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June 16, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Reagan and Lane: They rode the range together Reagan and Lane: They rode the range together (June 16, 2004)

Bill Lane recalls riding treks with Ronald Reagan, and comments on his legacy

By Jane Knoerle
Almanac Lifestyles Editor

It was the early 1970s and Bill Lane, publisher of Sunset Magazine, and Governor Ronald Reagan were riding on the famous Los Rancheros Visitadores annual springtime trek through the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara. As they paused on a mountain top looking West to the Pacific Ocean, admiring the majesty of the setting, Mr. Reagan said it was a place where he would like to retire someday.

"Of course, that was before he became president. It turned out that, after some inquiries, it came to be the ranch he later bought and called his summer White House -- where he entertained Queen Elizabeth (and other dignitaries)," says Mr. Lane.

The ranch was named Rancho del Cielo or ranch in the sky.

"It was a place where Nancy later told me, and many others, 'The ranch is where we enjoyed life the most.'"

Bill Lane, perhaps Portola Valley's most famous citizen, is among several local residents who served during Mr. Reagan's administration. He was ambassador to Australia and Nauru from 1985 to 1989. Although he met the president on many occasions, Mr. Lane stresses he was not a close associate in the sense of former Secretary of State George Shultz or former ambassador to Czechoslovakia Shirley Temple Black, who both have homes in the area. "I'm probably one of the few in the administration who also knew him as a horseman," he says.

As ambassador to Australia, Mr. Lane recalled accompanying Australia's Prime Minister Bob Hawke when he traveled to Washington to address a joint session of Congress in 1988 during Australia's Bicentennial. After the address, about 20 dignitaries gathered for lunch at the White House. There was some tension in the air due to a trade issue, Mr. Lane recalled, but the president broke the ice with "a little joke" and everybody relaxed.

The Lanes, Bill and Jean, have many memories of Washington during the Reagan years. They attended the first inaugural ball and returned to honor Mr. Reagan for the last time at a 1994 "Tribute to Ronald Reagan" dinner hosted by the Republican National Committee. Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister to England, was guest of honor at the event.

Will history remember Ronald Reagan as a great president? "Definitely. I would hope his humility, humor, warm personality, and what he believed in would be remembered and he would be recognized as one of our most capable presidents," says Mr. Lane.

He said he considers Ronald Reagan "a real heavyweight, respected by international leaders as the leader of our country, with our allies, in helping end the Cold War."

He points to an editorial printed in the April, 1984, issue of Life magazine written by managing editor Richard Stolley after a luncheon for magazine publishers at the White House.

During the luncheon someone asked how President Reagan would counteract the impression, asked about in a press conference, that he was inattentive to the demands of his job? Mr. Stolley wrote: "He got that aw, shucks look on his face and answered in part, 'The only thing I'd say is, let's go by the record. We said we'd reduce taxes and we said we'd reduce inflation and we said we would cut regulations and we've done all those things and are doing them. And someone must have been tending the store.' Not a bad answer, whether you agree with it or not."

To get a glimpse of the "real" Ronald Reagan, Mr. Lane suggests reading "Reagan: A Life in Letters" edited by Kiron Skiller, Annelise Anderson and Martin Anderson. The book is available at Kepler's Books. The authors are associated with the Hoover Institution based at Stanford University. The Andersons are residents of Portola Valley.

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