Nancy Reagan says Americans concerned about the decline in moral values, in the family unit, in parental guidance and in television and movie standards have company.
She also says that she has company.
Talking about it in an interview yesterday, she avoided the pronoun "we" but it was clear that her feelings were also his and that they intend to set an example for what she calls "a return to a higher sense of morality" when they move into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
"I think that might be accomplished by what you say, how you conduct yourself, and the tone you set. It kind of filters down from the top somehow," she said.
She talked in the tiny third-floor sitting room off the master bedroom of the government-run guest house at 716 Jackson Place, where she and Ronald Reagan are staying this week. The phone never stopped ringing -- "Do you suppose anybody will anser that?" she wondered at one point and when nobody did, picked it up herself to find the Secret Service had dialed the wrong number. And the elevator wasn't working either.
In the dining room, on the floor below, President-elect Ronald Reagan and Vice President-elect George Bush sat around the table with a group that included CIA Diector Standsfield Turner. And on the first floor, where Reagan aides came and went, so did a messenger bearing a gift of jelly beans -- reportedly Reagan's favorite candy -- from Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.). (Another bowl of jelly beans sat in the upstairs sitting room.)
Outside in Lafayette Square, passersby kept a vigil that had started Monday night. As much as anything, that curiosity was what struck the Reagans about their new status, what Nancy Reagan called "the depth of the exposure -- everything you do, everyplace you go."
That's what first hit home on election night, a night "so different from the way we imaginied." For one thing, she said they had believed the polls that the election would be close and had prepared to stay up all night watching the returns. "We certainly didn't expect to hear the news (that Reagan had won) getting out of the shower."
When they left their Pacific Palisades home that "depth" started to sink in. "All the neighbors had gathered all the way down to Sunset Boulevard, all the little kids, so darling, standing there and waving. We turned on to Sunset and all the cars had stopped and they were honking and people were waving. It was so nice, such a wonderful feeling about it. It's been the same way here. We feel great warmth," Nancy Reagan said.
Wearing a camel-colored print silk blouse with camel skirt and large gold and enamel hoop earrings, she sat on a loveseat looking considerably more relaxed than she had several weeks earlier on a campaign swing in upper New York state.
"Winning helps," she said, laughing.
That same swing had taken her to a drug rehabilitation center in New York City called Day Top Village, a program that impressed her so much she went to see it twice.
She said she wants "very much" to get into drug-abuse prevention activities after she moves into the White House, though as yet she isn't quite sure how she will go about it.
"Carol Burnett and I have talked at great length about it -- what she's doing with her daughter is a wonderful thing -- and we've both agreed that parents have got to become more involved and aware of what their children are doing, what their children are seeing, where their children are going."
Burnett's daughter Carrie, 16, who was off drugs for a year, is under treatment for drug addiction in Texas for the second time. She started using marijuana, Quaaludes and cocaine again five months ago.
If parents have to act "almost like policemen sometimes," said Nancy Reagan, than that's their responsibility as a parent. She said that parents can't always shift responsibility to somebody else and that sometimes, though it's easier to say yes, "you have to say no." Equally distressing to her is the incident of parents and children who are on drugs together.
When Reagan was governor of California, she said they tried sending youthful ex-addicts around to the schools to talk to students but ran into resistance from parents who didn't want their children exposed to people with drug connections.
"We tried to explain that these were the only people their children were going to listen to. They weren't going to listen to a doctor or a nurse because those people had never been there, had never gone through all the things an addict does. It seemed the logical way to do it," Mrs. Reagan said, "But we had to stop."
Aware that drug abuse is more wide-spread now than it was then, she thinks attitudes like that have changed. She noted as a promising sign the increasing establishment of parents' groups to monitor their children's activities.
And she said she wanted to talk to her father, Dr. Loyal David, a Chicago neurosurgeon now retired and living in Arizona, to get his advice about how she might proceed in setting up a program. She did not rule out an interim advisory committee.
"Maybe," she said. "I just know it's a field I want to get into and try to do something about."
And what does she think of television and movies today?
"Not much," said the former actress. "I don't believe in censorship, so it really comes down to self censorship."
Calling it "bad theater," she said, "It doesn't take any talent to write four-letter words or to photograph people hopping in and out of bed," and she keeps hoping that pretty soon young people will get "bored" with it all.
Since it "all begins and ends at the box office -- picture people are interested in making money," she thinks boycotting bad movies might be the most effective way to stop the trend.
She said she "certainly" has told her friends in the movie industry what she thinks, and also what people she has met on the campaign think about the films coming out of Hollywood. And her friends' reply?
"As long as they make money," she said, shrugging her shoulders.
She also talked about:
The Washington scene -- She wants to be part of it and plans to socialize at other people's homes when invited.
Keeping in touch with the family -- "By telephone."
Getting away from it all -- "Everybody tells me about Camp David."
Settling in -- "Ronnie said there's only one letter difference between 'resident and president.' We'd like to be considered 'resident.'
Reading -- "Right now it's Michener's 'Convenant'." Other recent favorites were "Sophie's Choice," "Serpentine," "Gloria."
Role models -- "I admire all the first ladies.
Movies -- "The last one was 'Ordinary People,' which was very well done."
In the afternoon, First Lady Rosalynn Carter took her through the White House living quarters then introduced her to Chief Usher Rex Scouten, who showed her the state floors and briefed her on details for running the mansion. sLater, a spokesperson said Mrs. Reagan's favorite room was the Red Room because her favorite color is red, and that she will take a second look around the White House today.
Among other appointments on her schedule was one with Letitia Baldridge, social secretary to John and Jacqueline Kennedy, who "knows how to do the sort of things I'm talking about at the White House."