Michael Reagan shares stories about his father during benefit for Mike Stoker’s campaign
Today’s world would be different if President Ronald Reagan were alive and leading the nation.
His son, Michael Reagan, stressed that point during a talk Wednesday afternoon before supporters of Republican Assembly candidate Mike Stoker.
“If my dad was around today, what was going on today would not be going on,” Mr. Reagan said as he sat next to Mr. Stoker before the small crowd at the campaign fundraiser at Harry’s Plaza Cafe.
“He was a very strong leader, and we don’t have that kind of leadership in the state of California or on the national level,” Mr. Reagan said during a question-and-answer session at the Santa Barbara restaurant.
“My dad would have been very saddened,” Mr. Reagan said about the state of today’s America and world.
“My dad took over from a very weak president and turned things around,” Mr. Reagan said, referring to President Reagan succeeding Democratic President Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Reagan recalled what his father told him after losing the Republican nomination in 1976 to President Gerald Ford, who lost the general election to President Carter.
“I saw him in Kansas City. We were alone in a room full of people, by a fireplace. I said, ‘Why did you even want to run for president of the United States?’
“He said, ‘Well, Michael, to be honest with you, for so long I have watched American presidents sit down with secretary-generals of the Soviet Union. Every time we sit down with them, they’re asking us to give up something to get along with them.”
Ronald Reagan told his son that he wanted to be the first president to sit at a table, listen to the Soviet leader’s demands, then walk around the table and whisper in his ear: “Nyet.”
The crowd at Harry’s Plaza Cafe chuckled, then Michael Reagan went on to note his father didn’t agree to all of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s terms when the two leaders met during nuclear arms talks in 1986 in Reykjavik, Iceland.
“Now understand his staff wanted him (President Reagan) to sign it (the treaty). Nancy wanted him to sign it. Everybody wanted him to sign it because they thought that was going to be his legacy,” Mr. Reagan said.
But President Reagan didn’t feel he could, in good conscience, sign the treaty.
“Guess what happened? A year later, Mikhail Gorbachev comes to Washington, D.C., and signs that agreement in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Reagan said. “So again, Dad knew where he was going and knew what he wanted to do.”
The result was the U.S. and the Soviet Union agreeing to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and Mr. Reagan said that became his father’s legacy. “It changed the world.”
Mr. Reagan also discussed his father’s love for the outdoors and horses.
“A lot of people don’t know that when he was a Hollywood actor, he used to ride his own horses in the movies because they would pay you an extra $25 a day if you had your own horse and got food and took care of the horse,” Mr. Reagan said.
He added that if you wanted to spend time with his father, you learned to ride horses and swim and do other outdoor activities such as cutting firewood.
The Reagans’ ranches included Rancho del Cielo north of Santa Barbara, where Nancy Reagan joined her husband in outdoor activities. Michael Reagan said his stepmother was asked how she liked riding horses. (Michael is the adoptive son of Ronald Reagan and his first wife, movie star Jane Wyman.)
Michael Reagan recalled Nancy Reagan saying, “I only learned how to ride a horse to capture a husband.”
The Harry’s Plaza Cafe crowd laughed.
More about his talk will appear in Friday’s News-Press.