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A Former Press Secretary On Nancy Reagan’s ‘Political Antenna’

Reagan Presidential Library
President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan dancing at the State Dinner for President Bendjedid of Algeria in 1985.

Former First Lady Nancy will be buried today at the Reagan Presidential Library in California. One of the guests will be Dale Petroskey, president of Dallas Regional Chamber. Thirty years ago, he was assistant press secretary for the Reagan Administration. 

He wrote an op-ed in the Dallas Morning Newsabout his time working with the Reagans.

Interview Highlights: Dale Petroskey…

…On her role in the Reagan administration:

“She was very, very protective of [Ronald Reagan]. Every waking moment of hers was worrying about him and his health – he was 75, 76 years old and she was 10 years younger – and he was President of the United States, which is a pretty fatiguing job.

It was interesting because he did not have as much political antenna as other politicians. When President Reagan looked out at an audience, he thought everybody loved him. He was on stage and they were applauding. Mrs. Reagan would sit behind him and look out and say, ‘hmm, don’t know about that person,’ ‘I don’t know if they have our best interests in mind,’ and so on. She had political antenna.”  

…On her love for politics:

“I visited her at her Bel-Air home in California in January of 2008. That was the beginning of the 2008 election. I was really amazed at how locked in she was to the political news of the day and what was going on with the Republicans especially and fascinated by what was happening in the Democratic race in those days too. She hadn’t lost her sense of love for politics.”  

…On what Nancy Reagan would say about this election so far:

“I think she probably was appalled by some of the less-than-savory dialogue that’s been happening in some of the debates. The Reagans [were] very, very proper. Decorum means a lot to them; things are done with style, grace and taste and I don’t think what’s going on now is anywhere near that kind of style or grace.”

Dale Petroskey is the president of the Dallas Regional Chamber. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.