Why I Cried When Reagan Replaced Carter

by Nancy French

Chris Cillizza of WaPo’s The Fix asked his readers a question about our first memories of election days. Well, this isn’t an election-day story per se, but it is about the first time I “felt” the ramifications of an election.

It was January 20, 1981, and I had walked home from kindergarten at Longfellow Elementary in Mayfield, Ky, with my older sister.



On the television, news anchors were covering Inauguration Day activities.

“What’s happening?” I asked my sister.

“We have a new president,” she said.

At the time I was immersed in the world of storybooks – with knights and kings and princesses.  There were no democratically elected leaders in the books my parents read to me before bed, only kindly kings who ruled beneficently over their kingdoms and threw the occasional ball for the purposes of royal matchmaking.

All I’d ever known was Jimmy Carter, and I assumed he would always be our leader.

“Who’s taking his place?” I asked.

“A guy named Ronald Reagan.”

I burst into tears.

Isn’t it ironic that I grew up to to write for National Review Online even though my first political memory was lamenting Ronald Reagan’s victory over Carter?

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