Sunday America swore in her 44th president for a second term. Twenty-eight years ago—in 1985—America bestowed a second term to the 40th President Ronald Reagan. His personal assistant Peggy Grande, a Leadership Institute graduate and volunteer faculty member, worked a decade for the former president who was loved dearly by many conservatives.
"From the time I was young my dad always said, ‘Someone has to have that job you want – and it might as well be you!’ How right he was,” Peggy shared with me. “I never could have predicted that a small town girl like me who dreamed of going to DC but stayed in southern California and studied communications and business, not politics or government, would wind up sitting at the feet of greatness! Likewise, only in America can a young boy named Ronald Reagan, from a poor family with an alcoholic father, raised in the Midwest grow up to be president and not only lead our nation, but become the leader of the free world.”
Peggy worked for President Ronald Reagan from 1989 to 1999 during his post-presidency years in Los Angeles, and was his personal assistant for six of those ten years. She was the liaison between him and his staff, the public, local dignitaries, and world leaders. She drafted correspondence for his original signature, reviewed invitations, scheduled visitors, made appointments, answered phone calls, and attended to a wide range of office and personal needs.
“Ronald Reagan was known as ‘The Great Communicator’ and most of the world remembers him for his written words, his famous speeches, and his public statements. However, I was blessed to know him ‘behind the scenes’ and was constantly amazed at how his actions spoke even louder than his words,” Peggy shared.
“The gentlemanly ways in which he treated me as his personal assistant – like holding my elbow as we would walk up and down stairs, always waiting for me to walk in front of him into a room or event, and always offering to assist if there was a need,” Peggy continued. “There was no difference between his public persona and his personal persona. He didn't behave differently when he knew people were watching than he did in private. He was kind and humble, polite and genuine – always. He had an awareness of others and trusted his staff which inspired their loyalty. He generously gave respect rather than demanding it and didn't take himself too seriously. Though not a day went by without my realizing the unique and overwhelming honor of serving such a great man, he always communicated gratitude for my work, which gave me the confidence I needed to serve him with excellence.”
Peggy was born and raised in southern California and grew up in a family of educators. Her mom was a college professor and her father was a superintendent of schools.
She met her husband, now of 22 years, in school at Pepperdine University. Together they have four children who range in age from 11 to 19.
After school and before going to work for President Reagan, Peggy worked as a salesperson at Nordstrom where she learned about customer service and how to diplomatically deal with others.
Still today, Peggy works to preserve her boss’ legacy. For the past 20-plus years, she has worked with the Reagan Foundation in variety of capacities, including assisting with the President’s funeral, helping Harper Collins publish a book on Reagan, and working for the Reagan Centennial Office.
“I facilitated many of the complex logistics involved in the centennial birthday weekend and was involved in implementing both celebratory and substantive events all year long here domestically and around the world,” Peggy told me. “It was like a ‘victory lap’ of Ronald Reagan’s life, which was an honor to be part of, especially since I had known him personally and worked so closely with him for so many years.”
Peggy recently founded The Quiggle Group, which promotes and expands excellence in leadership through retreats, corporate training, and keynote speaking. The premiere program, called The Reagan Experience, is unique training held at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California for CEOs, top executives, and management teams.
Peggy met Dan Quiggle, her current business partner, while working for President Reagan. He’s a volunteer faculty member at the Leadership Institute and for years has encouraged Peggy to come teach at LI’s Youth Leadership Schools.
“Once I did, I was hooked,” Peggy said. “LI’s ‘bootcamp of politics’ teaches young people why they should be involved in the political process – and equips them to be successful and effective in their area of interest or passion.”
Peggy is now a regular volunteer faculty member at LI’s Youth Leadership Schools, and has even taken LI’s One-on-One Television Workshop. Since 2009, she’s traveled with the Leadership Institute to eight states to train hundreds of conservative college students.
“After President Reagan passed away I felt an incredible burden of responsibility as a first-person observer to the greatness of Ronald Reagan – to share all that I had learned and observed,” Peggy said. “I am proud to serve on faculty for the Leadership Institute and travel the country sharing my ‘front row seat of history’ with others. LI provides me with an incredible opportunity to take the leadership lessons I learned directly from President Reagan and invest them in the next generation of great leaders through LI’s programs. I am confident that I am right where Ronald Reagan would want me to be – on the front line – connecting directly with those who will eventually lead our great nation.”
Peggy is thrilled to mentor young conservative women. As a wife and mother of four, Peggy helps young women determine their roles in the public policy process while encouraging them to pursue their professional and personal dreams.
"Ronald Reagan kept a plaque on his desk which said, ‘It CAN be done.’ I believe it, and I enjoy sharing his optimism with others,” Peggy said.
Come pursue your political aspirations. Register now for one of LI’s already scheduled Youth Leadership School trainings, or contact Matt Kneece or Daryl Ann Dunnigan to schedule one on your university campus.
Just maybe Peggy will be teaching, and you’ll get the opportunity to hear firsthand some of her stories about America’s 40th president. Check out LI’s 2013 training schedule here.
LI’s President Morton Blackwell also worked with President Reagan. In 1980, Morton organized and oversaw the national youth effort for Ronald Reagan, and then served as special assistant on President Reagan’s White House staff from 1981-1984.
“Every person plays a unique and vital role in the democratic process,” Peggy said. “I like to say that politics happens -- and it happens to matter. We all have an obligation to be informed, involved, and learn how to be influential. If we are not part of the process then we are part of the problem and have no one to blame but ourselves when we are victims of our own government.”
Please welcome Peggy Grande as the LI’s Graduate and Faculty of the Week.
“I appreciate the LI model as a ’do-tank,’ not a think-tank. We aren’t looking to recruit people to join the Leadership Institute, but instead we aim to empower others to be more effective in promoting or advancing the conservative cause or candidate to which they are already committed,” Peggy said. “LI brings together individuals from a wide range of political ideology on the right, and unites them in a common commitment to excellence in strategy, media, messaging, events – and winning!”
To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member to be featured as LI's spotlight of the week, please contact LI's External Affairs Officer Lauren Day, formerly Lauren Hart, at Lauren@LeadershipInstitute.org.