President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime

By Lou Cannon | Go to book overview
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BACK TO THE FUTURE

One of his magics is looking to the future. GEORGE SHULTZ, FEBRUARY 13, 198911

HE HAD ALWAYS PRIDED himself on knowing how to make an exit, and when the end came, on a day of sun and shadows he called bitter- sweet, Ronald Reagan understood exactly how to leave the stage. An aide, thinking about it later, would say that Reagan had made fifty-three movies and that being on a movie set was like being cooped up in the White House with your crew all those years. Reagan was ready for the freedom of California and a new role. But some members of his staff were not quite ready and Reagan, recognizing this, tried not to seem overly cheerful during the scenes leading up to his exit. He was mindful that he was president until the curtain fell at noon.

It was 9:50 A.M. on January 20, 1989, when Reagan slipped into the Oval Office for a last look at the room that had been his grandest set. The walls were bare. Gone were the resplendent color photos of his presidency and a bronze saddle that had given the Oval Office a western look. Gone, too, was the barrel chair he had brought with him from California for his Oval Office desk. In its place was a worn chair that had been wheeled in from somewhere when the office was swept clean of personal mementos the preceding afternoon after Reagan finished his last appointment with speechwriter Landon Parvin and departed to the White House family quarters. Reagan looked at the chair, cocking his head as he often did when something was out of place. He walked over to the desk, where he had always worked in coat and tie as a gesture of respect for the presidency, and tried out the chair. The desktop was bare except for a telephone. Tucked in a drawer inside the desk was a note of encouragement he had written the day before for George Bush on stationery emblazoned

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