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The Times I Saw Ronald Reagan


October 27, 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the now famous speech delivered by Ronald Reagan at the Republican convention for the nomination of Barry Goldwater.

Hearing that reminded me of the times that I had met Reagan, and I decided to write about those memories and others of my brother Mike Deaver, who worked for Reagan, both in California and Washington, D.C. We lost Mike in 2007, from pancreatic cancer.

I saw Reagan at Edwards Air Force Base July 4, 1982, as he and First Lady Nancy Reagan watched the Space Shuttle Columbia touch down following its fourth flight into the heavens.

Someone who was there said it was a great day to be an American.

I was working as a news reporter at the time, and that got me a press pass to get a little closer that the 45,000 people who jammed in the NASA Space Center outside area to see the President. Another half million people lined the edge of the lakebed to see the Shuttle land.

Mike got me a VIP pass, which got me behind the fence, of the VERY VIPs. I decided to arrive at the base at 6 a.m. before the traffic got crazy, and because of that I was able to watch the whole scenario which always occurs before the President arrives anywhere.

There are all sorts of behind-the-scene things that occur that I did not know about, but watching them check the podium area where the President would deliver a speech was impressive.

I had a great view until the VERY VIPs arrived. First came the bomb-sniffing dogs, and then came men with scans to further check for bombs. As the time got closer for the Shuttle to land, the Secret Service gentlemen arrived and took their positions.

They all wore reflective sunglasses, had the same intense look on their faces, and they scanned the area from left to right, almost like robots. They all had earpieces and some of them carried “purses” on their shoulders, that I later learned contained uzis – just in case. The others I am sure were also armed.

Then in a while the VERY VIPS started to file in, politicians from the Antelope Valley, state, and federal positions. Finally the Presidential Press Corps, who traveled with the President, arrived.

And then with much fanfare President Reagan and the First Lady Nancy – and my brother Mike arrived.

Mike stood off to the side, as he always did. There was a Secret Service man in front of me and I tapped his shoulder – he did not look happy! I told him that I was Mike Deaver’s sister, and could he tell Mike where I was.

He did not shoot me but he looked at me like I had three heads. I said, “No really, ask him,” and so he did. Mike waived at me and the Secret Service man looked shocked!

The other time I met Reagan when he came to Plant 42 to see the B-1 Bomber that he had reinstituted once he was elected. He campaigned against Carter who shelved the B-1 project and said he would bring it back if elected.

At that time I was working on the Space Shuttle Atlantis program in another area of Plant 42. Mike called my mom and said he could get me in to see the President. She asked if my son Mike could come also.

That day I went to work and Mike, who was about 16, met me and we had to drive over to the other site. It was crazy but we found a place to park and hurried to the door that said VIPs. I opened it and the Head of Security for Rockwell, whom we all disliked because of his arrogance, jerked the door out of my hand and said “This is for VIPs!”

I said “I AM A VIP,” and then a Secret Service man ran up and said, “Are you Susan Strahan? Come on they are waiting!”

We hurried to the spot, just as Reagan and my brother got out of the Presidential limo. Later we attended a reception with Reagan and I had a photo taken with him shaking my hand.

And the security guard? His jaw stayed dropped for the rest of the day!


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