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Memorial Service for Maureen Reagan St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Sacramento, California

08/18/2001
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
at the
Memorial Service for Maureen Reagan
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
Sacramento, California

August 18, 2001



Dennis and Rita:

I have been asked to extend to you and to all of Maureen’s family and friends the deepest sympathies of the President and Mrs. Bush and of all my colleagues in the current Administration. Everyone who knew Maureen shares your sense of loss. America is a poorer – and a duller – place today because of her passing.

Ladies and gentlemen, Maureen Reagan was an American Original.

She was an outspoken, bold, energetic, and unambiguous woman. With Maureen, you always knew what she was thinking, whether she agreed with you or not. She may have broken the mold, but she also broke new ground for women in politics and for future first daughters.

Maureen was a woman who knew the meaning of independence. She never blindly fell in-step behind any political figure – from the President of the United States on down. What a magnificent tribute it is to the relationship she had with her father that her independent streak never threatened the love and respect they shared for each other.

That love was so much in evidence in 1980. I remember watching Maureen that summer and fall. From where I sat, I don’t think anyone has ever enjoyed a campaign more than she did that year. She approached every event with an infectious energy and an endless enthusiasm that lit up a room. If one could harness the energy of Maureen Reagan on the campaign trail, there’d never be another brownout in California again.

Maureen truly was a pioneer for the women of our generation – she set new standards for how women can and should involve themselves in the political arena. She loved politics and it showed.

Maureen believed in women with every fibre of her being. She knew that women have an important and unique contribution to make to our national political life. She was impatient for the day when women would take full possession of their rightful place in American politics. But that impatience didn’t keep her on the sidelines, it drove her into action.

At the RNC, she opened doors through which capable, committed women are still walking. She was an inspiration to so many of the women who have followed the path she helped blaze. I know; I’m one of them.

Of course, while Maureen was an idealist in her pursuit of a larger role for women in politics, she harbored no illusions about what that meant. She didn’t think women would always do better than the men, but she knew we should always have that opportunity. I loved it when she said, “I will feel equality has arrived when we can elect to office women who are as unqualified as some of the men who are already there.”

If Maureen ever harbored a single shred of self-doubt about who she was or what she was doing, she never showed it. Her self-confidence, her refusal to be anyone other than who she was, was always worthy of emulation. I like to think that during my own political career I have been able to echo some of the tenacity and strength that was a hallmark of the way Maureen Reagan lived her life.

Of course, driving all this effort and all this commitment was a woman with real heart – a heart big enough to dream , bold enough to dare, and warm enough to care. She loved her family; she cherished her friends; she treasured her country; and, she inspired so many women to do the same, not from the sidelines, but right in the thick of things.

In recent years, Maureen concentrated the luminous intensity of her conviction in supporting efforts to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. She was an enormously effective spokeswoman for the Alzheimer’s Association, drawing on the pain of her own family’s tragedy to build hope for millions of other American families.

And even more recently, she faced her own battle with the disease that finally took her from us with the same strength and spirit that animated her entire life, wanting others to benefit from what she was confronting. Maureen always enjoyed the warmth of the sun – she never retreated to the cool of the shadows.

Now Maureen’s life journey has come to a close, but her spirit lives on. It lives on when those of us who knew her unleash our own energy in service of those things in which we passionately believe. It lives on when those of us who respected her live each day of our lives boldly, with verve, and with joy. And it lives on when those of us who were inspired by her are true to ourselves while being true to others.

That’s how Maureen Reagan lived. She truly was an American Original and we will miss her very much.

Thank you.