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Memories of a Man and a President

June 09, 2004

The first time I met Ronald Reagan, the actor, was at Warner Bros. Studios in 1948. I met President-elect Reagan when he was honored by the L.A. City Council on Jan. 13, 1981. I saw President Reagan next when I danced in the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Though he was gracious, humble and enthusiastic on all these occasions, the man I will always remember is Gov. Reagan in December 1970.

As a volunteer I was driving elderly people to the polls. One 88-year-old lady hadn't re-registered when she moved and was not allowed to vote. Mary cried all the way back to her apartment. The following day I wrote about the incident to Gov. Reagan, giving him her name and address. He sent her a letter thanking her "for being so concerned and for being such a good citizen of our great state." He forwarded me a copy, also with special thanks.

The real thanks go to you, Mr. President. This nation has been blessed by your presence. It was not the place that honored the man but the man who honored the place.





What I remember about Reagan: as a youngster, "Death Valley Days" on black-and-white TV; at UC Berkeley in the late '60s, his National Guard and its pepper gas; on my diploma, his childlike signature; in 1980, the October surprise; Iran-Contra -- when he was "out of the loop"; the economy, with deficits as far as the eye could see; and that he was an informant for the FBI before he was a politician.

For his family, condolences. For the rest of us, history repeating.

Tom Tomeoni

Thousand Oaks


He was my president. We had so much in common. Both from California, both believers that Soviet growth had to be stopped and, to do so, we as a nation had to be on the offensive. We both had a lifelong passion for horses; the difference was that I was a 7-year-old girl and he was the leader of the free world. He was the first president of whom I was really cognizant. I saw my president bring an end to the Cold War and help bring down the Berlin Wall: The words, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" are etched in my mind, much like "Ich bin ein Berliner" must be etched in the minds of those of the Kennedy era. I saw him enmeshed in the Iran-Contra scandal but standing true to his principles. He is the first stranger for whom I have wept.

Mr. President, your wit and wisdom, charisma and confidence will be sorely missed by a nation lacking those attributes. I will miss having a politician whom I respect.

Kirsten Matt

Studio City


What kind of president was Reagan? It depends on your socioeconomic status. During his two terms the stock market exploded. The minimum wage was not raised once; union-busting escalated; unemployment benefits became taxable; the homeless population burgeoned. Just before he left office, a group of his rich U.S. friends bought him a $2.5-million home in Bel-Air [which the Reagans leased with an option to buy], and a group of Japanese businessmen gave him $2 million to speak. Reagan was charming, likable and deserving of the nickname "the Great Communicator." But he was no populist. Not by any stretch.

Steve Varalyay



My condolences and sympathy go to the Reagan family. However, their private grief on his death should not turn into a public blindness to the damage he did in his life. I must therefore dissent from the eulogies praising his works. Reagan was only a mediocre actor, yet he managed to use his position in the Screen Actors Guild to blacklist anyone to the left of him (with the assistance of the entire industry). He was a bad governor, responsible (along with some bleeding-heart liberals) for letting the mentally ill out onto the streets, where they still make up the bulk of the homeless.

He was the worst president of the century. He did not lower taxes; he raised them for most working people (with the help of the Democrats) and gave us the worst deficit in history. He did not end the Cold War; the Soviet Union collapsed on its own, although Reagan almost brought the rest of us down with it by coming to the brink of nuclear war. Reagan, the man, has left us, but his legacy, for better or (in my opinion) worse, remains.

Jeff Sackman

Los Angeles


Regardless of what some people think and say about Reagan, even as the nation mourns his death, history has already determined that he restored belief and pride in being American. As governor and president, Reagan left California, the United States and the world better off and more secure. Indeed, Reagan is truly an American original.

Daniel B. Jeffs

Apple Valley


Regarding your Sunday editorial on President Reagan: Contrary to many, I found your editorial quite balanced and accurate, and I am a lifelong Democrat who voted for him twice. It was only an eight-year affair and has long since ended.

Bill Burgess



I feel I knew Reagan. I felt that Reagan was a friend of mine. George W. Bush, you are no Ronald Reagan!

Steve Smith

Temple City

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