PROVO — Wall Street Journal columnist and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan said Tuesday that she visited the late president's wife on Friday and found Nancy Reagan's opinions on current events as "peppery" as ever.
Reagan, 92, doesn't make social appearances any more, but that doesn't mean she isn't following presidential politics, Noonan said.
Noonan was in California for a meeting of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, where she said she saw Jon Huntsman Jr. and his wife, Mary Kay. After the meeting, Noonan went to see Mrs. Reagan at her home in Bel Air, Calif.
"I was lucky enough to spend a few hours with her and catch up and just to remember old history," she said Tuesday during a campus forum address at Brigham Young University, where she spoke about lessons each of the last four U.S. presidents could have learned from their immediate predecessors.
I just want you to know she is well," Noonan said of Reagan. "She is very much engaged by watching what is happening politically in the United States. She has opinions, they are as peppery as they ever were. She is somewhat hilarious on the current White House. I will not repeat what she said, but she has vigorous views."
As the two women parted, Reagan asked what Noonan what she was doing next.
"I told her I was going to Dallas to be part of the coverage of the 50th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy, and then I was coming up here to your school, and she was touched. She was happy. I don't know if she was with Ronnie, as she calls him, when he spoke (at BYU) in 1991, but she had very affectionate association with this university, and so she asked me to give you her very best regards."
During her speech at BYU, Noonan spoke fondly of President Reagan, and remembered him as "the last, great, sweet gentleman of American politics in terms of great personal grace and a lovely public dignity." She said he was "the kind of man who actually really spoke softly. He never lost his temper. He sometimes got mad, but he didn't lose that thing called temper, called 'one's boundaries and self-control.' He never crossed that."
She also said she appreciated Reagan's merry disposition.
"Clearly there is a power in merriness," Noonan said. "It signals that you're on an even-keel, you have perspective, you get it about life. One of the things that concerns me about our current president is that he is a relative merry-free zone. We could use more merriness."
Noonan's speech can be seen at BYUtv.org.