the state of the president

Ronald Regan's body will be lying in state on Thursday at the capitol in DC. I’m thinking about going. Although I don’t really have the money to spend on gas, when will I ever get to see a president lying in state in the near future? And really it’s not about the pomp and circumstance, it’s about Ronnie.

He’s the only president I feel personally connected to and it’s not about his politics or his cuddly nature and love for his wife or that even a president can be human and have family problems too. It’s about birthdays. You see, ole Ronnie and I have the same birthday. Big deal you say, you also share it with Bob Marley. But, Bob didn’t send me a birthday letter when he was president. Ronnie did.

It was 1988, I was eleven and this was the last year for Reagan in the White House. I thought my sharing his birthday was the coolest thing. I had no idea what his politics where nor did I care. I considered myself a Republican then because my parents were Republicans and so this extra kinship with Ronnie felt strong.

My mom had the brilliant idea of sending him a birthday card and announcing the importance of the shared date. I was a little apprehensive, how exactly do you tell a stranger, much less a president, that you have the same birthday? Why would he even care? Well, we bought a card and wrote a note. I’m sure my mom helped craft the sentence or else it would have been something like “I was born on Feb. 6 too. Happy Birthday Mr. President.” And, well, that’s probably what it did say. So, off went the card and about 3 weeks later arrived a letter from the White House. It was the most exciting day of my eleven year-old life. My family was thrilled too.

I learned of his death on Saturday night after a full day spent with old college friends. A friend was looking at the now framed letter on my living room wall and said that Reagan had died today. “What?” I thought. Then I thought about peace and that it seemed so expected and so natural. I’ve dealt with Alzheimer's in my family and it is trying disease, on everyone. I told my friends that it was probably for the best for him and his family. Then I went to the letter.

He, or a staff writer, wrote a short and sweet letter. It is typed on a typewriter. The date is off-center from the letterhead and the eagle emblem. It begins by acknowledging our “mutual birthday.” Then, in presidential fashion, goes into the history of Febuuary birthdays including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. He tells me to study these great men and hopes they will inspire me the way they have inspired him. The letter ends with Mrs. Raegan joining him in his wishes and may God bless me. His name is signed simply “Ronald Reagan,” no mention of president anywhere. We think he really signed it. It doesn’t seem to be a stamp. I will probably never truly know. But, it doesn’t matter. My eleven year-old heart knows he touched this letter somehow.

In the bottom left hand corner is my full name and childhood address. My name has a typo. Since the beginning of the letter I have gone from Anna to Anny. At eleven, this typo crushed me. Now, it is endearing. It makes the whole letter so much more real, so much like the man who’s birthday I share.

Dear President Reagan,

I am honored to have shared your birthday. Every February 6 I will continue to remember your birthday and those of the other great presidents you mentioned. Washington and Lincoln were truly amazing, but they don’t mean as much to me. I can’t look over at my wall and see their handwriting. I loved your letter and will always cherish it.

May you and your family find the peace you deserve and thank you, from my eleven year-old self and from me now, for all you did for our world.


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