August 27th, 2009
10:43 AM ET
5 years ago

Nancy Reagan illuminates Kennedy-Reagan friendship

Ted Kennedy and Ronald Reagan forged a strong friendship.
Ted Kennedy and Ronald Reagan forged a strong friendship.

(CNN) - It was a surprising, little-known Washington pairing: Liberal icon Ted Kennedy and conservative stalwart Ronald Reagan were actually quite close, former first lady Nancy Reagan told CNN Monday.

"Most people didn't realize the friendship, or didn't accept it, or didn't know about the friendship," Mrs. Reagan told CNN's Larry King. "You know, Ronny was so identified with the Republican Party. And Teddy obviously with the Democrat Party. But that doesn't make any difference, Larry, really. It shouldn't make any difference. I'm afraid it does now, but it shouldn't."

Mrs. Reagan also said the two men were happy to lend a hand to each other, either privately or publicly. In 1985 then-President Reagan even spoke at a fundraising event for the John. F. Kennedy Memorial Library in McLean, Virginia after Ted Kennedy asked him to.

"Teddy had asked Ronny to speak…he did, very happily," Mrs. Reagan said.

Mrs. Reagan also said the two men were drawn to each other's firm commitments to their own beliefs.

"They both had very definite opinions about things. It was a wonderful, wonderful friendship," she said.

Follow Alex Mooney on Twitter @awmooneyCNN


Filed under: Popular Posts • Ronald Reagan • Ted Kennedy
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Alfred E. Neumann

    We should also point out that the personal lives of Ronald Reagan and Ted Kennedy were quite different.

    That is all I dare say else the CNN censors will "moderate" my comments.

    August 27, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  2. Rumsfeld

    Long live true friendships, professional relationships and human respect!

    August 27, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  3. ronvan

    What a great story! But isn't it a complete shame that the vast majority of our elected officials cannot/willnot communicate with each other. Kennedy had a very rare gift to be strong yet understand others and the willingness to comprimise. What a "dream" that his fellow politicians couldn't learn from him.

    August 27, 2009 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  4. Brad

    This liberal democrat still loves Ronald and Nancy Reagan! Yes, President Reagan held very conservative beliefs; but he was very respectful of people who did not share his beliefs. He would listen to the opposing view and discuss it. The same can be said about Senator Kennedy about his liberal views. God bless both of Ronnie and Teddy and may both rest in eternal peace.

    Congress, please learn something from these two great men! And start working for the betterment of ALL Americans; please!

    August 27, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  5. "Victim" - Often Used, Rarely True

    I'm not surprised. Only the voting public takes their politics so seriously as to assume the other side is either crazy or evil in their intent.

    At it's core, you had two politicians who disagreed on policy but were still respectful gentlemen when they approached each other, even friends.

    Imagine Glenn Beck hanging out with Alec Baldwin. Or Sean Hannity hanging out with Tim Robbins. You can't beacuse while media reflects the attitude of America, unfortuntely having manners that of a three-year-old does not also grant you the imagination as well. Just high blood pressure and the assurance that you, and your party, are right.

    August 27, 2009 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  6. Joyce in South Carolina

    What a wonderful tribute to a great American!!!! We will miss Senator Kennedy. Let's all band together to pass Health Care Reform in his honor.

    August 27, 2009 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  7. Becky

    Thank you Nancy for making us aware of this....I just hope the Regressives do not turn on you like they have turned on everyone else who have called for reasonable debate.

    August 27, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  8. sharon

    I am glad Mrs. Ragan has told the world about their friendship.

    Maybe others will see people can be friends and still have their own
    opions.

    August 27, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  9. Bill

    I'm so glad Mrs. Reagan shared this with CNN. Ronald Regan and Ted Kennedy may be considered icons of opposite extremes. But Nancy is telling us they were both still decent human beings. Such a shame that politics has become such a fierce contest that many of he players can't or won't appreciate each other as people.

    August 27, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  10. Hugh

    Fascinating. I guess this shouldn't be surprising. As part of an American public school education I was taught that a representative democracy worked by civilly debating disagreements and making decisions on that basis. However profound the disagreements, the process was a continuing one so people had to work together. I was also taught that this was the way our whole society worked, or was supposed to work, and that this, however flawed a given result, however inefficient the process, was clearly better than any alternatives anyone had ever tried.

    I still believe and try to live by that. Perhaps it is a sign of how far from that ideal we seem to have fallen in the last 15 years or so that I am surprised that Senator Kennedy and President Reagan were close.

    August 27, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. ThinkAgain

    Thank you, Mrs. Reagan – you are a class act!

    August 27, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. Dee

    Current batch of legislators should learn something from this – on both sides.

    August 27, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  13. I can see Canada from my house!

    One of the great losses in our politcal life has been the realization that people can vigorously debate each other and still remain friends. The people on both sides who slavishly follow the ideology WITHOUT remembering the humanity of those who believe differently only succeed in dehumanizing their opponants.

    We now live in a world where some supporters of environmental issues destroy property, and where some right-to-life supporters commit murder, just to name two examples. We all would be well-advised to remember that our ideological icons invariably treated their opponants with respect and courtesy: out of those gestures grow friendships, and that led to lasting results. Results are what we need, not indocrination.

    August 27, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  14. Jason B.

    Whether or not you like Kennedy's views, he truly believed in the things he fought for. He didn't seem to take a view because it was popular or necessarily the political thing to do. And for that, I admire him. Did he have his flaws? Of course, we all do. (as the saying goes...let he who is without sin cast the first stone) And that he really seemed to be able to work with both parties is something you don't often see anymore.

    August 27, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  15. kmp

    It is nice to see that it is possible that those from opposite ends of the political spectrum can form close friendships. But it seems today that both sides are too interested in staying in their own club than willing to go across the isle and those that do seem to be ostrazied ie Sen. Snowe. Politicians of today should take this as an example of instead of trying to always beats the other down that it is possible to work together for the collective and get something good done.

    August 27, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  16. Ken

    You are SO correct, Mrs. Reagan. Republican or Democrat – it should not matter if it is for the betterment of the country. POLITICS is getting in the way of what is good these days

    August 27, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. TomJay

    Amazing. I only wish that the followers of Reagan and Kennedy would follow their example and be a little more civilized to one another.

    August 27, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. KevinTexas

    what happened to that time in American life when Democrats and Republicans both were just Americans. Sure we disagree, but we are Americans first. It feels like we are losing that American spirit. With the loss of Ted and the loss of Ron, where will we go as a Nation?

    August 27, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. Dan is alive and very well in LOUISVILLE, ky

    It just goes to show that Washington is all about power and influence and what's in it for me – while behind the scenes they all buddy up as if their public opinions are work related only.

    August 27, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  20. Ren from Baltimore

    Thank you, Mrs. Reagan. That was a wonderful interview, and your insights and shared experiences were very much appreciated.

    In all, it is what we used to expect of all politicians-mutual respect, admiration, openness-as you say, in public as well as private. Hopefully your words will inspire those beliefs and actions once again.

    August 27, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  21. Puff the Magic Dragon

    This is how mature politicians should act, not as divisive fools as folks like Rush & Hannity would like it to be. That would mess up their entertainment ratings and lemming following.

    August 27, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  22. dwayne

    What a Icon!!

    God Speed to the kenndy family

    God Bless us All

    August 27, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  23. Ted

    That's the difference today and what made KEnnedy great. You could take an opposing view but he would never denegrate the opposition. Today its all about greed and getting in the gutter

    August 27, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  24. Jane/Seattle

    I find this very hard to believe, but how would I know? I guess it is fairly easy for the elites to associate, have differences, and make backroom deals. Ronald Reagan is responsible for as much, if not more, destruction than Kennedy is for advances. The erosion of most everything in our culture began or was continued by this man-Reagan. It would have been nice if he could have lived to see his visions for Universal Healthcare realized. RIP, Senator Kennedy. Ths is not an opprtunity to place Reagan back out in front.

    August 27, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  25. barb

    Little known because there was no story of controversy to be had. Just two people of power with two different political views and a great admiration for eachother's beliefs. Oh, how this country is starving for more politicians to follow their example!

    Rush certainly could use some lessons in disagreeing with someone yet remaining civil.

    August 27, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
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