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July 7, 2020 By Bea Morrow

A Close Encounter with a President

When I was a partner in the Los Angeles office of the largest international public accounting and business advisory firm, we were often asked by our major corporate clients to attend functions held by charities they supported by sponsoring a table at a gala fundraising function of the charity. These functions were generally held at a hotel in Beverly Hills or Century City. The food was top notch and they always featured a great dance band. My firm quickly became aware that Ken and I greatly enjoyed these functions because it gave us the opportunity to spend time together outside of our busy work schedules and to partake of our favorite activity — ballroom dancing.

In October 1992, the chairman and CEO of our biggest client, a major oil company, requested that my firm sponsor a table for the evening function of the Nancy Reagan 4th Annual Tennis Tournament. Ronald Reagan left the presidency in January 1989, and the Reagans had moved back to Southern California. During the evening, each couple was given the opportunity to pose for a picture with the Reagans.

When our turn arrived and we began to walk toward the Reagans, I was immediately interrupted by Secret Service agents who took my small clutch (which, by the way, had already been scanned before we entered the ballroom). As we approached the Reagans, I intuitively held out my hand to shake the President’s hand. He recoiled and looked very startled. I was immediately surrounded by Secret Service agents once again. When I explained to them that I grew up in Germany where it was customary to shake someone’s hand upon greeting them, they let me go although I was not allowed to touch the President.

We had a wonderful time for the remainder of the evening and, thankfully, no more encounters with the Secret Service.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library.

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