First lady Nancy Reagan's official White House portrait, painted by Aaron Shikler.

First lady Nancy Reagan’s official White House portrait, painted by Aaron Shikler.

This week the nation has been paying tribute to former first lady Nancy Reagan, who died Sunday at the age of 94. She will be laid to rest today next to her husband and the love of her life, President Ronald Reagan, on the grounds of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

The Reagans were in the White House for most of the 1980s, which was a very different time than we’re living in now. They were both politically savvy, with President Reagan having a singular gift for communicating with the American people and Mrs. Reagan working behind the scenes to protect her husband’s interests and image.

During the Reagan administration, President and Mrs. Reagan were not universally adored. There were tough political battles on such things as the extent of federal welfare programs and the size of the U.S. military. They were criticized by some for bringing Hollywood to Washington, and Mrs. Reagan took a lot of heat for her efforts to redecorate the White House and the purchase of expensive china for state dinners.

Throughout, the Reagans maintained a high level of civility and decorum on the public stage. That contrasts sharply with the current level of political discourse.

Coming in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, Mrs. Reagan’s death serves as a reminder that politics doesn’t have to be coarse and rude. At the Republican debate Thursday night, Mrs. Reagan was honored with a moment of silence. Later in the debate, candidate Donald Trump even remarked that he was surprised by the level of civility in the discussion.

Without being partisan, we can admire Mrs. Reagan for the way she conducted herself as first lady, and afterward as her husband endured the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. We thank her for being an example of civility and grace.

A Selection of Remembrances

Patti Davis: How I Remember My Mother Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan – A Remembrance by Ken Khachigian

Smithsonian Curator Discusses Nancy Reagan’s Legacy

The Bipartisan Appeal of Nancy Reagan: Class, Strength, and, Oh, That Laugh

Nancy Reagan’s Caregiving Legacy

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  • Emily March 11, 2016 at 8:19 am

    why aren’t Nancy’s children mentioned? Why is she not remembered as a mother?
    Over our lifetimes relationships get strained but a child and a mother is a basic powerful attachment.
    It’s her personal business what went wrong but she was a mother so as commentators mention her devotion to Ronnie and how steadfast and influential she was behind the scenes; I’m waiting for a comment on her motherhood in any form.
    It should not be ignored.

    Reply