WASHINGTON – Jill Biden on Monday praised Nancy Reagan as a first lady who “made such a difference,” as the current first lady hosted the unveiling of a new U.S. postage stamp honoring a woman who held the role 40 years before Biden stepped into it.
The issuance by the U.S. Postal Service of a forever first-class stamp bearing Nancy Reagan's image is part of a yearlong commemoration of the former first lady's centennial by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.
At a White House ceremony, Biden talked about the “incredible platform” first ladies gain to serve the people after “we're just sort of thrust into the national spotlight in a way that I know none of us could have anticipated.”
“First lady Nancy Reagan served the American people with grace," Biden said. "She understood that the role of first lady came with inherent pitfalls and scrutiny, yet she found the humanity in it all. She knew the potential of this role.”
“Next month would have been her 101st birthday,” Biden continued. “And with this stamp we are affirming that she made such a difference.”
Nancy Reagan was born on July 6, 1921.
Fred Ryan, a White House aide to President Ronald Reagan, said the former first lady advocated for foster grandparents, championed the arts, and restored and remodeled parts of the White House. She is also remembered for her “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, for undergoing a mastectomy after her breast cancer diagnosis during the Reagan presidency and a fierce devotion to her husband.
But the White House announcement last week of Monday's event sparked angry commentary on social media by people who noted the Reagans' indifference toward gays and lesbians and to the AIDS crisis that exploded during their time as president and first lady.
Other commentators expressed indignation that the White House under a Democratic president hosted the event at all, let alone during Pride Month, which celebrates LGBTQ people.
Jill Biden's office did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Last week, President Joe Biden issued a Pride Month proclamation in which he said the rights of LGBTQI people currently are under “relentless attack” and sought to reassure them that “my administration sees you for who you are, deserving of dignity, respect and support.”
In her remarks, Jill Biden spoke of needing everyone's help to “bring our communities together.”
“We have to learn from those we don’t understand, to reach across the divide and find common ground, because that’s where the foundation of our future must be laid,” she said.
Also participating in the unveiling were U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Anne Peterson, Nancy Reagan's niece. Ryan also is chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.
Nancy Reagan is the sixth first lady to appear on a U.S. postage stamp after Martha Washington, Dolley Madison, Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lady Bird Johnson, DeJoy said.
The stamp is set to officially be issued on July 6 during a dedication at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California, he said.
Nancy Reagan died in March 2016 at the age of 94.