- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2000

The following is an excerpt from "Great Dads: A Celebration of Fatherhood," edited by Jonathan P. Decker. (Adams Media Corporation, Holbrooke, Mass.)When Dad lost the Republican nomination in Kansas City in 1976, I was just devastated. I cried for two days. I just couldn't stop. And every time he saw me during that period he'd say, "Are you still crying?" He was trying his best to cheer me up, but to no avail. As the convention was closing, he pulled me into this meeting room and he told me, "There's a reason for this. I don't know what it is. But there's a reason." And he always believed that. Dad was the eternal optimist. He has always quoted his mother, Nell: "When one door closes, another one opens." Everything happens for a reason.
My father is an incredible competitor. It just doesn't always show. When we got off the plane in Los Angeles after the convention, I had one picture left in my camera and as Dad and Nancy started to get in the car, I said, "Let's finish this roll. I have one more picture." He whispered to me, "Hurry up, my face is starting to hurt." And I knew then that he was using every ounce of energy he had to hold it together for the rest of us. He has always had great faith and has always believed that God has a plan. He'd say, "If you just keep doing what you're doing, the path is going to open up and you'll see what it is you're supposed to do."
My father also had a way of dealing with things with great humor. He never underestimated me and he never spoke down to me even as a child. When I was about four and a half, it was time to go to first grade and I announced to my dad that I was not going to go to school. My dad, of course, wanted to know why. I explained, "I know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a great actress. And you go to school to learn what you want to be. Since I already know what I want to be, I don't need to go to school." Dad listened to me and thought about that for a minute.
Rather than express disappointment or anger, Dad simply said, "Well I'm thrilled to know that you will never be bedeviled by uncertainty. However, you're going to need to learn to read and write if you're going to be a great actress. You'll have to read scripts. You'll have to read contracts."
And I replied, "You can read them to me."
Dad smiled. "Well I can't think of anything that I'd rather do in life than follow you around, reading to you all the things that you need. But what if I'm suddenly not there one day and you had to suddenly have a change in your script or you had a meeting and I wasn't around? You'd be so embarrassed."
Well I thought about that. And while I was thinking, he said, "And you have to learn how to write. Think about it you have to learn how to sign those contracts. And, of course, you'll need to know how to sign autographs."
So the very first day in school I told the teacher I wanted to learn how to sign my name. Years later as I was coming out the back stage of a theater a woman came up to me and asked if I would mind signing my autograph. And I said, "Mind? It's the only reason I went to school!"
Dad spoke to me in a language I could understand and that's a great talent. Whether he was talking to kings or prime ministers, waiters or taxi drivers, he always talked to people the same and treated them the same. I can see why he got the best of the Soviets. He's a great human being and I miss him terribly.

Maureen Reagan, the eldest daughter of former President Ronald Reagan, is a political analyst, talk show host, best-selling author, and a member of the Alzheimer's Association's National Board of Directors.

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