Nancy Reagan, an influential first lady, advisor

During the first half of the nation’s history, wives of our presidents received little public credit or even notice for their behind-the-scenes involvement in public affairs. But that changed to the point that thoughtful Americans have understood for many years that when they elected a president, they were getting a “package deal.”

The nature of that package has varied a great deal. Some first ladies were very public and very outspoken. Others preferred to keep low profiles. Their impact on the United States and the world around us has varied, too.

Nancy Reagan, who died Sunday at 94, was in the spotlight occasionally – but tried hard to avoid it. Except on her “Just say no” campaign against drug abuse, she shunned publicity. But in a very important way, she was exceedingly influential.

Her husband, the late President Ronald Reagan, is credited with truly great accomplishments. His leadership did very good things for the economy. It also helped change the world for the better.

He might never have been president had it not been for Nancy Reagan’s advice and her influence on him. And during his two terms in office, she was his fiercest, often very effective, defender. In that role, she was a “street fighter,” commented one of her husband’s biographers.

Clearly, Nancy was a critical, integral part of the Reagan presidency. As such, a nation mourning her should do so with great gratitude.