Nancy Reagan met some of her new neighbors for the first time yesterday and got an earful about Washington.
"We want you to visit our schools, read to our sick, wipe the tears from the faces of the weary, and smile in the sun with our children," Effi Barry told the first lady and Barbara Bush at a luncheon in their honor.
She invited her other guests -- more than 90 prominent District women from government, business and civic organizations -- from what she called a "wide section of the community," so that the wives of the president and vice president might meet women who don't ordinarily travel in their circles. One such guest, said the mayor's wife, was "a voice for the poor," Sara McPherson, a welfare mother of seven and a "grass roots" community worker.
As a setting for her party Barry chose La Serre, a $300-a-year private membership Georgetown club where her husband's birthday party was given recently. She said there never had been any plan to hold yesterday's luncheon in Anacostia or to reciprocate for the Reagan's hospitality to her and Mayor Barry with a dinner at a Florida Avenue grill, as the mayor himself once quipped.
The purpose of yesterday's get-together, she said, was to make Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush feel at home here and to "tout the virtues" of the District.
"We don't have the weather California has but we do have the love and hospitality," she said.
Barry said that while "money -- more money" was the one thing she might be tempted to ask for on behalf of the mayor, she had no intention of turning her luncheon-table talk with Nancy Reagan to such specific issues plaguing the city as budget deficits (expected to hit $60 million) or CETA cuts (expected to affect 1,300). That could come later "at some future point in time."
Out on O Street, crowds collected as guests started to arrive, among them D.C. City Council members Hilda Mason, Charlene Drew Jarvis, Nadine Winter and Polly Shackleton; corporation counsel Judy Rogers; Ethel Williams, director of the commission on women; and Audrey Rowe, commissioner of social services.
When Nancy Reagan got out of her White House limousine she mistook the entrance to La Serre and entered "Antiques of Georgetown" instead. She made a quick exit, promising to return. She did, after lunch, and was given as a gift a protrait by a local artist Ron Van Swearingen.
Shackleton viewed the luncheon as an opportunity to enlighten the first lady on some of the programs going on around town. "I'm glad to know of her interest in the Foster Grandparents program, for instance. We have a lot of those people out at Forest Haven."
Peggy Cooper, who heads the D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities, called the luncheon "a terrific idea" since "hopefully events like it will make the Reagans feel closer to the District. They're now citizens of our town and all citizens have a responsibility to aggressively advocate our needs."
There was no mistaking the message that Effi Barry and others hoped to get across. After the asparagus salad Maltese, seafood a la Nantua and roast of veal with avocado sauce came a hearty serving of a we-love-Washington multi-media slide show titled "Washington Is Everybody's Town." Someone even composed a song to go with it, dished out by a singing group called The Merricks.
Sara McPherson, the welfare mother who said she and her seven children might have starved had it not been for food stamps, made it clear that Washington was her town too. Voicing concern that as employment drops, crime will rise, she said she didn't think much of President Reagan's proposed budget cuts. "I think they stink," she said.
Nancy Reagan didn't hear her, of course. Responding to Effi Barry's toast, the first lady spoke only of her view from the White House and how she was looking forward to "a marvelous spring."
"As my husband said, there's only one letter difference between resident and president and I hope to see more of all you in the next four years as fellow residents," she said.
Then, accompanied by her Secret Service escort, she went shopping on Wisconsin Avenue.