Lunch With Ronald Reagan at the White House

The legends associated with Reaganomics will live on with many of us that lived and prospered through the Reagan era.  It was a time of challenges, but it was also a time of great prosperity and opportunity for many.  In particular, Ronald Reagan was known for his charm, charismatic demeanor and his sincerity of communication.  I believe that President Reagan had respect for the office that he held, and that this gave him the ability to lead the American Government with high regard from the public for whom he served.

It was my pleasure and honor to have had lunch with Ronald Reagan at the White House.  At that time, in the early 80’s, he was a relatively new President with promising prospects for both a second term and political correctness worldwide.  Despite having a compliment for staff including secret service agents abound, President Reagan made invited guests feel comfortable and welcome in his political home.  He and First Lady Nancy Reagan were gracious hosts put forth considerable effort even for non-event guests such as myself.

Not familiar with the exact protocol for being a private guest with the President of the United States, I brought what I believed was an appropriate gift for the occasion.  Unfortunately, it did not make it past Secret Service security, but it was politely recognized and taken away.  At that time, I was rather inexperienced, and did not consider that food of any type for a dignitary was inappropriate and always suspect to poison suspicions.

Despite my efforts, we had a simple, yet elegant meal served with care by White House staff.  In a rare moment, and as a very young man, I found myself seated across a white linen dinning table being asked respectful yet light questions by the President of the United States.  What a thrill.  I can’t even recall exactly what we spoke about--clearly not politics and certainly nothing controversial.  President Reagan was one of the few Presidents in history that truly had a way with people and the ability to communicate in a disarming manner.

His friendly smile with a few well-timed gestures and commanding presence, allowed him to seamlessly orchestrate every organizational detail at this occasion.  For President Reagan, it was just another lunch on his busy calendar.  To me it was a once in a lifetime event that I would never forget.

For a man who morphed as a former Hollywood actor to President of the United States, one would have thought he had been practicing for his whole life.  I still remember that lunch date like it was a surreal event—almost like a dream or right of passage.  When lunch was over, I was whisked away in a polite manner by the Secret Service, and once again, I was just another civilian—but one with a story that would last a lifetime of fond memory.

On other occasions, I had been a guest at the White House during the Reagan regime at large functions.  At these events, each guest was allowed a short exchange of pleasantries with President Reagan and the First Lady, although nothing like a private lunch function.

In recollection, I was too young in business and worldly experience to have fully appreciated the audience with the former President.  I can’t remember exactly what I might have asked President Reagan, but whatever it was, I was not properly prepared to have a meaningful conversation.  Despite the naïveté, and to this day, I am still enamored by memory and the indelible mark that such an event made in my life’s history.

Grant Curtis