This last week, the conservative movement remembered Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. Countless documentaries aired, new (and controversial) books were released, and hundreds of quotes were copied and pasted on twitter, Facebook, and countless forwarded emails. Now, I am not going to expound upon his politics, philosophy, personal life, marriages or children. What I will tell you, is a little known story in my little family circle.
I can’t count the amount of times I have been asked the question, “Kerry, how did you get into politics?” Typically, I go into the short version of my resume and leave it at that. However, the story goes back to 1984 and I was a 9 year old little girl. My first vivid memory of President Reagan was when he was making his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas. All I clearly remember is asking my Mom if she was going to vote for this tall handsome man who clearly had a lot of folks cheering for him. She quickly told me, “Kerry, that’s none of your business, and you shouldn’t ask adults that.”
Well, my little sister didn’t take that to heart, because she soon after decided that she and the President could become friends and pen pals. My adorable sister wrote him letters with her sharpened Care Bear pencils on her very own personalized stationary (Mom was a stickler for thank you notes). Throughout his second term, Tracy diligently sent him Christmas cards, birthday invitations and sweet little notes to let him know he was doing a good job being our President. She regularly asked him about his dog and kept an open invitation for him to come and visit us in south Arkansas any time he liked. One of her letters I especially remember because of what the President said in his response. It went something like “My dear friend Tracy, thank you so much for inviting me to your 7th birthday party. The clown sounds like fun and I know you will have a nice time. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend because of some important meetings, but I do appreciate you offering your back yard for me to land Marine One.” He literally sent Tracy a letter for each one she sent him, along with pictures of Rex, the presidential pooch, complete with inked paw prints.
It also turns out that Tracy was quite determined and industrious at a very young age and refused to take NO for an answer, even at the ripe old age of seven. Not happy with the President’s perfectly acceptable written RSVP for her birthday, she decided to take matters in her own hands by picking up the phone. Tracy actually called the White House numerous times (successfully I might add) to try and convince her hero that he could postpone those meetings and come to her party. After all, she offered the backyard as a landing platform for his helicopter. Mom and Dad were unaware of their youngest daughter stalking the President of the United States until the phone bill arrived. Mom was torn between being angry at Tracy for the long distance phone calls (and potential Secret Service visit) or being proud of her pint sized daughter’s determination and ingenuity. Somewhere in the depths of moving boxes, is a picture of Tracy grasping the hand of a life-sized cardboard cut-out of the Gipper. I am not sure which is most humorous, the fact that she is holding the hand of a cardboard president, or the 1980’s bubble dress she is sporting.
In order to come full circle with Tracy’s fondness for President Reagan, this final tidbit must be shared. After President Reagan departed this life and he was brought to Washington DC for his state funeral, who do you think watched the procession in front of the White House, complete with a riderless horse and his very own boots in reverse? That little girl, who adored her President, was actually working for the current President at the time of Reagan’s death. I can only imagine the emotion she was feeling when she watched “her President” , depart in Air Force One from Andrews Air Force Base for the final time, taking him home to California.
This “love” for President Reagan truly changed our immediate family’s view of politics. I never again had to ask Mom who she was voting for because it was quite apparent in our conversations. Political events were discussed openly and with vigor. Immediately after college, Tracy got her foot in the door by working on a national campaign, hence our family learned from then on that we were to regularly attend phone banks and go door-to-door.
So, when I am asked how I got involved in politics, I will now only answer, “blame Dutch & Tracy.”