Transcript: Nancy Reagan on 'Larry King Live'
LARRY KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”: Every year on this date - it seems that we’ve been doing it forever - we celebrate his birthday - he being the former president of the United States, Ronald Reagan. The birthday tonight is number 90, so we think it especially appropriate, instead of having a phone call, we would have her right here in the studios - the former first lady, Nancy Reagan.
What - did you ever think 90?
NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: No, never. I still can't believe it.
REAGAN: I know. I know. It's incredible.
KING: And he was - he isn't the kind of guy that's supposed to be 90, right?
REAGAN: No, he isn't. No, he isn't. Like Jack Kennedy. You can't think of Jack Kennedy as being ...
KING: Yeah, he would be - he would be close to Ronnie's age, right?
REAGAN: I think he'd be older, wouldn't he? Didn't I ...
REAGAN: ... that he'd be 100?
KING: He'd be right there.
REAGAN: Yeah. Well, you don't think of either one of them as being old. And Ronnie doesn't look it.
KING: Oh, yeah. We never get to see him. How does he look?
REAGAN: He looks fine. I mean, his, you know, the skin - he's got a full head of hair.
KING: Would you say he does not look 90?
REAGAN: Oh, no.
KING: Is this genes?
REAGAN: I - it must be, because his brother had a full head of hair. His mother had a full head of hair. And Ronnie - I mean, when the barber comes to cut his hair, he has to thin it.
KING: You're kidding.
REAGAN: No, I'm not.
KING: And the color is still orangish-reddish?
REAGAN: No. It never was orangish-reddish.
KING: All right. What was the actual color?
KING: What a - but a kind of brown that looked red in the sun. Looked red to me.
REAGAN: Well, I don't know what you were seeing.
KING: Brown. But he always had that light color hair.
REAGAN: Yeah. Yeah. Got a few grays, but not many.
KING: That - is there - is there anything good about aging?
REAGAN: Well, if you find out, let me know.
KING: There have been better years for you than this one, right? So let's discuss first that which was most immediate in the news. The hip. What happened? Because I know you fell. We had lunch ...
KING: ... one day when you limped in.
REAGAN: That's right. Well, Ronnie got up out of bed and walked around and fell.
KING: Was it in the morning?
KING: Were you there?
REAGAN: No. I was at the - I had gone to the eye doctor. I was only gone for, like, 10 minutes.
KING: So when you got back ...
REAGAN: Oh, there was a nurse there. Not in the same room, but ...
KING: Was there a panic scene like when you got back, or ...
REAGAN: Well, the Secret Service called me to say that there had been an accident. And I got home, and - Larry, it was so incredible.
KING: The pain?
REAGAN: Oh, with - Ronnie, never, ever complains about pain. Ever.
KING: Wait a minute. No complaint with a broken hip?
KING: I am told that's impossible.
REAGAN: No. This time, when - he was frowning, and he was rubbing his right thigh, you knew he had to be in pain, because he never ...
KING: Of course me, I'm screaming, pounding on the floor. Give me something.
On the way home, you must have thought the worst, or did they tell you it was a fall?
REAGAN: They told me it was a fall.
KING: Did - the idea of getting someone like this to the hospital right away - here we have a former president. This is not your everyday patient. He also has Alzheimer’s, which must complicate some of the kind of problems in communications. How was it done? How did it all happen?
REAGAN: Well, we called an ambulance, and got him into the ambulance and went.
KING: Why St. John's hospital, which is not the one closest to you?
REAGAN: Our - all of our doctors were at St. John's, and so that's where we went.
KING: And what did they say - is this - this is very common, right, in older people?
KING: Was the prognosis good right away?
REAGAN: He was operated on the next morning. And Ronnie heals very quickly.
KING: Because you're supposed to stay in two weeks at that age. That's what they said.
REAGAN: Yeah. Well, he stayed in a week. As a matter of fact, it was two weeks ago yesterday that he had his surgery.
KING: And we're taping this a few days before the birthday.
KING: So they let him go home early because he was able to go home early.
REAGAN: He was able to go home.
KING: Now, does he have to walk with a cane?
REAGAN: Well, he hasn't walked yet. And they ...
KING: Oh, they won't let him. When he walks, he will walk with a cane?
REAGAN: I don't know. I don't know. This is all to be seen.
KING: Were you able to watch - now, you're the daughter of a doctor. And you've watched surgery. Did you watch this?
REAGAN: No. They wouldn't let me in the operating room. I was with him ...
KING: You have a lot of clout, Nancy. You could have said, "I want ..."
REAGAN: No, I wasn't in the operating room.
KING: And how did he handle all of it? We always remember his grace during the shooting.
REAGAN: He handled this just as well. Just as well.
KING: Did he know what was going on?
REAGAN: Well, he knew something had happened, sure.
KING: I mean, obviously. But, I mean, you know, we don't - we're learning so much about this disease. Was he comprehending what was going on?
REAGAN: I don't know, Larry.
KING: The saddest part of all, because we don't know. But he wasn't screaming in pain.
REAGAN: Oh, no. He wouldn't scream in pain at all.
KING: Now, at the same time - correct me if I'm wrong - Maureen is in the hospital.
REAGAN: Yes. We've - we end up father and daughter in the same hospital.
KING: You couldn't write this.
REAGAN: No, you couldn't. No, you couldn't.
KING: How's she doing?
REAGAN: She's tolerating her treatments pretty well. And hopefully, she's a very strong girl, and she'll be out.
KING: They released a statement that it's melanoma skin cancer? Melanoma? Did you know this? I mean, did ...
REAGAN: No, not until - what do you mean?
KING: I mean, did you know there was something wrong? Was she complaining, because ...
REAGAN: No. No. She didn't know there was anything wrong until they found it.
KING: And the treatment is what? Chemotherapy?
REAGAN: Yes. She's at - she has - there are three - there's a series of three treatments with three weeks in between each. And, you know ...
KING: You hope. She's a gutsy lady, though.
REAGAN: Yes, she is. Yes, she is. I'm sure she'll be fine.
KING: Maybe it's a blessing that her father doesn't have full comprehension of something like that.
REAGAN: Well, it was so strange to be in the hospital with her.
KING: Did you go back and forth?
REAGAN: She couldn't come up to Ronnie.
KING: Did you ...
REAGAN: I went down ...
KING: You were - you were ...
REAGAN: ... to see her.
KING: ... shuttle (ph).
REAGAN: Yes. And Dennis, her husband, came to see Ronnie.
KING: Now, what was the world (ph)? How was the world reacting to Ronald Reagan? Who did you hear from? What were - who was calling?
REAGAN: I heard from so many people. I'm - it was wonderful. It really was very heartwarming. I heard from - well, if we go for presidents, Ford, Bush, senior and junior, and then we get into Nackasoni (ph), Prince Charles ...
KING: How about well-wishers? Everyday people.
REAGAN: Oh, lots. I mean, we got, I think, 10,000 e-mails at the library. Isn't that nice?
KING: I want to talk about that library in a while, because that's very, very - I've been there, and I know how important a place that is. We could maybe raise some money for it tonight on his 90th birthday. That would be appropriate.
REAGAN: Yes, it would.
KING: Because (ph) remember, we did an interview once on his 80th birthday where he promised to come back on his 90th.
So the hip now is mending, and the outlook is good for that, right?
KING: The doctor's report - what did they do?
REAGAN: They put in a pin ...
KING: Where the break occurred, right?
REAGAN: (INAUDIBLE). Yeah.
KING: And then that fuses, I guess, to the bone?
REAGAN: I guess so, Larry.
KING: What were they like at the hospital?
REAGAN: Wonderful. Just wonderful. The doctor is great, and the nurses were wonderful. It was - they were all nice.
KING: Every time I called, you were there.
REAGAN: Oh, yeah.
KING: Didn't you ever go home?
KING: They brought you clothes? You are - in later life, as you were in earlier life, you're kind of inseparable, the two of you.
KING: Can you explain that? I mean, we all know about love affairs, but yours is different. That book showed us how different. The letters, which I hope if you don't, I'm going to read a couple.
REAGAN: No, I'm not.
KING: Did you how do you explain that? Is this just fate? You and him.
REAGAN: I don't know. I don't know. I've had letters - I found a letter that was written to me, a girl who was getting married, and she wanted to know the secret of a happy marriage. And I said - and I wrote back and said something to the effect that I couldn't - I had no magic formula, and I never sat down and thought about it. But everything just fell into place with Ronnie and me. We completed each other.
KING: Did you ever fight?
REAGAN: We disagreed, but we never yelled or slammed doors.
KING: Never had none of those "Get out of here!" or ...
REAGAN: No, no. No, no. But there's nobody that you agree with all the time.
KING: So you - by completing each other, what is - where you weren't whole, he made you whole. And you the same for him. And that continues now.
REAGAN: Oh, yes.
KING: Except you are faced with something now, and you've helped so many people by getting the tragic way that someone has to have affected by someone for us to be focused on it. When did you first notice?
REAGAN: I didn't.
KING: You never noticed Alzheimer's ...
REAGAN: I didn't. No.
KING: ... coming on?
REAGAN: No. We went to Mayo's in August that year.
KING: Was there the normal memory slippages ...
KING: ... that older people have?
REAGAN: Well, yes.
KING: You know, I forgot his name.
REAGAN: I mean, you forgot - you forget names. I forget names.
KING: Forgot where I had lunch today.
REAGAN: So no, I didn't notice anything.
KING: And then what happened at Mayo?
REAGAN: Well, they diagnosed it as Alzheimer's.
KING: And they came and told you? Did you get second opinions? Did you - what ...
REAGAN: No, I ...
KING: … how do you react to something like that?
REAGAN: Well, you - we had been going to Mayo's for so long, and I knew all the doctors so well, I accepted what they said. But of course, nobody can ever know what it's like until you're there.
KING: What was it like for him to write that letter, that now famous - what was it, '94?
REAGAN: '94. He went into the library, and I was with him, and he just sat down at the table and wrote it.
KING: Now, we have learned subsequently, through letters, how good a writer he was.
REAGAN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Very good writer.
KING: I wonder if he doctored scripts ever? Because he could have.
KING: He had a way with words.
REAGAN: Yes, he did. But there's a book that's coming out by Marty Anderson (ph) called "Reagan in His Own Words." He found a lot of speeches and radio shows and ...
KING: He wrote his own radio shows.
KING: Oh, and that's - yeah, I saw somewhere that it's coming.
REAGAN: Yes. And it's wonderful. I mean, you can't believe the things that he wrote about. I remember when he first ran for governor, and people criticized him because he was talking too much about foreign affairs. And then when he ran for president, they were criticizing him for the opposite. I mean, you know …
KING: He liked to write.
REAGAN: He liked to write. Yes.
KING: So he just sat down and wrote that letter to the public, because he knew what was coming. So, as they say - well, Hemingway says, "Class is grace under pressure."
KING: He had that.
REAGAN: He sure had.
KING: Did he express fears to you?
KING: He didn't say ...
KING: ... "this is going to be terrible," or ...
REAGAN: No. Well, all he said were - which is in the letter, that he knew it would be hard on me and that he hoped that with people's support and faith that I'd get through it, and he was sorry to put me in this position.
KING: What should people know who hear this news about a relative, a wife, a husband, a mother, a father? What advice can the caregiver give another caregiver?
REAGAN: Well, that's hard to answer, Larry. You just get up each day and put one foot in front of the other and go. You know, each day is different.
KING: But it is ...
REAGAN: It's a progressive disease.
KING: That's right. So Monday is not going to be better than Sunday.
What about new drugs we hear about?
REAGAN: I - as I understand it, they have they found two new drugs that will delay the onset, which I would have been very happy to have used for ...
KING: Toughest part for the caregiver, I guess, is you don't get back what you give, right? Isn't that the hardest, to keep giving when someone is not responding, not through any fault of their own.
REAGAN: No, that doesn’t bother you. At least it doesn’t bother me. It - it’s sad to see somebody you love and have been married for so long, and you can’t share memories. That’s the sad part.
KING: You know, I never thought of that. Couples sit down and say, “Remember when ...”
KING: “... little Fergie (ph) broke his foot ...”
KING: “... and here (ph) was the picnic.”
REAGAN: Right. Right. You can’t do that.
KING: So you share them with yourself. How important are your friends?
REAGAN: Oh, very important. Very important. But, you know, you don’t want to - if somebody calls you, you don’t want to unload on them every time they call.
KING: Well, you’re not - you’re not a complainer by nature, right? You don’t sit around and talk about ...
REAGAN: I hope not.
KING: But you have, you know, helped a lot of people.
REAGAN: I hope so.
KING: You’ve raised a lot of money ...
REAGAN: Yeah. I hope so.
KING: ... for this disease.
KING: For a while you weren’t talking about it. What made you change?
REAGAN: I guess being with Ronnie.
KING: And I guess he would have wanted you to. Wouldn’t he? Because he would have wanted to help ...
REAGAN: That’s why he wrote the letter, because he wanted to help people. And he made it public and, you know, the same thing that he did with colon cancer, prostate cancer.
KING: He’s had them all.
REAGAN: He’s had them all.
KING: What do you do with frustration? Because you must have that. It must be frustrating when you’re with someone who’s not cognitive.
REAGAN: Well, you just learn to live with it. I mean, what is there to do?
KING: Well, some people - there are hospitals that specialize in just treating Alzheimer patients. You would never do that?
REAGAN: Oh, no. Oh, no. Never. Never. No, no. He’s going to stay at home.
KING: Do you ever hope that maybe the end comes? I mean, do you ever say, “You know, maybe it isn’t such a life.”
REAGAN: No, I never ...
KING: Because he’s not in pain.
REAGAN: No, he’s not in pain.
KING: How goes the library, by the way?
REAGAN: Very well.
KING: People come every day?
KING: They come more when there’s a new story?
REAGAN: Well, there were a lot of people who went to the library after he broke his hip.
KING: That’s what I mean. The name comes back in the news, and ...
REAGAN: Yeah. And, I mean, they were lined up, bringing flowers and everything. So yes, it’s doing well.
KING: Would you describe the setting? I’ve been there. Describe, first of all, where it is, and ...
REAGAN: It’s in Simi Valley, California.
KING: His favorite view there, right?
REAGAN: Yeah. The shining city on the hill that he often talked about. It’s high, and you have a wonderful view, which he always liked.
KING: There’s a lot of great things in that library, including a whole film career.
REAGAN: Yes. Yes.
KING: After all, that was half the life.
REAGAN: Yes. Well, you know, when you think about it, he’s had an incredible life, when you think back. I mean, sports announcer, pictures, governor, president. It’s incredible.
KING: You know, he - that’s right, he’s a large mirror of the society. He even gets a disease at the end of his life that becomes one of the prevalent (ph) talked about diseases.
REAGAN: Yeah. Yeah.
KING: He has the most prominent men’s disease that we all feel (ph). Prostate. That’s old news to him, right? That was history long ago. Prostate - the cancer was yesterday to him, right?
KING: So he’s pulled through all of this. His wife has breast cancer. By the way, what - are there any aftermaths of that for you?
KING: Are you in good health?
REAGAN: Yes, knock on wood.
KING: I mean, you’re OK, because you’re - you are frail. Not frail. You’re a - you’re (INAUDIBLE), you know what I mean? You’re - you walk (ph) quietly in the room.
REAGAN: Well, thank you, Larry.
KING: Are you in good health?
REAGAN: Yeah - I think so.
KING: Do you still go to Mayo for your checkups?
REAGAN: No, I haven’t been since Ronnie and I were there together. I should go, but I don’t want to leave him.
KING: Now, you don’t have visitors, do you?
KING: Because you don’t want people to see it?
REAGAN: I don’t think that Ronnie would want that. I think Ronnie would want people to remember him as he - as he was.
KING: So when you read a newspaper or watch television, do you still talk to him? You know, do you - do you - do you have discussions?
REAGAN: Well, no. You can’t.
KING: Because he - there’d be no response at all. I don’t know how you do it. I’m ...
REAGAN: Well, as I say, you just get up each day ...
KING: You do it because you do it.
KING: Has the library added new things? I know you have a missile.
REAGAN: Yes, we have a missile. We have a - gosh, we keep changing the exhibits, you know, because ...
KING: You saw those great group of speakers (INAUDIBLE) was honored to be one. Was a great day.
REAGAN: Yes, it was. Yes, it was.
KING: It’s a - it’s a great presidential library.
REAGAN: It really is.
KING: Whoever put it together - and it needs funds all the time, right? There’s ...
REAGAN: Of course it does. Of course it does.
KING: Well, speaking of funds, I want you to comment on something. This broke last week. The former President Ronald Reagan, whose friends bought him a $2.5 million home in Bel Air in 1989, paid those friends back with interest after he left the White House, his chief of staff said, last week. With all those stories about gifts and all, I - we had never known that.
REAGAN: Well, at the time, it was - it was public that (INAUDIBLE) our money ...
KING: Well, the gift was public, but I never knew ...
REAGAN: That we repaid.
REAGAN: Well, you know, some things are just left out of stories.
KING: So it was always a loan, then?
REAGAN: Always. Always. Our money was in a blind trust, and we had to buy a house, and we didn’t know how much money we had, so the friends bought it, and then we paid them with interest.
KING: Without willing (ph) to put any discomfort on anyone else, do you think you’ve got a bad rep on gifts?
REAGAN: Little bit.
KING: You wrote about it in your own book. I mean, you took a lot of hits for things that are now everyday. You ever feel funny when you see things like that?
KING: So it was always the intent to pay back the house, and the house ...
KING: ... was paid back with interest.
REAGAN: With interest.
KING: I’ll bet you most people thought that that was a lifetime gift.
REAGAN: They probably did. Just as most people think I bought the china.
KING: They still think that?
REAGAN: I still read it. I still hear it. And I keep saying, “It was donated. It was donated.”
KING: All you did was borrow some dresses from designers, right? That - which is done ...
REAGAN: All the time.
KING: The wife does it when she goes to an event (INAUDIBLE) do this.
I want to discuss some things, because we’re going to be showing some clips from them, and I want your thoughts on them. When you sang “Our Love is Here to Stay” at that White House gala, what was that moment like?
REAGAN: Well, that’s our song. You know.
KING: Gershwin to you.
REAGAN: Yeah. And I sang it to Ronnie.
KING: Did he know you were going to do it?
REAGAN: No. No. He was so surprised.
KING: We’ve just seen an inaugural. I guess one of the inaugurals - there’s some inaugurals that remain implanted in our minds. I mean, John F. Kennedy’s in the snow. And your inaugural - the red hat, the red coat, looking up. What do you remember?
REAGAN: I remember mostly that it was very overcast, gray. But when Ronnie came forward, the clouds broke and the sun came out. Same thing happened in Sacramento.
KING: Really? On his first term as governor?
REAGAN: And as a matter of fact, when he was shot, the next morning there was a rainbow over the White House. So many ...
KING: You’re starting to get me to believe these things.
REAGAN: I - well, it’s true.
KING: What were you thinking then? Were you - were you then the girl who grew up in Silver Spring or the little girl from Chicago or - what were you, standing up there, your husband is about to become president ...
KING: ... you made movies together.
REAGAN: Yeah. Well, we just made one together, but ...
KING: “No Cats in the Navy (ph).”
REAGAN: Yes. Well, it’s so overwhelming when you’re really doing it that I don’t remember thinking anything except that my gosh, here he is, and he’s president.
KING: My Ronnie.
REAGAN: My Ronnie.
KING: They just celebrated the anniversary of Challenger, and we will never forget your husband that day.
REAGAN: I know.
KING: What was that like for you?
REAGAN: Well, about like it was for everybody else.
KING: You went down there.
REAGAN: Yeah. Yeah. Terrible, terrible. Sad.
KING: Is that one of the hardest things of - executive things that people have to do? Tragedy?
REAGAN: Oh, I think so. Yeah. Seeing - trying to give people support, and - yes, it’s very hard. And they’re crying and you’re crying, which I can do pretty easily.
KING: How about his farewell speech?
REAGAN: How ...
KING: Remember that day when he left?
REAGAN: When he left Washington?
KING: Yeah. You said goodbye. Was that a sad day for you, or were you happy to leave? You did a little spin around Washington.
REAGAN: Yeah, we did. Then a helicopter took us over the White House, and he looked down, and he said, “Look, honey. There’s our little cottage.”
KING: The assassination attempt. You were out that day, right? Where were you?
REAGAN: I was at a luncheon at an art museum, and for some reason - this has never happened to me before or since, and I hope it doesn't - I just had this overwhelming desire to get out and go home. And I did.
KING: Here we go again.
KING: No call?
REAGAN: No. And I went back to the White House, and I went up to the ...
KING: Left early.
REAGAN: I left early. Yeah. Didn't stay for dessert or whatever. And I went up to the solarium, where they were doing some work, and then George Opfur (ph), who was head of my detail, came there ...
KING: And what does he say?
REAGAN: He said, "There's been a shooting, but don't worry. The president's all right." And he thought he was. Everybody thought he was. And he said ...
KING: He told us he didn't know he was shot.
REAGAN: That's right. That's right.
KING: And then what? Right to the hospital?
REAGAN: Right to the - George (ph) kept saying, "You don't have to go. He's all right. He hasn't been hurt." I said, "George (ph), I'm going. You better get the car, because I'm going." And I went.
KING: What days those were. We - I guess then, as we didn't know about the house, we didn't know how close we came to losing him.
REAGAN: Oh, yes.
KING: That close (ph).
KING: Touch and go.
REAGAN: Yes, it was. I almost lost him.
KING: Did you know that?
KING: In other words, they didn't Pollyanna it.
REAGAN: No. No. A nurse would come in periodically and give me updates. Then I remember one time she said, "Well, we may have to leave the bullet in there." And I said, "Leave it in? I don't think that sounds very good." And they finally found it an inch from his heart.
KING: Was there a time, truthfully, when you thought you'd lose him?
REAGAN: Oh, yes. Yes, there was.
KING: You know what, Nancy, as you look at the totality of your life, the totality of it - your father, your breast cancer. You lose a mother shortly thereafter. Your husband has all the diseases; he gets shot; he's attained everything and had every misfortune. How do you regard yourself? I mean, are you lucky? Unlucky?
REAGAN: I rarely think about myself that much. I really don't.
KING: You know, some people go around and say, "Boy, the gods, they give you a - they give you this, and they take it away."
REAGAN: I must say, the last couple of weeks, I felt like that little cartoon figure who walked around with the black cloud over his head.
KING: Li’l Abner.
REAGAN: Yeah. Li’l Abner.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) around his head. Or as Al Pacino said in "Godfather III," "Every time I (INAUDIBLE), they throw me back in."
Do you ever feel that fate treated you badly?
REAGAN: No. No. When you - when you balance it all out, I've had a pretty fabulous life.
KING: You ever miss acting? You almost took a role.
REAGAN: Yes, I did.
KING: If Ronnie weren't sick, you were going to do “Mother” for Albert Brooks, right?
REAGAN: That's right. I was. I was. And it would have been fun. Maybe. But Debbie did it, and she was great. She got nominated.
KING: What was it like at that tribute to you at the convention? Were you taken by it?
REAGAN: Oh, yes.
KING: You had to be.
KING: Because you didn't know that was coming.
REAGAN: No. It was very sweet. Darling.
KING: What's it like seeing your old friends there? Colin Powell, secretary of state, one of your favorite people on earth. Your husband wanted him to be president.
REAGAN: Yeah. I'm very happy he's there.
KING: You're confident in him. And of course you supported Governor Bush, so I guess you're happy all things go around there - goes around comes around.
REAGAN: That's right.
KING: Do you - do you think about endings? Do you - do you think about - I know - because I stood there with you. You know where you're going to be buried.
KING: See, that's weird to me. But you know exactly the place you ...
REAGAN: Well, most presidents do know.
KING: It's either at the library or the site they choose. So you - every time you go to the library, you look at that.
REAGAN: Well, I don't really look at it. I just know where it is.
KING: Do you think about ...
KING: Do - now this - Ronnie could make 100 then, couldn't he?
REAGAN: Sure could.
KING: Everything else is fine.
REAGAN: Everything else.
KING: Heart, liver, lungs, kidney.
REAGAN: Yeah. Yeah.
KING: Appetite still good?
REAGAN: Yes. Not as ...
KING: He had a great appetite.
REAGAN: ... good as it was. Yeah, he did.
KING: I had lunch with him once. He destroyed (ph) - desserts?
KING: Still like desserts?
REAGAN: Yes, but not - you know, he doesn't have as decent appetite as he used to. But he eats.
KING: We're going to spend a few more moments with Nancy Reagan on this occasion, the 90th birthday of her - of her husband. Don't go away.
We'll do another five.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: OK. Stand by.
KING: They think you're wonderful. (INAUDIBLE) great tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: Five, four ...
KING: We're back with some more moments with - what are we - what - a national treasure, Nancy Reagan. (INAUDIBLE) I remember those first two years. They forget. What goes around comes around, though.
REAGAN: That's what they say.
KING: What led to the publication of the letters book? Because ...
REAGAN: Well ...
KING: ... we didn't have a chance to talk to you in that book. We did a whole show reading those letters ...
KING: ... and you must have cried that night.
REAGAN: Oh, I did.
REAGAN: Yes, I did. Well, you know ...
KING: … reading letters. How'd that come about?
REAGAN: Well, I had all these letters. I saved everything, as I always do. I'm a big saver. And, I mean, I saved letters from before we were married. I saved Christmas cards ...
KING: Old boyfriends?
REAGAN: No. No. No, Ronnie.
KING: Oh, but I mean, hey, if you save, you save.
REAGAN: No, I don't. No.
REAGAN: Life began with Ronnie.
I saved Christmas tie-on things, because he'd always write something very sweet. But I came to realize that I had to make some decision about these letters, and I could destroy them, which I couldn't possibly do, or I could leave them where they were, but then you run the risk of somebody finding them and selling them.
KING: True. Which they would have.
REAGAN: Yes, they would have. It's happened to us before. So the library was the perfect place.
KING: And the library benefits from the sale of them, right? And that book sold very well. Who benefits - oh, the Alzheimer's ...
REAGAN: Alzheimer's and the library. We - it was split. I didn't get anything, but ...
KING: If you (ph) want to help the library, by the way, it's just the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley ...
REAGAN: Simi Valley. Yeah.
KING: ... California. And the - is there one Alzheimer's fund that you're associated with most, or is the National Alzheimer's ...
REAGAN: National …
KING: So I'll just read one of the letters. I know it's hard for you to read them. I love this one. “As” - "Dear First Lady," so you already got the job. "As president of the United States, it's my honor and privilege to cite you for service above and beyond the call of duty in that you have made one man, me, the most happy man in the world for 29 years.
“Beginning in 1951, Nancy Davis sealed the plight of a lonely man who didn't know how lonely he really was, determined to rescue him from a completely empty life, refusing to be rebuffed by a certain amount of stupidity on his part. She ignored his somewhat slow response. With patience and tenderness, she gradually brought the light of understanding to his darkened, obtuse mind, and he discovered the joy of loving someone with all his heart.
“Nancy Davis then went on to bring him happiness for the next 29 years as Nancy Davis Reagan, for which she has received and will continue to receive his undying devotion forever and ever. She has done this in spite of the fact that she still can't find the - he still can't find the words to tell her how lost he would be without her. He sits in the Oval Office from which he can see, if he scrootches (ph) down, her window and feels warm all over just knowing she is there. The above is the statement of the man who benefited from her act of heroism. The below is his signature.
“Ronald Reagan, President of the United States.
“P.S. He, I mean, I, love and adore you.”
KING: Why didn't we know how well he could write while he - you know, he should have written more.
REAGAN: (INAUDIBLE) he didn't have time when he was president.
KING: I know, but ...
REAGAN: But he - but he - every speech he went over, and he would change a lot of it.
KING: So that image we had of him of just reading what they gave him …
REAGAN: Oh, no, no, no. That's not so. As this, Marty Anderson's (ph) book, points out.
KING: And that book will be called what again? "In His Own Words"?
REAGAN: "Reagan In His Own Words."
KING: Now I think it's just come out, I think. (INAUDIBLE)
REAGAN: February 1st. Yeah.
KING: You know, "Time" has just reviewed it. Scheduled published today because this is the day.
Nancy, I really thank you for this visit. I know you don't do a lot of these things.
REAGAN: No, I don't.
KING: I really appreciate it as a friend. And, well, you'll come back on his 100th.
REAGAN: All right.
KING: Anything you want to say at this ...
REAGAN: No. Thank you, Larry. Nice to see you.
KING: Anything to people?
REAGAN: No. I love all the people who sent us all the messages, and …
KING: They never forget, do they?
REAGAN: No. No. If anything, it grows, which is nice.
KING: Does it ever bother you - one other thing - when he's spoken of in the past tense. Because we haven't seen him in so many years, you know that it's easy - senators say ...
REAGAN: It is. Yes.
KING: ... presidents say, "He was."
REAGAN: Yeah. Yeah.
KING: Does that bother you, or do you understand it?
REAGAN: Well, I'd rather they didn't do it, you know, but I understand.
KING: For whatever it matters, give him our best.
REAGAN: I will.
KING: And to you.
REAGAN: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Nancy Reagan, on her husband's 90th birthday.
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