Writing for President Reagan for eight years was the formative experience of my time in Washington. It began in my 20s and ended shortly after I’d aged just enough to be eligible for the office of the man I’d served. But Ronald Reagan never let my “youth and inexperience” interfere with the incredible opportunity I had been given by Anne Higgins, Reagan’s correspondence director, to craft first drafts of letters, proclamations, occasional articles, and videos for him.
That is only to say something I think we all felt in the East Room in January 1989 when the Reagans hosted the staff for a farewell party. There was a short speech by the president about all that had been accomplished over eight years, not neglecting the bumps and hurdles along the way. I’ve never liked Shakespeare’s phrase that “parting is such sweet sorrow” because some partings just plain hurt, but as this unceremonious ceremony ended and a White House staff of mixed vocal skills spontaneously launched into “Auld Lang Syne,” a dry eye was impossible. We knew we were finishing the jobs of a lifetime. And that was sweet.
Ronald Reagan exemplified what he believed, the simple stuff in all its complexity — like a great oak with roots underground and all that beauty and significance above. It was only fitting that, after hostage crisis and liberation, assassination attempt and recovery, stagflation and economic recovery, anti-nuke demonstrators and the staggering Russian bear — it was only fitting that President Reagan would welcome the national-champion Notre Dame football team during his last week in office.
So many storylines converging: Reagan the Midwestern college kid, football player, and portrayer of George Gipp; the celebration of such American values as honesty and fair play; and, as always, a gentle touch of faith.
No honor can surpass serving a man whose life truly was, and forever will be, all-American.
— Chuck Donovan is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.