaluation of the FLOTUS role in the country: someone who would use her power to influence and create social initiatives for the betterment of the citizens of America. Effectively, the succeeding First Ladies continued her legacy. Barbara Bush, for example, developed the Women’s Initiative Team, focus on empowering women worldwide. Current FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, started the “Let’s Move” campaign, combating the issue of overweight and emphasizing the importance of exercise and a healthy diet.
The United States will remember Nancy Reagan as a glamorous, loving, and devoted First Lady who contributed to the improvement of her nation and truly redefined the role of the First Lady.