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Welcome Remarks for The Triumph of Nancy Reagan

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to tonight’s program about former First Lady Nancy Reagan, featuring Karen Tumulty, author of the new biography The Triumph of Nancy Reagan.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Tuesday, May 4, noted constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar will discuss his new book, The Words That Made Us—an account of how Americans wrestled with weighty constitution questions during the country’s first half century.

And on Thursday, May 6, at noon, we’ll hear from former New York Times White House correspondent Robert M. Smith, whose new book, Suppressed, reveals how some stories make it to print, while others are ignored.

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The President’s wife—the First Lady—has long been a figure of public fascination, although she holds no official office in the national government. There are no written guidelines for what the Presidential spouse should do, and each woman adapts the role to own interests.

When Nancy Reagan entered the White House with her husband, President Ronald Reagan, she was seen as a devoted helpmeet, unlikely to be an activist First Lady like Eleanor Roosevelt. In the eight years of the Reagan administration, Nancy acted as a true partner to the President and most trusted confidante.

To write The Triumph of Nancy Reagan, Karen Tumulty spent years conducting interviews and poring over letters, memoirs, and White House records in archives including the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, which is operated by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Our Presidential Libraries, which document the work of Chief Executives since Herbert Hoover, have a wealth of information about the Presidents, their administrations, and their families. First Ladies are well represented by the collections of their official and personal papers. As Barbara A. Perry recently wrote in the Washington Post Book World, “Relying on Nancy’s previously unavailable papers at the Reagan Library and interviews with her son and stepbrother, Tumulty is able to construct a persuasive portrait of the future First lady’s character development.”

Researchers and writers such as today’s guests have made extensive use of the libraries’ collections, and there are still many stories yet to be told from these records.

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Now it is my pleasure to introduce our panelists.

Karen Tumulty is a political columnist for the Washington Post. Before joining the Post she wrote for Time magazine. In her role as a national political correspondent, she received the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting. Previously, at the Los Angeles Times, she reported on Congress, business, energy, and economics from Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC.

Sheila Tate is the author of Lady in Red, a biography of Nancy Reagan. Her political and government experience ranges from her service as press secretary to First Lady Nancy Reagan and as press secretary to George H. W. Bush during his successful campaign for the Presidency in 1988 and for the 1989 Presidential transition period.

Please join me in welcoming Karen Tumulty and Sheila Tate. Thank you for joining us today.