Do you need a good book that will kick you in the career butt and also make you cry? I’ve got the solution: The President Will See You Now, a memoir of Reagan’s final years by Peggy Grande.
I can’t believe it took me this long to read this book. I heard Peggy speak several times when this book was first out–she was very popular on the conservative circuit–so diving into this book felt familiar even though I was hearing it for the first time! AS someone who was, obviously, not alive when Reagan was president, everything I know about that time comes second-hand. And there’s tons of coverage of that–and of every presidential administration–but we hear less about their post-presidency, and Reagan had a longer one than anyone anticipated since he was so er…experienced when he was elected in 1980. Even though I don’t have a personal relationship to the life of Ronald Reagan, I adored this book. I loved Peggy’s attention to detail, her own life story, and the way she talks with such reverence about this period of her life.
Peggy Grande was fresh out of college in SoCal when she got the chance for the internship of her dreams with the Office of Ronald Reagans–his post-presidency office. After her internship, she was hired and eventually became his executive assistant. She sat right outside his office for years, handling his daily schedule, sitting at lunch with him, introducing him to her children, helping plan his funeral program with him at his desk, and more.
I LOVE books that give me career awe–books about REAL people doing REAL jobs that I’m like “OMG I can’t believe that’s a job people get to DO!” This book definitely gave me career awe–especially as someone who prides herself on her organizational skills. She got to put little notes for Nancy Reagan in the daily tote bag! She wrote out notes and then Reagan copied them in his own hand-writing. She helped him put suit jackets on, and his husband went golfing with him, and her kids danced with Nancy Reagan. CAN YOU IMAGINE?
This is a memoir of both Peggy and of Reagan’s post-presidency, and it’s woven together well. It’s about what was happening in the office when Peggy found out she was pregnant, the reactions of the Reagans during her father’s illness, etc. So yes, you learn about Reagan, but you also see the impact on the people around him, like Peggy herself.
It’s hard to pick a favorite anecdote from this—I loved the story about removing a priceless painting to replace it with a not-so-gorgeous painting that Reagan liked more. I loved all the stories of Peggy’s kids with the Reagans. I cried during the entire funeral part of the book. I laughed at the sherbert sweater fiasco.
There’s so much heart in this book—Peggy clearly has a deep, deep love for the Reagans, and she transmits that to the page very well. I would love to see a book like this for every single president. Presidents don’t just get elected, leave office, and die. They live lives post-presidency—sometimes for decades!–and I know there are great stories there. Come on, whomever is Bush 43’s assistant–I want a book!
You can buy The President Will See You Now wherever books are sold.