January 23, 1983 (excerpt)

President Reagan interview (excerpt)

Lafayette Park

President Reagan has held many news conferences and countless interviews in which he aired his views on pressing issues of the day. When Patricia Ryan, PEOPLE'S managing editor, and Garry Clifford, the Washington bureau chief, interviewed President Reagan on Dec. 9, they attempted instead to pose questions the President might be asked if he visited the average American family.

Do you get a longing to make unadvertised trips around town so you could see what's going on beyond The gates?

Yes, There is a feeling of confinement. That is why Camp David looms as such a promise on the weekends. It is a normal-size house where you can go out the door and take a walk if you want to. Sometimes I look out there at Pennsylvania Avenue and see people bustling along, and it suddenly dawns on me that probably never again can I just say, "Hey, I'm going down to the drugstore to look at the magazines.' I'm not saying that depresses me greatly, but you find yourself remembering when you could do that and knowing that time has gone.

Have you ever adopted a disguise or had the Secret Service take you around Washington in an unmarked car?

No. I had an adventure in this town once while I was still Governor of California. It was at the time of the great riots at the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and we were trapped in an automobile in a traffic jam just blocks from our hotel where I knew Nancy was waiting. Around us we could see the windows breaking and the rioting. We obviously couldn't get there in a car and I insisted that we get out and go on foot. The head of my statle security, very disturbed about this, finally agreed If I would wear his sunglasses. I said okay, and I put on his dark glasses we go! just to the curb, and a great big fellow stopped me and said. "Ronald Reagan, can I have your autograph?" I took the glasses off and gave them back. I haven't tried a disguise since.

Do you ever look down from the upper floors of the White House, across to Lafayette Park where a group kitchen is set up for the city's hungry and homeless? Have you noticed those people?

I didn't know that was going on. But I'll make a point of looking, now that you've told me. You see, the living quarters are on the opposite side of the White House so there is very little occasion to go to the north side of the building and look out. The one room I do use is the exercise room.

Your father received his unemployment slip on Christmas Eve, This Christmas 10.8 percent of Americans are unemployed. What would you say to them?

I know it doesn't do much good to say "I understand," and I know how much worse they feel at a time like this. What I'd rather say is to a lot of other people. For every one who is unemployed. there are 10 who aren't. Those 10 ought to be looking around. they must know The people In their neighborhood, fellow union members, people in their churches who are In that plight. I think it is time for The 100....