The first time I heard the name Ronald Reagan was the summer before I was in sixth grade in 1978. I was living in Cincinnati at the time, playing over at my friend Maria's house. Maria's dad was a sheriff and I heard him say that Ronald Reagan was going to be the next president. He even showed us his campaign buttons. When Maria and I (both rather bookish types) asked about him, he said he was an actor and governor of California. It seemed impossible to believe an actor would be president.
What I remember most about Reagan's presidency was its impact on my passion for becoming a journalist. In January 1985, I was in Washington, D.C., with my honors government class. We were there during his second inauguration, the only time they had to cancel the outdoor activities due to frigid cold. Where were we? Running around the Mall at night in sub-zero temperatures. I remember the piercing cold on my nylon-covered ankles as I tiptoed my way into Ford's Theater to watch the late Gregory Hines perform.
I've always been taken with D.C. and the history found there. At times in my life, I've had a nearly overwhelming need to be there—to witness history in the making.
During the Iran-Contra hearings, I was hooked (along with my dad) on watching events unfold on TV, paying close attention to reporting from Cokie Roberts, whom I would later meet as a reporter. I studied with a leading historian on detente while a junior at Ohio University, and would read about the Cold War thawing in the New York Times.
So much was happening so quickly in the world and I wanted to learn about it, to write about it. While watching the cassion procession and ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda last night on CNN, I was reminded of how during Reagan's eight years as president, my mind was being formed into that of a journalist. I'm glad I paid attention.