Meet The Woman That Interned For President Reagan And Earned Her Way To Be His Personal Assistant
Image Credits: Courtesy of Peggy Grande, Amazon
Here at Future Female Leaders, we aim to empower women to be all that they can be in their personal and professional lives. All of our paths are different, but we aim to be women with vision through hard-work and perseverance. The woman we are featuring today is a true testament to that.
Peggy Grande started as an intern at the Office of Ronald Reagan and quickly rose through the ranks to earn the coveted spot of President Reagan’s personal assistant. She had the opportunity to serve the president after he left public office and is sharing some of her favorite memories in her new memoir. Today, she shares tips, advice, and an empowering message with our readers and a little bit about what we can expect in her new book, The President Will See You Now, now available today.
You started working for Ronald Reagan as a college student. Did you face any personal or professional obstacles coming into such a position at such a young age? What were some of them?
I was raised in a wonderful, loving family, but one which had no connection to politicians and wasn’t wealthy or influential in a political sense. Politics, history, government and presidents were something that I was interested in from a very young age so I had to find my own way into that world and learn to navigate through that arena by myself. I was blessed to be given increasing opportunities and responsibilities in the Office of Ronald Reagan very quickly so I relied on observing and learning from those around me and found a way to be confident in my abilities and in the value I added, even when the little voice of doubt that we all have, would try to creep in.
How did you get started on your journey with working for President Reagan?
I wrote to the president’s office not long after he left the White House, asking for an opportunity to volunteer in his post-presidential office. I wasn’t even sure if he had volunteers, but took a chance and sent the letter anyway. My father raised me to believe that “somebody has to have the job you want and it might as well be you.” I’m so glad I believed him and boldly pursued a role I wanted. Not only was I given the chance to intern during my final semester of college, but when I graduated I was offered a full time staff position, first working for the Chief of Staff, then for President Reagan directly.
You rose through the ranks and ended up earning the coveted spot of the Executive Assistant to Ronald Reagan. What pearls of wisdom can you offer young women starting their careers?
I was raised by an incredible mother who was well educated and worked part time as a college professor when we were young, but primarily devoted herself to my dad and to our family. I always thought I would do the same and never thought I would be a working mom. Yet during my ten years with President Reagan I got married and had 3 of my 4 children. I believe that when it is meant to be, that it all works out. It wasn’t always easy juggling so many different demands, but it was possible. And was definitely worth it. Everyone has to make their own choices, but shouldn’t ever back away from what they want to pursue. Go full throttle into what you want out of life. You can always make a change or apply the brakes, but it’s harder to get going if you don’t gain speed and momentum early in your life, especially when you’re first starting your career. Keep steering confidently in the direction you want to go – don’t worry about looking for the exit until you have to – or choose to.
Your book the President Will See You Now features many behind the scenes stories, moments, and lessons you shared with President Reagan. What is your favorite memory and/or story of him?
Specifically as a very young woman working for a senior statesman, I appreciated the gentlemanly way he treated me – always with respect and kindness. I never felt that he looked down on me because I was young, but rather I felt as if he appreciated the youthful enthusiasm and optimism with which I tackled every aspect of my job. It was the little things he did that I noticed and appreciated – like reaching over and holding my elbow as we would go up and down stairs. Very old-school manners, but very sweet and sincere. The irony was that I was in my 20s and he was in his 80s yet HE was reaching over to steady and help ME!
What is a fun fact that most don’t know about President Ronald Reagan?
Once the number started getting very large, President Reagan didn’t like to celebrate birthdays, but instead would celebrate “Anniversaries of his 39th birthday”. So when he was turning 82 we instead wished him a “Happy 43rd Anniversary of your 39th Birthday, Mr. President”. He always had a sense of humor and remained very young at heart, regardless of what his actual age was.
What is the most important professional tip you can give to our readers?
Where you come from or what you start with does not determine your future. If you have a vision for where you want to go in life or what you want to do, be willing to work hard, be disciplined and keep pressing forward, regardless if setbacks come. Realize that growth and success isn’t always a straight line, so embrace the detours and the ways in which they stretch you to learn more, do more and be more. You can surprise yourself by the capacity you have to live, to love, to lead and to leave a lasting legacy, starting right now. Have reasonable expectations, realize that even amidst trials and heartbreak that you can find joy and be a light to those around you. Take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Find balance in imbalance and be intentional about enjoying the blessings of life every day and always live a life of gratitude.
What can we look forward to learning about in your new book, The President Will See You Now?
This is a very different type of book about Ronald Reagan. Rather than being about the politics or policies of his presidency, it is about the personal side and the character of the man. I had an opportunity to observe the president’s interactions with everyone from world leaders, to Mrs. Reagan, from my own children to ordinary Americans. I saw him salute heroes of our military and watched as others honored him with emotional responses of gratitude. In this book you will see him as I saw him and get to walk into his office with me, travel alongside the president and have a front row seat to relive all that I saw and observed during that decade I served him, and on into his final twilight years.
Through my lens you will feel the exhilaration of meeting him for the first time, witness the outpouring of affection for him from people all around the world, enjoy star-studded events with world leaders, savor both humorous moments and quiet moments of reflection and observation. You will be in the room when the heartbreaking news about the president’s Alzheimer’s disease was first shared and be part of sharing that sad news with the nation. You will get to visit the president and Mrs. Reagan at their home during their private years out of the public eye and will share in the heartbreaking moment at the president’s bedside when I had to say my goodbye to him.
In my experiences I hope that you will find your own. The resolve to step into a space that is challenging and stretches you, the confidence to find your footing in a role that once seemed impossible that suddenly seems perfectly suited for you, the convergence of personal and professional life that stretches you physically, emotionally and spiritually. You’ll discover that even pain and heartache can produce growth and greater competence in your abilities and confidence in yourself as being stronger than you ever imagined. And you will realize that life is a beautiful circle and that it can end as it began – hopeful, optimistic, full of faith and love for others and for our great nation, even when it’s not the fairytale ending that we all want. Those are some of the lessons of my years with Ronald Reagan and, in part, is what you will find in the pages of “The President Will See You Now”.
Click here to get your copy of the The President Will See You Now.
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