Wednesday, May 20, 2020

PHLASHBACK: President Ronald Reagan's 1986 Commencement At Glassboro High School


Added Pomp President May Visit Glassboro High

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150911121944/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-12/news/26047197_1_graduation-speaker-graduation-ceremonies-board-president Posted: June 12, 1986


President Ronald Reagan at the commencement ceremonies at Glassboro High School in New Jersey on June 19, 1986 and shook hands with all 130 students graduating. Photo by Gregg Kohl, Press of AC.

Glassboro High School in Gloucester County, which does not usually feature a guest speaker at its graduation ceremonies, might be welcoming President Reagan as its commencement speaker next week, the Glassboro school superintendent said yesterday.

Superintendent Nicholas Mitcho said he got a phone call from the White House on Monday afternoon. "I'm not at liberty to tell you who it was," he said, "but I can tell you it was not the President.

"They indicated the President is interested in speaking to a high school graduating class and is considering several in southern New Jersey. I don't know why they thought of Glassboro, but I can guess that it is close to Washington, it is one of the few school districts still in session this late in June, and it was the site of the summit."

President Lyndon B. Johnson met with Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin at Hollybush, the residence of the president of Glassboro State College, in June 1967.

Graduation ceremonies for Glassboro High's 130 seniors are scheduled for June 20 on the school's football field, Mitcho said, "but the date might be changed to June 19, depending on the President's schedule."

"We're excited. We're very hopeful the President will come," said Mitcho. ''We've never had a graduation speaker. Usually I make some remarks, and so does the board president."


It's Confirmed: President Coming To Glassboro High

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150911180049/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-13/news/26046277_1_graduation-ceremonies-guest-speaker-football-field Posted: June 13, 1986

Glassboro High School seniors, born after their town gained worldwide recognition as the site of a 1967 summit meeting between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, learned yesterday that President Reagan will deliver the keynote address at their graduation ceremonies next week and will shake hands with each of them.

Many of the students were less than ecstatic.

"At first, we just heard that someone who attracted a lot of media attention would be coming," said Regina Loungo, 17, a graduating senior. "We were hoping it was Whitney Houston or Bill Cosby. I was excited until I heard it was the President."

White House officials said the graduation address Thursday would be Reagan's first, and it may be the first time in history that an American president has addressed a high school commencement.

A White House spokesman said Glassboro was chosen "both for logistical and symbolic reasons."

"It's reasonably close for a day trip," said Mitchell Daniels, White House political director, "and it has historical significance because of the 1967 summit that was held in Glassboro between Johnson and Kosygin."

Nicholas Mitcho, the school superintendent, also theorized that Glassboro was chosen because it is one of the few schools in the area to hold graduation ceremonies in late June, and the President apparently decided only this week to speak at a graduation.

The President will shake hands with each of the school's 130 graduating seniors, Mitcho said, and "charge them with responsibility for maintaining and improving peace and prosperity."

The time and location of the ceremonies, initially scheduled for 7 p.m. June 20 on the school's football field, will be announced in a few days, Mitcho said. A number of sites are being considered, he said, "but there is a very good chance it will be in the (high school) gymnasium or auditorium."

Mitcho said he was told by White House officials who toured the school yesterday that the President "wanted to maintain the dignity of our commencement." So in addition to delivering the keynote address, the President will make a separate speech to the community "in a nearby area after the ceremonies."

As in previous years, students will receive six tickets each for their families, Mitcho said, and family members will be permitted to take photographs.

The school's ceremonies do not usually feature so prominent a guest speaker, Mitcho said. "You're looking at him," the superintendent said.

Reagan made his announcement while meeting with a group of students from the "People to People" American-Soviet Youth Exchange Program in the White House Cabinet Room at 3 p.m. He told the group he would discusss "peace and freedom."

"It will be my first high school graduation in quite a long time," the President told the group.

News of the President's visit came Monday afternoon, when Roy E. Holland, the high school principal for more than 11 years, got a call from a man who identified himself as Mr. Hankler.

"I thought it was a prank," said Holland, "but then I realized he wasn't asking anything I could not verify, so I took his number and called him back."

When Holland told Mitcho, " 'I think I just got a call from the White House,' the chills went down his spine and up mine," Mitcho said. "We called back a few times just to be sure."

By 4 p.m. yesterday, when Mitcho made his announcement to some students, faculty members and parents in an area outside the front doors of the high school, the district's grounds crew had already trimmed the hedges in front of the school, and most of Glassboro had heard rumblings of the visit.

Most students said they had already read newspaper accounts that the President might come to Glassboro. "A lot of people have mixed feelings about it," said Sandra Pirri, another senior. There were rumors that students would receive as few as three tickets for their families and that no photographs could be taken.

"And what's he going to talk about, foreign policy?" Loungo said. "We want him to wish us luck. We want him to talk about us."

But beyond the initial shock and the ambivalence of sharing the spotlight with the President, some of the students were pleased.

"It's the most exciting thing that ever happened to me," said Tom Boyer, 18, a senior.

Rachel Blumenfeld, who has been the faculty adviser for the Class of 1986 since the students were in ninth grade, said she could understand why some students were upset at first. "Once all the commotion starts, they'll get into the spirit," Blumenfeld said. "I feel sorry for them in a way, but it means we are special, and I wish I could convey that to the kids."

Reagan's planned address is part of his effort to reach out to young people, Daniels said.

"The President has been making a series of appearances every week with young people, and one of the themes he wants to stress is peace and how to make it permanent," Daniels said. "This seemed to be an appropriate setting to make that point."

Said John P. Aveni, one of two high school vice principals: "When you talk about Glassboro, you're talking about America." He said the town, which is home to Glassboro State College, has a minority population of about 30 percent and a growing population of Laotian and Cambodian families. "It is a mixture of everything."


Mixed Reaction To Gipper At Glassboro

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150919120258/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-13/news/26044914_1_high-school-commencement-senior-class-president-graduation Posted: June 13, 1986

Singer Whitney Houston, perhaps even Bill Cosby, were among the names that came to mind when Ragina Loungo heard rumors that a big celebrity might speak at Glassboro High School's graduation ceremonies next week.

The rumors of an important guest were confirmed yesterday and Loungo is disappointed. But the commencement speaker will be a former entertainer - President Reagan.

"People will be coming to to see the president, not to see the graduation. The president is interrupting everything," said Luongo, who still would have preferred Whitney Houston.

The White House decided last week the president would speak at high school commencement in either New York or New Jersey.

No one is exactly sure why Glassboro was selected, but the school was in a state of mild turmoil yesterday as a White House advance team of 30 scouted the location while a small army of newspaper and TV reporters cornered anyone who would talk.

News that the president himself would be handing out the diplomas got decidedly mixed reviews among the 130 graduates, after the initial surprise wore off.

While Tom Boyer said shaking hands with the president "will be the most exciting thing ever to happen to me," classmate Faustina Sippo could not hide her anger.

Selected as one of three student speakers at the commencenment, she was told yesterday she would have to cut her four-minute address down to 90 seconds.

"It took me a week to write it and audition and practice it. Now I have to cut it down to nothing and make it fit with the other speeches by tomorrow. I'm not a little upset. I'm a lot upset. It's not fair. That speech took a lot of hard work."

"It's really exciting for me," said senior David Fernandez. "I think the whole school is really proud."

"It's good for the town, but we want to graduate, not hear a talk about foreign policy," said Sandra Pirri.

"I have a lot of mixed feelings," said senior class president Ruth Lockbaum. "It disrupting things, causing a lot of changes. But it's exciting too. We'll have to wait to see how it turns out."

Superintendent Nicholas Mitcho - who seemed to be the most elated person in town - said he was stunned when a White House staffer called the school Monday and said the president was considering a visit. "I don't know why he chose us. Probably our proximity to Washington and the fact that few schools will still be in session next week.

"And, of course, we are Summit City," said Mitcho, referring to the 1967 meeting between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet leader Alexei Kosygin at Glassboro State College.


As Shock Passes, Glassboro High Prepares For The President

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150914015855/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-15/news/26045986_1_graduation-ceremonies-vice-principals-school-gym-or-auditorium Posted: June 15, 1986

It was Roy Holland who got the call.

A man who identified himself as Mr. Hankler, a White House aide, said the President wanted to speak at a high school graduation ceremony, said Holland, the principal of Glassboro High School, "and would we be interested?"

The rest, as they say, is history.

President Reagan will be the guest speaker at commencement exercises Thursday at Glassboro High. He will give a diploma and a handshake to each of the school's 130 graduating seniors. He will address the students and their parents in either the school gym or auditorium and then speak to the community on the hockey field behind the school.

Much has been confirmed since Monday afternoon when Holland got that fateful call.

But much remains to be planned. There is, for example, the small matter of what time of day the graduation ceremonies will be held. That decision is expected tomorrow.

"But we're in good shape," Nicholas A. Mitcho, the superintendent of schools, said Friday, one day after the formal announcement of the President's planned visit.

"The only change in the graduation ceremonies this year," Mitcho said, ''is that the President will be speaking."

What the superintendent means, he is quick to point out, is that ''everything possible is being done to maintain the dignity of the ceremony and its meaning for students and their families."


The seniors, who in past years have gotten five or six tickets for their families, will get five this year.

And a photographer has been hired to take snapshots of each graduate in his or her moment with the chief executive.

And the tickets and the program bulletin have been redesigned.

And there are plans to have eight high school marching bands (invited from surrounding communities) play "Hail To The Chief" as the President arrives.

"And we'll have little American flags," said Joanne Birmingham, 17, a junior and treasurer of the Student Government Association.

Birmingham said she was one of about 20 students who volunteered to help direct cars in the parking lot on graduation day in exchange for the right to stand in a reserved area when Reagan addresses the community.

"We're trying to involve as many of our students from throughout the district as possible," Mitcho said. Teams of Glassboro students joined school officials and White House aides on Friday to plan for the big day.

"A lot of little things are being done to make this as pleasurable as possible for the students," said John Aveni, one of two vice principals.

But adding the President to the program has made some things harder for students.

Reporters and photographers still were milling about in the high school hallways Friday, hoping to interview students, who were hoping to finish their final exams.

"It's like a zoo," said Elizabeth Badin, a math teacher at the high school. "Do you know how hard it is for kids to concentrate on finals in this atmosphere?"

Many students, worried about having one of the most significant days in their lives usurped by the President, initially had mixed reactions to the news of his planned visit.

But by Friday afternoon, when the last final exam had been taken, the students began to relax and enjoy the attention.

"At first, we were so unsure, and it was such a total shock," said Ruth Lockbaum, the senior-class president. "But now we're getting more and more excited."

Once the reality of the impending visit began to sink in around town, the theme seemed to be "Think Commemorative."

"We've had a few calls from people asking about vending permits," said Marianne Ashenfelter, the deputy borough clerk. One enterprising caller said he might sell commemorative T-shirts. Others were interested in selling water ice.

But they may have some competition from the students.

"We figure that if people arrive early for the second event and have to wait around, they'll get hungry," said Mitcho. So the festive "second event," Reagan's speech to the community, may become an opportunity for the band boosters to earn a little money for their cause by selling refreshments.

As the initial shock of the news led to rejoicing and then serious planning, Kay Mumford, Mitcho's secretary, thought about the time 19 years ago when former President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin held face-to-face talks at Glassboro State College. And she thought about how the school district and the town might fare this time around in the glare of public scrutiny.

"Just don't call us an obscure, sleepy little college town in South Jersey," she said.


'Deja Vu' For Glassboro: A Visit By The President

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150912032537/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-18/news/26044540_1_summit-curtains-soviet-premier-alexei-kosygin Posted: June 18, 1986

There was much to be done, and there was little time.

As the Glassboro Public Schools prepared for President Reagan's visit tomorrow, a swarm of workers descended on the high school. The dirt lot in front of the administration building had to be blacktopped; temporary generators had to be installed to air-condition the gym, and a fence had to be put up around the soccer field where the President would speak to the community.

"It feels like deja vu," Glassboro Mayor William Dalton said Monday, remembering 19 years ago, when officials from the borough and Glassboro State College learned that President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin would hold face-to-face talks at Hollybush Mansion, the college president's home.

White House officials said last week that it was, in part, because of Glassboro's historical significance as the site of the summit that the high school was selected for a visit by Reagan.

Thomas E. Robinson, who was president of Glassboro State College during the summit, said he was told at 6:35 p.m. June 22, 1967, that Johnson and the Soviet premier would arrive at 11 a.m. the next day.

"We heard no rumors (of the summit) before that," Robinson said in a telephone interview Sunday from his home in Holland, Pa. He retired as college president a year after the summit.

"People asked how I had enough influence to bring Russia there. But the world demanded that summit because of the war in the Middle East," Robinson said.

White House officials said at the time that they were searching for a midpoint between New York, where Kosygin was addressing a special assembly of the United Nations, and Washington. It was New Jersey Gov. Richard Hughes who proposed Glassboro. But on the Monday after the summit, Robinson said, he got a tongue-in-check phone call from the president of West Chester State College in Pennsylvania.

"He said, 'We're sitting here at my desk with a map and we are drawing concentric circles on it, and we feel the mid-point is West Chester, not Glassboro.' "

Once the White House advance team had determined that the talks would be at Hollybush rather than in offices elsewhere on the campus, opaque curtains had to be installed on all the windows, Robinson said.

"We had curtains, but anyone could shoot through if he saw what was going on in there. I called a company in Pitman, and they initially said it would take three weeks to make the curtains."

By 7 p.m., guards had to be stationed at each door to keep out the curious. ''They were just walking right in to see what was going on," he said.

The house was quickly air-conditioned, hundreds of phone lines were installed, and a special round table had to be built because "you cannot have a leader at a summit conference," he said.

"People were working all night long," said Robinson, who moved out of the house temporarily so he could have some privacy. "There were police stationed in every room, and they would not leave."

The two world leaders met on Friday, June 23, and again on Sunday, June 25. On Sunday, they ate lamb chops broiled by White House cooks on a "family-type charcoal barbecue" set up behind the house.

Hollybush, a 19-room mansion built in 1849 by Thomas and Samuel Whitney, officially was designated a national historic landmark in 1973.

The college's spring semester had ended, and the summer session was scheduled to begin the week after the summit, Robinson said, but college students returned to Glassboro to help when they heard the news. The students set up a press room for 1,400 visiting journalists, with typewriters and desks borrowed from public and parochial schools.

"The town took over immediately," Robinson said. A local restaurant sent a truck with sandwiches and coffee, and a florist sent flowers for every room in the house, all at no charge, he added.

Robinson said the college had a contract with a company that would clip newspaper articles mentioning the school. "We paid them 13 cents a piece. The usual bills were very little, but after that night I got bills for $1,500."

Published reports at the time said some furniture was missing after the world leaders left.

"Apparently, the two leaders held their own personal conferences with translators in what we called our library. Johnson seemed to like one of the chairs greatly, and on Friday night I got a call from the White House asking if we could let him have that chair.

"As it happens, it belonged to my wife's family. I said yes, although later, my wife objected a little."

At the time, Robinson thought Johnson wanted to put the chair in the Smithsonian Institution, and when it did not surface there, concern grew. "It was finally located at the Johnson Museum at the University of Texas," he said.

Johnson returned to Glassboro in 1968 to deliver the commencement address at the college. "Our students had invited him in September, and he agreed to come on the condition that we would keep it a secret," Robinson said. "We advertised that the governor would be our speaker, and I couldn't even tell the board of directors that Johnson was coming."

A day before the commencement ceremony, Robinson said, a White House aide called to say Johnson would not come to Glassboro, "because I had betrayed the trust."

Robinson said an aide at the Johnson ranch had broken the news to a reporter. "It took quite a few phone calls to straighten that out," he said.

Dalton said he had heard that when Reagan speaks in Glassboro tomorrow he may announce a summit with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. "And, of course, that would be up to the college president, but we would be delighted to have another summit here," Dalton said.

"In 1967, the press picked up on a phrase Johnson used, 'The Spirit of Hollybush,' " Dalton said. "It denoted the warmth and the spirit of the people of the community. That Spirit of Hollybush has never died."


Students Design Messages As Town Readies For Reagan

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150912001332/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-18/news/26043704_1_poster-paint-students Posted: June 18, 1986

When the President comes to town, crowds of well-wishers carry posters and wave tiny American flags as the band plays "Hail to the Chief."

It doesn't happen spontaneously. A crew of about 20 or 30 White House aides comes to town before the President and arranges the whole thing.

Ask Bill Krasting, an art teacher at Glassboro High School, where the President is scheduled to speak at commencement tomorrow

On Monday, Krasting was busy supervising a horde of elementary, middle and high school students as they painted posters to welcome President Reagan.

"The kids have to paint both sides, the aides tell us, because the cameras will be in front and in back," he said.

But for the teachers and students at the high school, excited and a bit overwhelmed by the impending visit, the White House advance team and its organizational skills seemed welcome.


Crowd welcomes President. Photo by Gary Shivers, Press of AC.

"We have more than 3,000 pieces of poster board, about 25 dozen brushes and 24 quarts each of red, white and blue paint," Krasting said. Domino's supplied 50 free pizzas and McDonald's donated the juice. The students supplied the messages for the signs.

Some were straightforward. "Welcome Reagan" and "Welcome Ron" were the traditional favorites.

Others were lighthearted. "Welcome Skipper," "Who Loves You, Ronny" and ''Bring Out the Jelly Beans" were popular messages.

Some were community oriented. "The Boro Welcomes Reagan."

Others were personalized. "Mark Welcomes Reagan."

Still others were, shall we say, creative.

"Reagan vs. Godzilla" was the message on the Palacio brothers' poster. David, a student at the Bowe School, and William, a junior at Glassboro High, worked together on the project, which included a drawing of the two former film stars doing battle. "We wanted to show that Reagan can win anything," the younger Palacio said.

Some students used Monday's poster party as a chance to invite Reagan for a return visit. "Come Back in '88" was a common theme.

Freshman Natisha Stringfield , 15, used the opportunity to show off her foreign language skills by painting signs which said, "Que Pasa Ron," and ''Hola Ron."

Most students squatted on the grass and used their knees as paperweights to protect their posters from gusts of wind. The Glen Ridge Buddies had a better idea. Their poster, made by Adam Johnson, Paul Otooni and Kevin Baldwin, who all live on Glen Ridge, was a group effort.

Johnson held the poster board as Baldwin painted the message that Otooni conceived. They kept it simple. "Thanks For Coming" it said.

But finding a message for their second sign was not so simple. Finally they were reminded to paint a message on each side of one piece of poster board, and the second message came naturally. "Have a Good Flight," they wrote.

The only politically oriented sign came from a teacher. Susan Evans, an English teacher at the high school painted a peace symbol on her poster. "One of my students thought it was a Mercedes-Benz symbol," she said. "I was crushed."

The posters were to be collected and distributed at the entrance gate tomorrow, Krasting said. The flags will be also distributed at that time.

HOW TO SEE REAGAN


Glassboro Jr. Michele Praul with ticket . Photo by Gary Shivers, Press of AC.

President Reagan is scheduled to arrive by helicopter tomorrow in the late afternoon on the athletic field behind the school. School officials hope a crowd will start to gather there at 3:30 p.m. when the gates to the field open.

Bands from area high schools will entertain and refreshments will be sold. The President's remarks to the graduates will be broadcast via loudspeaker to the crowd outside, and he is expected to speak outside afterward.

Graduates and their families have been directed to park at Glassboro State College. Others are asked to park at the Bowe School on Norway Avenue behind the high school athletic field.


Glassboro High School Makes Ready For The President

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150912032325/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-18/news/26046338_1_white-house-aide-athletic-field-school-colors Posted: June 18, 1986

Thousands of posters have been painted and hundreds of phone lines installed, the platform is being built in the school gym and a press room is being set up in the boys' locker room. Glassboro High School is preparing for the arrival of President Reagan, who will be the guest speaker at commencement exercises tomorrow afternoon.

Reagan's helicopter is expected to touch down on the athletic field in back of the school sometime after 5 p.m. tomorrow, a White House aide said yesterday. The President will speak to the students sometime between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., the aide said.


President arriving. Photo by Gary Shivers, Press of AC.

The visit to Glassboro High is part of the President's "effort to reach out to young people," a White House aide said last week. Glassboro, site of a 1967 summit meeting between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin, was chosen for "logistical and symbolic reasons," the aide said.

Commencement exercises will get under way tomorrow before the President's arrival, said Nicholas A. Mitcho, the school superintendent. Members of the graduating class and their parents have been told to be seated in the high school gym by 4:45.

Reagan is expected to arrive after the graduates' processional, the invocation and a song by the school choir. He will be on hand to hear the class valedictorian, salutatorian and orator address the class and then will speak for 10 to 15 minutes. Mitcho said he had been told the President will charge the class, and indirectly the youth of America, with "responsibility for maintaining and improving peace and prosperity."


President Ronald Reagan at the commencement ceremonies at Glassboro High School in New Jersey on June 19, 1986 and shook hands with all 130 students graduating. Photo by Gregg Kohl, Press of AC.

Reagan will shake hands with each of the 130 graduates and help school board President George Beach give out diplomas, Mitcho said. The last diploma will be for the chief executive himself, he said.

Senior class president Ruth Lockbaum will present the President with the diploma, making him an honorary member of the Class of '86, and will also give him a varsity letter jacket in maroon and gold, the school colors. Late yesterday afternoon, there was still some debate as to whether the jacket would bear the President's full name or just the words The Gipper.

School officials, eager to avoid a crush of camera-bearing parents, have arranged for a photographer to take a picture of each member of the graduating class shaking hands with the President, and the entire event will be videotaped, Mitcho said.

Thousands of area residents are expected to welcome the President on the athletic field, where local high school bands will play "Hail To the Chief." Glassboro students will sell refreshments to raise money for the band.

According to Glassboro police, several streets in the area surrounding the high school and the athletic field will be closed to traffic and, at certain periods, to pedestrians.

Beginning at 3:30 p.m., Bowe Boulevard, from Route 322 north to Carpenter Street, will be restricted to all vehicles except those carrying participants in the graduation ceremonies. Drivers and passengers in those cars must present tickets to the graduation in order to gain access to that street and the parking lot directly across the street from Glassboro High.

People wishing to attend the outdoor rally on the field behind Glassboro High should park on the Bowe Elementary School field off Carpenter Street, behind the high school athletic field.

At 5:10 p.m., the restricted section of Bowe Boulevard in front of the high school also will be closed to all vehicles and pedestrians for about 20 minutes while the President's helicopter lands. Also closed for that 20- minute period will be a section of Carpenter Street between Wilson and Norway Avenues.

Once the President is inside the high school, streets surrounding the building will be reopened to pedestrians, said police. About 6:30 p.m., when the President has completed his address to the graduating class, he will go outside to speak to a crowd that police expect to number between 10,000 and 20,000.

During that address, and until the President's helicopter departs, all streets surrounding the school will again be closed to all vehicles and pedestrians, police said.


At Glassboro, Tight Security And An Order From The Top For Food

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150913090601/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-19/news/26044748_1_secret-service-joe-brigandi-glassboro-high-school Posted: June 19, 1986

Around Glassboro police headquarters lately, there's been a lot of talk about Secret Service men and snipers. Just down the block, at Joe's Sub Shop, the talk yesterday also centered on the Secret Service, only the focus was on the agents' appetites.

On Tuesday, a White House advance man walked into Joe's and ordered 55 submarine sandwiches to go for today, when President Reagan is scheduled to address the graduating class at Glassboro High School.

Joe Brigandi, the sub shop's owner and vice president of the Glassboro school board, was trying to decide yesterday how best to coordinate the delivery of the sandwiches to the White House helicopters.

The White House man, said Brigandi, had just walked in and "asked me if we could have 55 subs ready to put one on each seat of the helicopters so the President and his people would have something to eat on their flight back to Washington."

Brigandi said he quickly got on the telephone to his Italian baker.

Incongruous as talk about hoagies and snipers might seem, it is all part of the excitement that has invaded the small Gloucester County community of Glassboro in the week since Reagan announced his desire to attend commencement exercises at Glassboro High. The town has been inundated with young men and women in pin-striped suits. Some of them are White House coordinators, some Secret Service people, some FBI agents.

"You meet so many of them," said one Glassboro police officer, "they kind of run together. You don't know whether they're FBI or what."

In the high school gym yesterday, Frank Knauss, the choir director, clad in a Hawaiian shirt, jeans and white sports jacket, was Reagan's stand-in for the 130 graduating seniors who practiced walking to the hastily built stage and shaking his hand. Off to the side, the Air Force Band of The East practiced ''Hail to the Chief" and other tunes.

"The President (Reagan) has never gone to a high school for a graduation before, and this will be historic," one member of the White House staff told the graduates, who squirmed anxiously in folding chairs under the watchful glare of television cameras. Gerald Ford spoke at his daughter Susan's 1975 graduation from Hoton-Arms, a private day school in Bethesda, Md.

As students receive their diplomas, starting about 6 tonight, a photographer hired by the school district will snap shots of each graduate shaking hands with the President, said Nicholas A. Mitcho, school superintendent. The entire ceremony also will be preserved on videotape, Mitcho said, and K mart has donated enough blank tapes so that duplicates can be made for each student.

Since learning about the President's visit, the ceremonies have been moved up a day to accommodate him, and the high school has undergone a hasty facelift, not all of it gently accomplished: The underclass students' cafeteria has been turned into a press room; the wood shop has been converted to an editing room for TV crews; loudspeakers and a stage have been trucked onto the athletic field where the helicopters will land; dozens of marigolds in maroon and gold, the school colors, have been planted at the school's front entrance; hedges have been manicured; a large white X has been painted on the athletic field to designate a makeshift landing pad; the cheerleading squad has composed a new cheer in the President's honor.

"Welcome to Glassboro High. We're proud you came to see us, for many reasons why," the maroon-and-gold-suited cheerleaders will shout as the President lands. "You've led us toward peace. We're very glad you came. You've made our country whole. We're proud to cheer your name."

"It was Washington's idea to get the cheerleaders involved," said science teacher and cheerleading faculty adviser Karen Klein. "They wanted it to be more colorful."

Students have been warned not to chew gum, slouch or throw their caps in the air. "They are not made of terrycloth," said vice principal John Aveni. ''They are like Frisbees with sharp corners, and if one catches somebody in the eye we'll all be in trouble."

Around town, red, white and blue crepe paper has been hung in some shop windows and over municipal building doorways. Welcoming messages appear in gas-station driveways and on a billboard looming above Main Street.

The fire department helped erect a new flagpole at the school yesterday. Kiwanis Club members and the Veterans of Foreign Wars have been recruited to help coordinate traffic. Grim as it may sound, one county official has been appointed by the federal government to take charge of the President's body should he be killed.

Given the tight security already surrounding the graduation exercises, tragedies or even minor slip-ups seem unlikely.

"They know what they want," Glassboro police Sgt. Les Kauffman said. ''There are no ifs, ands or buts. They spell it right out for you. Period."


Security for the public as people go through the detectors. Photo by Gary Shivers, Press of AC.

For instance, said Kauffman, no one will be allowed to participate in either the graduation exercises or a later rally on the athletic field behind the school without first having passed through metal detectors. Indeed, Kauffman added, no one will even be permitted a glimpse of the President without first being cleared through the detectors.

"They don't want anyone who hasn't been through the magnetometers to have a clear view of the President," said an officer, "because if you got a clear view you've got a clear rifle shot."

Some of the commencement's costs had already been planned for, said Superintendent Mitcho, and extra expenses - for police overtime, lighting, sound and telephone lines at the school - are being split by the White House, the county and the state, a White House aide said. Local businesses also chipped in. "We got about $2,000 in donations from several banks in town," Mitcho said.

As preparations at Glassboro High yesterday, work crews mingled with musicians, students, teachers and White House staff members who carried walkie-talkies. "Last week, this place was so normal," said Rachel Blumenfeld, the senior-class adviser. "Now, it's cuckoo."


Reagan At Glassboro

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150913174713/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-19/entertainment/26045176_1_parking-lot-coverage-local-church Posted: June 19, 1986

President Reagan's commencement speech to the graduating class of Glassboro High School will be broadcast live tonight over several local television and radio stations.

Channel's 3, 6 and 10, and KYW (1060/AM) and WCAU (1210/AM) radio are providing extensive coverage of the President's visit right up to his scheduled departure at 6:45 p.m.

Channel 3 begins its coverage at 5:25 p.m. with reports from "Eyewitness News" New Jersey bureau chief Dick Sheeran, and anchor Jerry Penacoli. If there is time, the station will switch to 15 minutes of local news at 6:45 p.m., followed by the "NBC Nightly News" at 7 p.m., "Evening Magazine" at 7:30 p.m. "People's Court" (normally seen at 7 p.m.) has been pre-empted. The rest of the station's program schedule remains the same.

Following live reports on its midday news, Channel 6 will pick up coverage during the 5 and 5:30 p.m. "Action News" from reporters Cathy Gandolfo, Chris Wagner, John Rawlins and Lorne Matalon.

Channel 10's coverage starts at 5 p.m. with live reports from the high school, and will run through 7 p.m., followed by the "CBS Evening News" (taped earlier), then "Entertainment Tonight" at 7:30 p.m.

"Perfect Match" will be pre-empted to make room for the expanded coverage. The rest of the evening's lineup, starting with "Crazy Like a Fox" at 8 p.m., will air at regular times.

WCAU-AM begins coverage at noon with live reports from reporters Steve Highsmith, Andrea Ramsey and Steve Tawa.

KYW-AM's South Jersey bureau chief Ed Kasuba and reporter Larry Litwin start their reports at 2 p.m.

Reagan is expected to arrive at the school after 5 p.m. today, according to a White House spokesman. The President will speak to the students soemtime between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.

IN SEARCH OF A PARKING LOT

If the Community Church of God at 42nd and Parrish streets had been blessed with a parking lot, the church might have been used during the opening credits of an NBC comedy series "Amen," scheduled to air next season.

The show stars Sherman Hemsley as a deacon and Clifton Davis as a young minister at odds with each other over the best way to run their fictional First Community Church of Philadelphia.

The show's producers wanted to film several scenes in a local church, so R.C. Staab, the city's director of Motion Pictures and Television Production, sent them pictures of some of the city's churches.

"They said the Community Church of God was just what they were looking for," Staab said. "Then they asked me if it had a parking lot."

A parking lot?

"Yeah. They said they had a gag with him (Hemsley) that takes place in the parking lot of the church."

Back to square one for "Amen" 's producers, and the search continues for a Philadelphia church with a parking lot.

PROMISES TO KEEP

Last September, Helene Anne Spicer, a teacher at the St. Charles school in Drexel Hill, promised her 29 second grade students that she'd get their pictures in the newspaper and their faces on television if they read a ''whole bunch of books" during the year.

The kids met the challenge, collectively reading more than 1,300 books.

After writing to the Daily News, the paper printed a picture of her class earlier this month, and ABC's "20/20" (Thursdays at 10 p.m. on Channel 6) has come through, too. The kids will be seen in the last minute of a feature on them during tonight's show.

WORTH NOTING

Jane Pauley, co-anchor of NBC's "Today" show, goes on maternity leave after covering Prince Andrew's wedding July 21-23. She'll return in October. Replacements for Pauley include "Ms" magazine editor Gloria Steinem, Ann Garrells, Ann Rubinstein, Carol Marin, Pat Mitchell and Jean Innersen. In other "Today" news, plans to broadcast a Saturday version of the highly rated morning show have been dropped, but a Sunday morning "Today" is still a possibility for next season . . . We said the new program director at WCAU- AM radio was Jim Winsor. We only had it half right. His name is David Winsor.


Remarks at the High School Commencement Exercises in Glassboro, New Jersey

Source: https://glassborosummit.rowan.edu/items/show/266

June 19, 1986




President Ronald Reagan at the commencement ceremonies at Glassboro High School in New Jersey on June 19, 1986 and shook hands with all 130 students graduating. Photo by Gregg Kohl, Press of AC.

Governor Kean, President Beach, Mr. Mayor, Superintendent Mitcho, Principal Holland, ladies and gentlemen, and especially you the Glassboro High School class of 1986, thanks for the greeting, but I know why you're so enthusiastic. You probably heard about my earlier Hollywood connections and think I might be able to introduce you to Tom Cruise or Michael J. Fox. [Laughter]

You know, your principal, Mr. Holland, showed me your American history book, and I was startled to see that it took almost 400 pages to tell the story of our nation. When I was your age, it only took two stone tablets. [Laughter] But there are advantages to being President. The day after I was elected, I had my high school grades classified top secret. [Laughter] By the way, I understand this is the biggest crowd, here in the gym, since the last time the Bulldog basketball team played a home game. [Laughter] Am I correct in thinking there may be one or two Bulldog fans here today? [Applause] I was looking at those championship banners back there.

Seriously, it is an honor to join you today for this commencement ceremony, an event that marks your coming of age and means so much to you and your families. And I know you want to join me in congratulating your principal, Roy Holland, on 11 years of outstanding service. [Applause]

But what I have to say today I've come to say to you, the students of Glassboro High School, who are about to graduate. Mothers and fathers, families and friends, you have our permission to eavesdrop, but you must understand that this is between us, one who has seen more than seven decades of American life and the bright young people seated before him, who have not yet seen all of two. Glassboro High School class of 1986, if we had time today, I might talk with you about good citizenship, all that we've been trying to achieve in Washington, or even the things I think we both enjoy, things like football games and going to the beach.

It's hard for you to believe that grown- ups, parents, et cetera, can understand how you feel and what it's like to be your age. When you get to be parents yourselves, you'll be surprised how clear your memories will be of these days at Glassboro High. You'll remember how you felt about things, about successes, and, yes, disappointments. You'll discover as you get older that certain things are so much a part of your life that you'll remember them always, and high school, I assure you, is one. But as I was saying, it's in the very nature of time that it runs on more quickly than any of us would wish, and I must compress all that I want to say into a few brief and fleeting minutes. Now, perhaps that in itself represents one of the lessons that I can impart: the preciousness of each moment. And if you're ever a commencement speaker, try to keep in mind the importance of brevity in a speech.

You know every generation is critical of the generation that preceded it and feels it must discard many of the mores and customs of those who had gone before. Our generation felt that way, and so will yours. But in casting aside the old, don't throw out those values that have been tested by time just because they're old. They're old because their value has been proven by many generations over the years and, yes, the centuries. Now, I know that in recent days you've been bidding farewell to your teachers and friends, and I wonder whether you've noticed as you've done so that this time of year tends to bring out some old and familiar phrases -- phrases like, ``The future belongs to you,'' and, ``You are the hope of tomorrow.'' I must tell you that each of these phrases speaks deep truths. You are the future. Oh, the phrases may sometimes sound worn, perhaps because you've already heard them so many times. And they can seem inadequate to your parents and me because we want to tell you all that we have learned.

We want to paint for you our own experience so vividly that you'll be able to avoid our heartaches while you double and redouble your joys. And then we find we have nothing at our disposal but words, weak and feeble instruments that cannot possibly carry the full freight of our meaning. Still, we must try. Every modicum of knowledge that can be truly and rightly transmitted from one generation to the next can prove invaluable. So it is that I want to speak to you about this nation of which you'll so soon become the leaders, in particular about those qualities of our national life that we Americans have always cherished in our own country and hoped to extend to all the world: freedom and peace. Perhaps you could think of our talk on this matter as writing a high school essay, an essay on peace, one last assignment before we let you go.

English teachers sometimes suggest opening essays vividly, with a dramatic scene or story that helps to set the tone. Well, it so happens that you and I have just such a dramatic story at hand. For 19 years ago, the very year before most of you were born, Glassboro received a visit from the President of the United States. In June of 1967 President Johnson flew from the White House to Glassboro -- just as I've done today -- to hold a summit meeting with Soviet Premier Kosygin. The meeting was scheduled to last 1 day, but the two men talked for more than 5 hours, then held a second meeting 2 days later. If you were to research the meeting in your school library, you would find that the U.S. News wrote that ``Among the problems they discussed were some of the world's biggest: Vietnam, the Middle East, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.''

Well, today historians have concluded that the Glassboro summit was not, in fact, one of the most momentous. No major breakthroughs were made or agreements reached. Nevertheless, the two men met. They were frank. They worked to understand each other and to make themselves understood. In this alone, I would submit, they taught us a great deal. Let us then remain mindful of that Glassboro summit of 19 years ago. And let us remember that as we look back upon the Glassboro summit, others -- perhaps 19 years in the future -- will look back upon us. It's my fervent hope that they will say we worked to break the patterns of history that all too often resulted in war, that we reached for accord, that we reached for peace.

Hope finds its expression in hard work. So, let us move on to the body of our essay and the tasks of analysis and organization. Let us begin by considering our attitude toward our country and ourselves. Certainly the American story represents one of the great epics of human history. Yet ours is a story of goodness as well as of greatness. After World War II our goodness received a dramatic manifestation in the Marshall plan -- the vast program of assistance to help war-ravaged nations recover from World War II. And we can be proud that we helped restore not only our allies but those who had been our enemies as well. Pope Pius XII said of us at that time: ``The American people have a genius for splendid and unselfish action, and into the hands of America, God has placed the destinies of an afflicted humanity.'' And in our own times, the United States continues to bear the burdens of defending freedom around the world. Listen to the words of former Prime Minister of Australia John Gorton: ``I wonder if anybody has thought what the situation of comparatively small nations would be if there were not in existence the United States, if there were not this great, giant country prepared to make those sacrifices.''

Do we have faults? Of course. But we have as well the courage and determination to correct them. Consider the darkest blot upon our history: racial discrimination. We fought the Civil War and passed the 13th and 14th amendments to bring slavery to an end. But discrimination still made itself felt. But so did the American sense of decency, and this ultimately gave rise to the civil rights movement. Sweeping legislation was passed to ensure that all Americans, regardless of race or background, would be able to participate fully in the life of the Nation. Today bigotry has been beaten down, but not yet totally destroyed. It falls now to you to carry on the battle. So, fight racism; fight anti-Semitism; fight in all its variations the bigotry and intolerance that we Americans have worked so hard to root out. I make much of all we've done to combat discrimination in our country because it seems to me of central importance to our essay on peace. Here in this green and gentle land people of all nations, people of all races and faiths, have learned to live in harmony to build one nation.

Nor is the story over. Listen indeed to this roll of some of your schoolmates: born in India, Sajad and Khatija Bilgrami; born in China, Wun Ting Geng; born in Japan, Tomoko Sasaki; and born in Laos, Bounmy Chomma and Rasami Sengvoravong and Sisouva Phatsodavong. If ever in coming years you grow disillusioned with your nation, if ever you doubt that America holds a special place in all the long history of humankind, remember this moment and these names that I've just read, and then you'll understand. You'll find new strength. And then you know how it is that we Americans can look to all the other peoples of this planet with self-confidence and generous friendship. Call it mysticism if you will; I have always believed there was some divine plan that placed this great land between the two oceans to be found by people from every corner of the Earth -- those people who had in common that extra love of freedom and that extra ounce of courage that would enable them to pack up, leave their friends and relatives and homeland to seek their future in this blessed place.

And that brings me to the international scene and our relations with the Soviet Union. It's important to begin by distinguishing between the peoples inside the Soviet Union and the government that rules them. Certainly we have no quarrel with the peoples, far from it. Yet we must remember the peoples in the Soviet Union have virtually no influence on their government. There's a little story that indicates what I mean. It seems that an American and a Soviet citizen were having a discussion about who had more freedom. And the American said, ``Look, I can march into the White House, the Oval Office, and I can pound the desk and say to the President, `Mr. President, I don't like the way you're running our country.''' And the Soviet citizen said, ``Well, I can do that.'' And the American said, ``You can?'' He said, ``Yes, I can walk into the Kremlin, into the General Secretary Gorbachev's office, and I can say, `Mr. General Secretary, I don't like the way President Reagan's running his country.''' [Laughter] Well, you know, I told that story to General Secretary Gorbachev in Geneva. And thank goodness he laughed, too. [Laughter]

We must remember that the Soviet Government is based upon and drawn from the Soviet Communist Party -- an organization that remains formally pledged to subjecting the world to Communist domination. This is not the time to delve deeply into history, but you should know that the emergence of the Soviet Union is in many respects an expression of the terrible enchantment with the power of the state that became so prominent in the first half of our century. In his widely acclaimed book, "Modern Times,'' Paul Johnson has argued just this point: that modern ideologies had exalted the state above the individual.

This rise of state power affected my life as it did the lives of many of your parents and nearly all of your grandparents. In the late 1920's I graduated from high school full of hope and expectation, like you today. Then just as I'd established myself in a career, and just as my generation had established itself, we were at war. We fought valiantly and well, but not without a sense of all that might have been. In the end representative government defeated statism. Indeed, Japan, Germany, and Italy, once our deadly enemies, all soon became thriving democracies themselves and are now our staunchest allies. But not the Soviet Union; there statism persists.

You know, there's something you should be very proud of and aware of. Back through the history of man there have been revolutions many times. Ours was unique. Ours was the only revolution that said, we, the people, control the government. The government is our servant. Those other revolutions just exchanged one set of rulers for another set of rulers. Well, what then are we to make of the Soviet Union? My own views upon the character of the regime are well known. And I am convinced that we must continue to speak out for freedom, again and again, making the crucial moral distinctions between democracy and totalitarianism. So, too, I am convinced that we must take seriously the Soviet history of expansionism and provide an effective counter.

At the same time, we must remain realistic about and committed to arms control. It is indeed fitting to pay particular attention to arms negotiations in these days, for if the Soviet Union proves willing, this can represent a moment of opportunity in relations between our nations. When I met Mr. Gorbachev last November in Geneva, he and I agreed to intensify our effort to reduce strategic arms. We agreed on the next steps: negotiating a 50-percent reduction in strategic nuclear forces and an interim agreement to cover intermediate-range missiles. And we both spoke of the ultimate goal of elininating all nuclear weapons.

By November 1st we had presented new strategic arms reduction proposals designed to bridge the gap between earlier Soviet and American proposals. Our proposal would've achieved a 50-percent reduction in strategic nuclear forces in a manner both equitable and responsible. Then in mid-February we proposed a detailed, phased approach for eliminating an entire class of weapons -- the so-called longer range intermediate-range weapons, or INF's -- by 1990. And we repeated our offer of an ``open laboratories'' exchange of visits to facilities performing strategic defense research. Until recently the Soviet response has been disappointing in a number of ways. But in recent weeks, there have been fresh developments. The Soviets have made suggestions on a range of issues, from nuclear powerplant safety to conventional force reductions in Europe. Perhaps most important, the Soviet negotiators at Geneva have placed on the table new proposals to reduce nuclear weapons. Now, we cannot accept these particular proposals without some change, but it appears that the Soviets have begun to make a serious effort.

If both sides genuinely want progress, then this could represent a turning point in the effort to make ours a safer and more peaceful world. We believe that possibly an atmosphere does exist that will allow for serious discussion. I have indicated to General Secretary Gorbachev my willingness for our representatives to meet to prepare for the next summit. The location is unimportant. What matters is that such a meeting take place in mutual earnestness so that we can make progress at the next summit.

Certainly Mr. Gorbachev knows the depth of my commitment to peace. Indeed, when we went to Geneva my advisers told me that if we could achieve nothing more than an agreement to meet again, if we could do no more than that, then all our work at that summit would have been worthwhile. Well, on the first day of meetings, Mr. Gorbachev and I took a little walk together alone. He happened to mention that there was a great deal in the Soviet Union that he wanted me to see, and I answered that I wished that he could visit the United States. Next thing you knew, we had an agreement to meet here in 1986 and in the Soviet Union in 1987. Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

In this essay on peace, then, we can assert that the time has come to move forward. Let us leave behind efforts to seek only limits to the increase of nuclear arms and seek instead actual arms reductions -- the deep and verifiable reductions that Mr. Gorbachev and I have agreed to negotiate. The goal here is not complicated. I am suggesting that we agree not on how many new, bigger, and more accurate missiles can be built, but on how to reduce and ultimately eliminate all nuclear missiles.

Let us leave behind, too, the defense policy of mutual assured destruction, or MAD, as it's called, and seek to put in its place a defense that truly defends. You know -- let me interrupt right here and say that possibly you haven't considered much about this system. This MAD policy, as it's called -- and incidentally, MAD stands for mutual assured destruction, but MAD is also a description of what the policy is. It means that if we each keep enough weapons that we can destroy each other, then maybe we'll both have enough sense not to shoot those weapons off. Well, that's not exactly the way for the world to go on, with these massed terribly destructive weapons aimed at each other and the possibility that some day a madman somewhere may push a button and the next day the world starts to explode. Even now we're performing research as part of our Strategic Defense Initiative that might one day enable us to put in space a shield that missiles could not penetrate, a shield that could protect us from nuclear missiles just as a roof protects a family from rain.

And let us leave behind suspicion between our peoples and replace it with understanding. As a result of the cultural exchange agreement Mr. Gorbachev and I signed in Geneva, the Soviet Union has already sent to our nation, just recently, the Kirov Ballet and an exhibition of impressionist paintings. We in turn will send to the Soviet Union scholars and musicians. Indeed, the Russian-born American pianist Vladimir Horowitz has already performed in Moscow. And we hope to see a large increase in the number of everyday citizens traveling between both countries. Just last week at the White House I met with high school students your age who will visit the Soviet Union this summer. Surely it's in our interest that the peoples in the Soviet Union should know the truth about the United States. And surely it can only enrich our lives to learn more about them. As a matter of fact, I believe with all my heart that if a generation of young people throughout the world could get to know each other, they would never make war upon each other.

This brings us at last to our conclusion. If I may, then, a few final thoughts, from the heart. I have tried to speak to you today of peace and freedom. As your President it's my duty to do so, and because in my lifetime I have seen our nation at war four times. During the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of Americans died, including friends and relatives of mine and including friends and relatives of your families. Perhaps some of you have pictures in your homes of great-uncles you never knew, soldiers who fell fighting. The Soviets suffered even more painfully than we. As many as 20 million people in the Soviet Union died in World War II, and the western third of their country was laid waste -- parallel, if you will, to what would be the destruction of all the United States east of Chicago.

All the world has cherished the years of relative peace that have followed. In the United States we have seen the greatest economic expansion and technological breakthroughs known to man -- the landing on the Moon, the development of the microchip. But our greatest treasure has been that you, our children, have been able to grow up in prosperity and freedom. It falls to us now -- as it soon shall fall to you -- to preserve and strengthen the peace. Surely no man can have a greater goal than that of protecting the next generation against the destruction and pain of warfare that his own generation has known. There can, therefore, be no more important task before us than that of reducing nuclear weapons. I am committed -- utterly committed -- to pursuing every opportunity to discuss and explore ways to achieve real and verifiable arms reductions. What our two nations do now in arms control will determine the kind of future that you and, yes, your children and your children's children will face.

So, I have come here today to say that the Glassboro summit was not enough, that indeed the Geneva summit was not enough, that talk alone, in short, is not enough. I've come here to invite Mr. Gorbachev to join me in taking action -- action in the name of peace. My friends, let us dare to dream that when you return for your own son or daughter's graduation, you'll do so in a world at peace, a world that celebrates human liberty, and a world free from the terror of nuclear destruction. And let us work -- first my generation, then soon, very soon, your own -- to make that dream come true.

But here again, mere words convey so little. There are moments, indeed, when those of my generation fear that your youth and health and good fortune will prove too much for us -- too much for us who must tell you that good fortune is not all that life can present, that this good fortune has come to you because others have suffered and sacrificed, that to preserve it there will come times when you, too, must sacrifice. Then our fears are dispelled. It happens when we turn from our own thoughts to look at you. We see such strength and hope, such buoyancy, such good will, such straightforward and uncomplicated happiness. And if we listen, before long we hear joyful laughter. And we know then that God has already blessed you and that America has already imprinted the love of peace and freedom on your hearts. We look at you, and no matter how full our own lives have been, we say with Thomas Jefferson, ``I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.''

Congratulations, class of 1986, and God bless all of you.

Note: The President spoke at 5:30 p.m. in the high school gymnasium. In his opening remarks, he referred to Gov. Thomas Kean; George Beach, Jr., president, Glassboro School Board; William L. Dalton, mayor; Nicholas Mitcho, school superintendent; and Ralph Holland, principal of the high school.


Remarks Following the High School Commencement Exercises in Glassboro, New Jersey

Source: https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/research/speeches/61986f

June 19, 1986



The President. Thank all of you, but I want you to know that I am a great admirer of your good Governor, Governor Kean. So, a good afternoon and thank you to all of you. I can't tell you how honored I am that so many of you would come out here to say hello. And just let me say how grateful I am for you making me feel so much at home.

It's been so long since I've seen so many signs. I guess my favorite was the one I saw on the way in that read, "I Flip for Jelly Beans.'' Then there was a photo that appeared the other day in the Gloucester County Times, and it showed five fellows in high school with a message painted on their chests. The first fellow's chest had the letter "I,'' the second had a heart, and the rest had the letters "R - O - N'' -- ``I love Ron.'' Well, after seeing that, I peeled down a little bit and started trying to paint "I love Glassboro'' on my own chest, but there wasn't room. [Laughter]

By the way, I thought you'd like to know that my pilot, Captain Jack Suter -- he was raised just down the road in Gibbstown. [Applause] And it means a lot to Jack to be here today, and I wonder -- well, you've already done it -- I was going to ask you to give him a cheer so that he could hear it over there in the helicopter.

I've been told that you all listened to my remarks that I made inside, and I don't want to keep you for another speech, especially since I know that some of you have been here since 3:30 p.m. And, besides, Jack Suter has his kids to get home to. Come to think of it, Nancy told me as I was leaving this afternoon not to be late for dinner. [Laughter]

Q. Keep up the good work, Ron!

The President. Thank you. Give me an audience like this and I just can't resist the temptation to say a few words. Flying over your town today and speaking to those young people who grew up among you and being here with you, it is -- all been a lesson in the great and essential goodness of our nation. Just think of the 300-year history of Gloucester County: first came the Dutch, and then the Swedes, then the English Quakers who were seeking religious liberty. And each, in turn, found here a gentle and fertile country -- a place here where, with hard work, the earth could be persuaded to treat man kindly. And today southern New Jersey is home to all of you, people of every background imaginable -- Irishmen and Italians, blacks and whites, Christians and Jews, all living in peace, living in prosperity, and, yes, living in freedom.

Now, I may be a few days late, but permit me to say it anyway: Happy birthday, Gloucester County! And I'm especially touched to have so many families here today. As I look out I can see some little ones sitting on, probably, their fathers' shoulders, and I can see some that aren't so little that are sitting on someone's shoulders, too. But certainly, it was their hopes for their children that brought our ancestors to America -- the love they felt in their families that sustained them in building our nation. And today our families give us strength still. And I have a feeling that Glassboro is a good place, a happy place for you and your families.

On the way in I saw your neighborhoods and your churches and schools, your baseball diamonds and swimming pools and football fields. And, you know, it really moved me and gave me heart. It put me in touch with America. But sometimes you can lose touch with -- when you're down there on the banks of the Potomac -- and all the basic values that we're working so hard in Washington to defend. It even kind of reminded me of a town of about 10,000 in Dixon, Illinois, where I grew up. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Glassboro gave me a gift today and for that, my friends, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Well, I got to get Jack Suter back home, so I best we -- guess we better get going. But thank you again, and, believe me, I will always remember the good people of Glassboro. Thank you, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 6:26 p.m. at the high school. Following his remarks, the President returned to Washington, DC. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.


Ronald Reagan's Diary Entry - Thursday, June 19, 1986

Source: https://www.reaganfoundation.org/ronald-reagan/white-house-diaries/diary-entry-06191986/

...Then it was off by helicopter for Glassboro N.J. to address the high school commencement. It was a wonderful experience. A crowd of 6000 out on the high school grounds. They waited until I departed so I spoke briefly to them before taking off for Wash. In the ceremony it was a wonderful bunch of kids plus a gym full of their parents & friends. I came away feeling ten ft. tall. I like people...


Reagan Makes The Grade In Glassboro Urges Summit With Soviets

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150912013757/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-20/news/26045665_1_graduates-class-president-school-gymnasium Posted: June 20, 1986

It's not often that high school graduates have to be checked out by the Secret Service before they can get their diplomas. But that's what happened at Glassboro High in New Jersey yesterday.

Mounting the stage in the school gymnasium in their caps and gowns, the graduates each got a handshake and a word of congratulations from President Reagan before being handed their certificates.

Reagan delivered the commencement address to the graduates and their families, marking what is believed to be the first time an American president has spoken at a high school graduation.

The president used this unusual forum to push for renewed summit talks with the Soviets on nuclear weapons reductions.

Having to pass through a metal-detector manned by the hard-eyed agents who guard the president didn't seem to faze the graduates. For most, the extra delay was worth it.

"It was the greatest thrill in my life," said graduate Paul C. Otooni, who saluted, shook hands and embraced the president.

He summed up the sentiments of most of the 130 graduates and their families inside the school, and some 12,000 who waited outside on the athletic field.

Reagan made it clear in his 15-minute address that the pleasant "All- American" town of 14,500 was singled out for this particular speech because it has been a symbol of peace efforts ever since the 1967 meeting in Glassboro between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin.

As each graduate's name was called, the president shook his or her hand. He got a couple of pecks on the cheek from the girls. Others were so nervous they didn't meet his gaze and hurried by.

There had been mixed reactions among the seniors last week after the suprise announcement that Reagan was coming. Some resented changes in date and location, security restrictions and fears that the spotlight would be shifted from them on their big day.

But many, like Otooni, were obviously moved by the moment. "I noticed he was just a nice guy," Otooni said. "What a great man!"

"He looked exactly like he looks on television," said class president Ruth Lockbaum. "He's a normal person like you and me."

She was the last graduate to shake the presidential hand and also got a kiss and embrace.

The entire 90-minute visit went without a hitch. An advance team had spent a week planning every minute detail.

Scores of police from Glassboro, surrounding communities, Secret Service agents and state police were on hand but there were no incidents, no arrests and no traffic problems.

Only the graduates, their families and several hundred news people were allowed into the gymnasium for the ceremony. All had special passes and were required to arrive 90 mintues early. Once inside, they could not leave.

The crowd outside also arrived early. The people brought lawn chairs and picnic coolers, creating the happy, relaxed atmosphere of a small-town Fourth of July party.

Before leaving aboard a Marine helicopter, the president made a few ad-lib remarks to the crowd, declaring how impressed he was with Glassboro. "I have a feeling Glassboro is a good and happy place. It puts me in touch with America and reminds me of Dixon, Ill., where I grew up."

He was introduced to the crowd by New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, who stood behind Reagan and smiled and applauded during his remarks.

While everyone cheered the Republican President, Glassboro has had a long- time Democratic mayor and town council dominated by Democrats.

Reagan noted that the pilot of his waiting helicopter had grown up in nearby Gibbstown; he wished Gloucester County a happy 300th anniversary and said he would like to stay longer, "but Nancy told me not to be late for dinner."

During the commencement address, Reagan read his speech with such skill from a tele-prompter that many thought afterward they had heard an unprepared, off-the-cuff address.

The talk was full of patriotic sentiment, but the key element was a push for further talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear arms reduction.

Noting recent proposals along these lines by Gorbachev, he said, "We cannot accept these particular proposals without change, but it appears that the Soviets have begun to make a serious effort . . . This could represent a turning point in the effort to make ours a safer and more peaceful world."

The president made note of the racial and ethnic diversity of the graduating class, reading off the difficult-to-prounounce names of foreign- born seniors such as Sisouva Phatsodavong, from Laos, and Khatija Bilgrami,from India.


President Ronald Reagan at the commencement ceremonies at Glassboro High School in New Jersey on June 19, 1986 and shook hands with all 130 students graduating. Photo by Gregg Kohl, Press of AC.

The class gave Reagan an honorary diploma and a school jacket.

While the graduates seemed highly nervous at the beginning of the ceremony, the mood was jubilant after it was all over.

"Let's party!" was the chant.

"This was great, really a unique honor we'll never forget," said senior Ty Morrison.


A 'Best Friend' Drops In For The Day

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150910165531/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-20/news/26046238_1_ebb-and-flow-glassboro-high-school-secret-service Posted: June 20, 1986

Ruth Lockbaum knew Ronald Reagan had done his homework.

He sat down next to her on the podium in the scuffed and hot gymnasium of Glassboro High School, leaned over and whispered in her ear: "I've heard you won quite a few championships."

Lockbaum, president of the graduating class that Reagan had swooped into town yesterday to address, has won more than 86 track and field medals in her high school career - among them, a few state titles. "I just laughed," she said later, recalling the conversation.

"I just felt he wasn't the president of the United States. He was my best friend."

*

Twelve hours earlier, the sun had arisen on a borough of about 14,000 people in Gloucester County, a place where people don't normally run around preparing for a White House helicopter to land on their high school athletic field. A place where a President had come to town before, upsetting the daily ebb and flow - and giving Glassboro a cachet that earned it another visit yesterday.

Nineteen years had passed since President Lyndon B. Johnson told reporters he "went to that little farmhouse way down on the New Jersey Pike" to meet with Soviet leader Alexei Kosygin at Glassboro State College.

OK, so Glassboro may not be Geneva. But when the borough found itself faced with a premeditated presidential invasion yesterday, it graciously turned itself first upside down, then inside out.

This was not a visit Glassboro had expected or sought. Jolted by the news that Reagan was on his way this week, school officials turned Glassboro High over to the Secret Service and the news media, while students cleared textbooks and mirrors and frayed Playboy centerfolds out of their lockers. Local officials buzzed with plans to hire a welcoming limousine, and even the short-order cook at Angelo's Diner on Main Street sent Reagan an invite for a meal - on the house.

Everywhere, there were concessions both large and small. Gestures. Odd gifts and commemorative items. Moving the date of the graduation to suit the President. Bringing out the cheerleaders, because the White House had asked for them. Presidential canning-jar tops from Owens-Illinois, which used to make glass, hence the town's name. A green-iced cake shaped like New Jersey from the president of the state bakers' association.

Said John V. Doughrty, a borough worker, vigorously polishing a police car: ''This is a big day for Glassboro, New Jersey."

Even before the sun came up over Angelo's Diner, Joe and Mary Ann Justice were serving nine regulars over the counter. The chrome-plated eatery has been open for 40 years. But no one can yet say, "The President ate here." So, when Angelo's cook, Dominick Ferrante, heard that Reagan was coming to town, he express-mailed to the White House a handwritten dinner invitation.

Reagan never responded. But if you work in a diner you can't be unprepared. At 7:50 a.m., a customer waiting for a take-out order sized up Joe Justice. ''Hey, Joe . . . the President's coming in, so they say you put on a clean T-shirt," he said.

"Hey, I went all the way," Justice replied. "What the heck. You've got to show a little respect."

Before Ruth Lockbaum, the senior-class president, came downstairs for breakfast yesterday morning, her 82-year-old grandmother already had volunteered to give up one of the five tickets that the Lockbaums' 10-member family had been allotted to watch Ruth accept her diploma from President Reagan.

"I've seen a president before," her grandmother said. "Let the kids have their thrill . . .

"When I was about 8, I saw President Taft . . . "

For many Glassboro residents, the most visible evidence that Reagan was coming to town were the Secret Service agents - clean-cut men in pin-striped suits - driving around in late-model cars.

Samuel Artumus, 22, a marketing student at Gloucester County College, said he saw four of them at midmorning at Bethel Mill Park in Glassboro, where he and some friends were playing basketball: Two of the men were sitting on park benches, and two were sitting in a parked car.

"One of them tried to tell me he was a salesman. I asked him, 'Then what are you doing wearing a beeper on your hip?' "

In the office of the local highway department yesterday morning, secretary and part-time calligrapher Renee Harrell, 31, shook her head and stared at a crack that ran down the middle of a glass-encased proclamation dedicating the date of June 19, 1986, as President Reagan Day in Glassboro.

She had been hammering the glass into the frame - trying to make perfect the precisely lettered document she had labored over the night before. Instead of perfection, she got broken glass. As the morning wore on, Harrell found new glass for the frame, nearby at Abbott's Hardware.

Dr. Claus Speth was spending his whole day sitting like Quincy at "an undisclosed location," waiting to take charge of the President's body, in case the unthinkable were to occur.

The assistant state medical examiner for Gloucester County, Speth was assigned by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to "secure the area and all the evidence," in the event of an assassination. The Secret Service had not included his grim duty in their own roster of preparations. "They would like to think," he said, "that I don't exist."

Ruth Lockbaum was on the telephone with CBS Morning News during the morning, confirming her appearance on the show today. CBS had gotten its bid for the class president in early; about a dozen news organizations had contacted Lockbaum in the previous two days.

Minutes after she hung up with CBS, the phone rang again. "Sure," Ruth Lockbaum said. It was a neighbor, asking her to baby-sit Sunday.

At the school throughout the morning, Glassboro School Superintendent Nicholas Mitcho had a few last-minute items to worry about. Among them were the softly glowing school banner, one commencement ticket and 46 potted palms.

The Glassboro High School banner, maroon and gold, about 5 feet by 15 feet, had a sheen that was driving television camera crews wild. School workmen labored for hours, first with water, then chemicals, and finally with a Krylon matte finish spray from Bob's Hobby Shop in Pitman, trying to dull the traditional banner to suit the TV news.

As the workmen toiled, Mitcho was shaking his head at vice principal John Aveni. The two men had just figured out that the gym had 1,172 seats. They had given out 1,173 tickets. "We fine-tuned these tickets," he said, and the two men laughed in exasperation.

Outside by the delivery door to the ranch-style, beige brick building, 46 palms sat, discarded - additional evidence of a string of traditions that the school had sacrificed to accommodate the White House.

Glassboro High had changed the date, time and location to suit Reagan's schedule and high security demands. But no one thought to cancel the plant order - the palms were to ring the athletic field, where the commencement originally was scheduled - when the President invited himself to graduation. Secret Service personnel clamped down. Only six plants were permitted inside the gym.

As the morning wore on, the 130 graduates arrived at Glassboro High and began rehearsing for the commencement. TV crews, lighting technicians and other workers scurried around and between them. William Flynn, the chairman of the science department, stood in for Reagan, in a twice-through rehearsal, shaking nearly 300 hands.

"I don't want to go back to being just a teacher," Flynn told reporters after his presidential debut. "I feel so important. Now I know why these guys run for re-election."

The graduates dashed to and from their friends' assigned seats, swapping yearbook signatures. One such book was reserved for the 131st graduate - Ronald Reagan - and the students wrote predictably good wishes for him across their pictures in his gift copy. Except for James Grupenhoff, who made a reference to Reagan's one-time chimpanzee co-star: "Say hi to Bonzo."

As noon approached, Tom Flannery, who has worked out of Blackwood for the Coca-Cola Co. for 20 years, sized up the day as a 30,000-Coke affair. Trouble was, he had brought only 20,000 paper cups. The Secret Service allowed him to set up nine stations in the athletic field behind the school, where 12,000 people would come later to hear the President just before he left town. The school would reap the proceeds of the sale.

In front of the school, Richard Williams of Philadelphia was working for his own benefit, offering pictures with a life-size, cardboard cut-out of the President. Williams said he normally worked his photo beat near the Liberty Bell in Independence Mall.

On a good day, he makes about $300. He expected yesterday to be a good day.

Ambulance units from Woodbury, Franklin Township, Pitman, Verga, Mantua and Monroe met at the Glassboro Ambulance Squad building at noon, where they went over final preparations, just in case, and bided their time before leaving for the school at 2:20 p.m.

Surgeon Steven Ross, 34, of the Southern New Jersey Regional Trauma Center at Cooper Hospital, paced back and forth, worrying. "Unfortunately, Murphy's Law holds true in cases like this," he said. "If you're totally prepared, nothing will happen. If you're not prepared, something will happen. So I'd rather be here, sit around all day and not be needed than not be here and be needed."

Later in the day, George Kuhnel, the coordinator of the Underwood mobile intensive-care unit, pointed at the police cars near the school. "If you want to do 75 (m.p.h.) on Route 42, now's the day to do it," he said. "I think all the troopers in the state are here."

Christopher Rowand spent two days practicing, "Proud to serve you in the U.S. Marines, sir," to say to Reagan when he shook his hand yesterday. Rowand, who enlisted before his graduation, will begin active duty Dec. 27. Some of the signs his family has erected outside its home proclaim: ''Congratulations, Chris." Others say, "Chris Rowand and Family Welcome President Ronald Reagan."

"Normally my graduation would have been no big deal," Rowand said, while he was being sheared for the commencement at Enio's Barber Shop about 1:30 p.m. "But, like, wow. I'm graduating with the President. It's really something special."

At another barbershop, Butch's on Main Street, no one had much to say at 2 p.m. about President Reagan's visit, until Horace Zook, 74, broke a long silence. "All I know is, I'd like to have half the money they're spending on this thing," Zook said, from his usual seat by the door.

That struck a chord. Butch Cox, the proprietor, said he knew people who had seen for themselves a computerized surveillance system and air-conditioning units - with a computer as big as his shop - that had been installed at the high school for Reagan's visit.

Barbara Davis, who had taken her two sons to Butch's for haircuts, said that New Jersey Bell, where her husband, Richard, is employed as a lineman, had laid additional phone cable in Glassboro to satisfy the White House's needs.

Gene Keemer, 33, who stopped by for a trim, said he had seen Conrail work crews clearing trees and brush away from the edge of a rail line that runs near the high school.

"It'll cost a million if it costs a dime," Cox said of the graduation extravaganza. "I say two million," said Keemer. Nobody took exception, and that ended the discussion.

Before mid-afternoon, Grace Tribbett, 78, and her sister, Olive Dougherty, 71, were among the first people to arrive at the athletic field outside the school. Both retired teachers, the two sisters are graduates of the Glassboro Normal School, which is now Glassboro State College. Tribbett graduated in 1928, and Dougherty in 1936, and both were wearing brown derbies with Glassboro alumni insignia.

The field was blocked off with snow fences on three sides, and by uniformed state police officers along its northernmost border. The officers stood with guns slung around their shoulders, while Tribbett and Dougherty sat in folding chairs under some trees near the railroad tracks, waiting for the Secret Service to set up six metal detectors before they could enter the field. "I'm a Republican," Olive Dougherty said, "But I've never seen Reagan up close."

She thought about that. "Well, only in the movies."

Shortly after 4 p.m., the borough's six councilmen climbed into a spotless, white Lincoln stretch-limousine in front of Glassboro's municipal building, for their ride to the commencement.

They admired the auto's plush gray interior, its color television, its telephone, and listened to the rock group Dire Straits as they talked about the day's events. The taxpayers of Glassboro will not foot the bill for the limo; a friend of Councilman Raymond Kennedy's co-owns a limo business and personally drove the officials to the commencement.

Shortly after 5 p.m. the President's helicopter landed, and two young women dashed out into the street from a small group of people who had gathered to watch the landing. They put their arms around a Secret Service agent as a relative took their pictures.

"Tell me you jump in front of bullets," one woman said to the agent.

"That's a bulletproof tie, I bet," the other woman said to the agent.

The Secret Service man just smiled and posed for the camera.

Linda Rupinski told the President, "Nice meeting you, and thank you for coming," while he shook her hand on the brightly lit stage during the ceremony in the early evening. "I wanted to give him a kiss," she said, ''but I just couldn't make myself."

Still, it was a great experience, Rupinski said. "I was so impressed with everything. I just expected him to come and not do much. I really didn't expect that much. But when he got up on that stage - well, it was just so exciting. It really brought everything home - that was the president of the United States standing on a stage in the Glassboro Auditorium. It was really him."


Governor and President after graduation. Photo by Gary Shivers, Press of AC.

Immediately after the commencement, Reagan went to a holding room for about 10 minutes. "I really enjoyed being here. Glassboro's a warm community," he told Superintendent Mitcho.

"I think you might want to keep this," he said, and shoved into Mitcho's hands the copy of the speech he used at the commencement - complete with scribbles and notes in the margins. Then Reagan gave Mitcho a presidential tie clip, with the president's seal and signature on it. Mitcho was already wearing a Statue of Liberty pin on his lapel.

"Thank you for coming," Mitcho said. He added, in the understatement of the afternoon: "You've made this a momentous occasion."

Even with all the hoopla, the seniors had remained orderly - almost as if they were overwhelmed by their sudden celebrity status - from the start of their morning rehearsal to the moment the graduation ceremony ended.

But after the President left the stage and they had their own diplomas in their hands, the 130 new graduates took spontaneous advantage of the recessional march to let their real feelings show.

What started as a slow walk down the hall lined with trophy cases became a trot as they neared the front door. Then it was a gallop, and finally a full- out run. They passed through the doors and gave screams of pleasure and relief. Two German shepherd police dogs assigned to the area cringed. The graduates danced and shouted outside, where marigolds and geraniums had been planted only days before to honor the President's appearance. One student threw his cap in the air - finally; it was an act they all had been forbidden to do inside.


Reagan Hails Soviet Arms Offer In Glassboro, He Calls For Summit

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150912055950/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-20/news/26043397_1_soviet-arms-offer-glassboro-summit-glassboro-high-school Posted: June 20, 1986

In a symbolic visit to the site of the 1967 superpower summit, President Reagan yesterday praised recent Soviet proposals as a potential "turning point" in arms-control negotiations and called on Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to join him in seeking to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

In a commencement address at Glassboro High School, Reagan made his first public response to the Soviet arms offer, saying that although "we cannot accept these particular proposals without some change . . . it appears that the Soviets have begun to make a serious effort."

"If both sides genuinely want progress, then this could represent a turning point in the effort to make ours a safer and more peaceful world," Reagan told a crowd of nearly 1,200 that packed the high school gymnasium.

"I have come here today to say that the (1967) Glassboro summit is not enough - that talk alone, in short, is not enough," Reagan said. "I have come here to invite Mr. Gorbachev to join me in taking action - action in the name of peace."

"The goal here is not complicated. I am suggesting that we agree not on how many new, bigger and more accurate missiles can be built, but on how to reduce and ultimately eliminate all nuclear missiles."

After the speech, the President shook hands with each of the 130 graduates as they received their diplomas. Several female students kissed Reagan. One of the graduates, Paul C. Otooni, saluted and hugged Reagan. The President returned the salute, prompting a roar of applause. The class president, Ruth M. Lockbaum, presented Reagan with a varsity letter jacket and an honorary diploma.

The presidential visit climaxed a week of anticipation and frenetic preparations for Glassboro, a community of 14,000 in Gloucester County. School officials, who learned seven days earlier that Reagan would be coming, rescheduled the commencement, originally planned for today, and moved the ceremonies indoors for security reasons.

Thousands of spectators, many of whom had been waiting for hours, greeted the President with applause when his helicopter touched down on an athletic field behind the high school about 5:15 p.m. Reagan was met by an official greeting party that included Gov. Kean, Atlantic City Mayor James L. Usry, other area Republicans and Glassboro officials.

In June 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin met for two days at Glassboro State College. Reagan made several references to that meeting and appealed to Gorbachev to keep his promise, made at the Geneva summit in November, to meet with Reagan again this year in the United States and next year in Moscow.

White House officials apparently wanted a typical high school commencement ceremony as a backdrop for Reagan's speech and took pains to alter the proceedings as little as possible. The President listened to brief speeches by the valedictorian, the salutatorian and the senior-class orator before stepping to the podium.

Before beginning his prepared remarks, which stressed traditional values as well as the need for arms reductions, Reagan loosened up the audience with several jokes.

He said that when he was shown the high school's history textbook, "I was startled to see that it took almost 400 pages to tell the story of America."

"When I was your age," he told the graduates, "it took only two stone tablets."

Reagan also said that there were "advantages to being president. The day after I was elected, I had my high school grades classified top secret."

Reagan cautioned the graduates not to "throw out those values that have been tested by time just because they're old. They're old because their value has been tested over the years and, yes, the centuries."

During his discussion of arms control, Reagan made no mention of his controversial decision last month to disavow SALT II, the strategic arms limitation treaty signed in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev but never ratified by the U.S. Senate.

Reagan said on May 27 that he no longer felt obliged to observe the treaty's limits on strategic weapons because, he said, the Soviets were violating the accord.

Shortly before announcing that decision, Reagan wrote to Gorbachev to urge that the two countries proceed with plans for a 1986 summit in the United States. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze had planned to meet for that purpose this spring, but the Soviets canceled the session after the U.S. bombing of Libya in April.

Details of the recent Soviet arms offer, outlined Monday in a speech by Gorbachev, have been scant. U.S. officials have said it proposes that both sides reduce long-range and intermediate-range missiles and pledge to continue adherence to the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty for 15 to 20 more years.

Although an air-conditioning system had been installed for Reagan's visit, it was warm in the gym, and spectators fanned themselves with commemorative programs, which featured a full-page black-and-white photograph of the President.

During the speech, the audience in the gym was silent, with all eyes turned toward Reagan. Ruth Lockbaum, the class president, sat to Reagan's left, biting her lip nervously. After his speech, Reagan received a standing ovation; he sat down quickly after acknowledging the applause.

Mary Ann Travis, one of the students who kissed the President, said that she had planned to do it all along, but that she asked him first. "I didn't want to be jumped on by the Secret Service," she said afterward. "I said, 'Can I kiss you?' and he said, 'Sure, you can,' so I did. I'm still in a state of shock."

During his 28-minute speech, Reagan called on the graduates to continue to struggle to eradicate racial discrimination, which he said had been "beaten down" but not eliminated. The President then called out the names of seven foreign-born students - three from Laos, two from India and one each from China and Japan. All are undergraduates at Glassboro.

After leaving the stage, Reagan went into a classroom set aside as a waiting room. There, he signed four commencement programs and gave them to the Glassboro superintendent of schools, Nicholas A. Mitcho, with instructions to pass them on to the three students who made speeches and to Lockbaum, the class president.


The President waves to the crowd. Photo by Gary Shivers, Press of AC.

Before departing in his helicopter about 6:40 p.m., Reagan briefly addressed an outdoors crowd of about 12,000 screaming, cheering people, who had been waiting for hours behind the high school and who waved thousands of small American flags that had been distributed by local Boy Scouts.

Reagan wished Gloucester County a happy 300th birthday and praised his helicopter pilot, Marine Capt. John "Jack" Suter, from Gibbstown, in Gloucester County.

"I have a feeling Glassboro is a good place, a happy place, for you and your families," he said. "On the way in, I saw your neighborhoods and your churches, your schools, your baseball diamonds, swimming pools and football fields, and it moved me, put me in touch with America."

"It even kind of reminded me of a town of about 10,000 in Dixon, Ill., where I grew up. I guess what I'm trying to say is Glassboro gave me a gift today, and for that, my friends, I thank you from the bottom of my heart."


On The Day After, It's Back To School In Glassboro

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150912171001/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-21/news/26045212_1_graduation-ceremony-commencement-diplomas Posted: June 21, 1986

Some of the remains were in the gym - six potted palms, two rolls of blue carpeting, some beige upholstered chairs. Outside, a temporary wooden fence was being dismantled and carted off.

Their graduation ceremony was held Thursday - under the glare of nationwide attention - but Glassboro High seniors had to return to school yesterday to comply with a state requirement that all students attend 180 days of classes.

To accommodate the schedule of their commencement guest speaker, President Reagan, school district officials had agreed to move the ceremony ahead one day. And because the district had lost several school days to snow and Hurricane Gloria, all the remaining classroom sessions were needed.

"We chose not to ask (the state Department of Education) for a waiver because it would have been inappropriate," said Nicholas A. Mitcho, the Glassboro superintendent of schools. "After all, it is the law."

Instead, the district simply asked Gloucester County Schools Superintendent Peter Contini for permission to reschedule the ceremony and conduct one final day of school for all students after the commencement.

So yesterday, underclassmen turned in their books and combination locks and crowded the school office with last-minute questions about grades and library fines and summer school.

And seniors munched on the cake Charles Johnson made.

Johnson, president of the State Bakers Association, had made a sheet cake in the shape of the Garden State as a gift for the school. On the green icing, a star marked the borough of Glassboro. "Just try to get the President to see it," was Johnson's only request.

Diplomas in red leather cases were distributed at the commencement, but in keeping with Glassboro High tradition, students got laminated, wallet-size diplomas when they gathered in the auditorium yesterday to sign yearbooks and watch a videotape of Thursday's festivities.

Students scheduled to report to school at 9 a.m. were still trickling in at 11 a.m. when Vice Principal John Aveni distributed souvenir ashtrays from Owens-Illinois, a glass-closure plant in town, and a copies of a commencement program that was signed by Reagan.

"We tried to get him to sign one for each of the students, but they wouldn't allot him the time," Aveni told the students.

"I hope the graduation was all that you wanted," Mitcho told the new graduates. "We had the dignity of our graduation and we had the President of the United States - that was kind of unique, don't you think?"

A videotape of the commencement and the community rally outside is being edited, and copies will be made for each student, Mitcho said.

"I know we will never be able to duplicate this, I'm sure, but I did ask the President if he would come back next year," Mitcho told the students. " 'I'd like to,' he said, 'this is a very friendly community,' " Mitcho recalled the President as saying. "He said he felt welcome."

For the Class of '86, a week of sometimes frenzied planning for the President's visit culminated in goodbyes and good wishes after four years of friendships and memories.

"When I sang my solo with the choir (at commencement), it really brought up my tears," said David Taylor, a senior. "I remembered singing that same song when I was a freshman, and I thought, 'It's the last time I'll be singing in that choir.' "

"Afterward, it was a real downer," senior Craig Cassaday said yesterday. ''I saw some people last night I'll never see again. It's real hard to party when you know you've just lost your friends."


A Day To Treaseure Forever, For One Glassboro Senior

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150914060500/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-22/news/26047216_1_graduation-day-graduation-practice-class-president Posted: June 22, 1986

Ruth Lockbaum started Thursday off by eating scrambled eggs and white toast and agreeing to baby-sit for a neighbor later in the week. She ended the day by giving a hug and a kiss to the President of the United States, and then climbing into a limousine headed for Manhattan, where the next morning she was scheduled to appear on network television to tell the world about her day.

Thursday was graduation day for Ruth Lockbaum, president of the Glassboro High School Class of 1986. It was a day marked by the usual rites of graduation: signing yearbooks, hugging friends, finding the right earrings to wear, getting a diploma and throwing her cap into the air once the ceremony had ended.

But it was also a day that Ruth Lockbaum - Ruthie to all who know her - would remember forever. She would spend nearly an hour seated next to Ronald Reagan and exchanging small talk. She would be interviewed by the national news media and even give the President a present from her graduating class.

It was a day that left her crying, overcome with emotion. It was, without doubt, the biggest day of her life.

"It was just great," she said, only moments after graduation, tears rolling down her high cheekbones. "It was so neat. I just loved it. We all loved it. I hope he felt welcome here."

Lockbaum, 17, is completely cute, a buoyant, fresh-faced young woman with dimples and a ubiquitous smile that could turn lemon seeds into sugar. She has chin-length blond hair, which she wears back in barrettes. She has a high, squeaky voice.

She is the kind of girl who gives her father a hug and a kiss when he drops her off for graduation practice in the family station wagon, the kind of girl who - on this, the biggest day of her life - is so conscientious that she makes a point of paying the school $4 for a lost lock to her gym locker.

She is the kind of girl who didn't really want to go to Manhattan Thursday evening to appear on Friday's CBS Morning News. "I wanted to spend the night with all my friends," she said. "I didn't want to miss all the parties."

Lockbaum, the fourth of seven children, has lived her entire life on McClelland Avenue in Glassboro in her family's two-story colonial home. She is an honors student, a track star who has earned a full scholarship to Villanova University. She was class president for three of her four years in high school, a prom queen, a member of the homecoming court.

Lockbaum was excited about the President's visit, but she isn't the type to get nervous. "I slept like a rock," she said of the night before his visit. Thursday morning, she ate a hearty breakfast with her family.

By 9 a.m., she was at the high school, rehearsing for graduation with her 129 classmates. It was her job to read the names of her classmates as they shook the President's hand and collected their diplomas.

It was that assignment that had her the most nervous of all.

She knew that Faria Zaman wanted her last name pronounced "za-MON." She was worried that she might use a "long A" instead of a "short A" in pronouncing the name Andrea. "We all say 'AN-dre-a' in South Jersey," she explained. "But she wants 'ON-dre-a.' "

In the end, however, the assignment came off without a hitch. She rattled off the names of all the graduates - all except her own - without a problem. Her name was announced by the school principal, Roy E. Holland, when she collected her diploma.

Lockbaum's family was cheering her on all week. Her father, Robert Lockbaum, took the day off from work at Scott Paper Co. in Landisville just to be with her, and he videotaped all the news shows that had interviews with her.

Her mother, Marie Lockbaum, helped her write her short speech introducing the Class of 1986. Even her little sister, Kimberly, 12, helped her decide what to wear.

In a matter of days, life will be back to normal for Ruth Lockbaum. She will be working at Two Vic's, a sporting goods store in Glassboro, and preparing to head off to Villanova in the fall. She will be spending time with her boyfriend, Frank Mancini, who is the junior class president and gave her a Swatch watch as a graduation present. She will continue baby-sitting and spending time with her friends.

But she will always remember Reagan sitting next to her on graduation day. ''I just felt he wasn't the President of the United States," she said. ''He was my best friend."


Glassboro Summit History Holds A Lesson For Reagan

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150913231854/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-22/news/26044880_1_deployment-of-missile-defenses-abm-treaty-antiballistic-missile-treaty

Posted: June 22, 1986

When President Lyndon B. Johnson met Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin at Glassboro, N.J., in June 1967, they disagreed on a fundamental point of arms control. The Soviet leader wanted to build anti-missile defenses around Soviet military bases and cities. Mr. Johnson argued that such defenses would only fuel the arms race, since they would cost much more to build than would the additional offensive weapons needed to penetrate them.

President Reagan didn't mention that bit of Glassboro history in his upbeat speech on arms control at Glassboro on Thursday. Nor did he recall that the Soviets came around to the American view, when they signed the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty and agreed to link the treaty's sharp limits on defensive systems to limits on offenses.

Mr. Reagan had good reason for his omission: The superpower positions are now reversed. The President called at Glassboro - to a resisting Soviet leader

Mikhail Gorbachev - for the construction of "Star Wars" defenses in space. He said they would protect people against missiles "just as a roof protects a family from rain."

The problem is, the technology for leak-proof defenses still looks extremely difficult, if not impossible, and the shield couldn't protect civilians or cities. That's why key Reagan weapons advisers have set a narrower goal than the President for his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), namely, to provide protection for missile silos in the event of a Soviet attack. But the likely Soviet response to SDI would be to build more missiles to penetrate the U.S. shield and to develop their own defenses. And so the vicious circle would go, just as President Johnson predicted.

This bit of Glassboro history is needed to put into perspective the rest of the President's arms-control message. Mr. Reagan said that after a ''disappointing" response to U.S. weapons proposals since last November's summit meeting, the Soviets recently have begun to make "a serious effort."

Such presidential enthusiasm for pursuit of arms accords is welcome, especially in light of Mr. Reagan's recent and still murky decision to abandon the limits of the unratified but still highly useful 1979 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. But a look back over the past eight months shows a string of interesting Soviet proposals that the administration has not pursued. These include proposals to eliminate U.S. and Soviet missiles in Europe and to ban nuclear weapons tests, with possible on-site inspections to police the ban. Most recently came the intriguing Soviet suggestion that sharp cuts in offensive weapons could be swapped for an agreement to extend and strengthen the ABM treaty. That treaty would continue to prevent deployment of missile defenses in space, but would allow research on such systems to continue. But the ABM treaty is under harsh attack from those in the administration who want unlimited pursuit of a "Star Wars" defense system.

This latest Soviet formula may hold the most hope of curbing the arms race. But it would demand of President Reagan that he make the same sort of compromise that President Johnson asked of Premier Kosygin in 1967 at Glassboro, trading limits on defenses for cuts in offenses. That compromise is one desired by the allies and by large bipartisan segments of a Congress made uneasy at the confused goals and immense costs of SDI. Mr. Reagan has talked tough to Moscow, and that's all to the good if it's in the interest of driving the best deal. But "talk alone," as the President said at Glassboro, "is not enough." It's time for Mr. Reagan to put the Soviets to the test in pursuit of a realistic treaty.


Their Day Of Special Memories

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20150918232746/http://articles.philly.com/1986-06-25/news/26045146_1_graduation-day-reagan-commencement Posted: June 25, 1986

They heard it all week, from teachers and administrators, parents and friends.

"You'll remember this the rest of your life" seemed the sentiment most frequently expressed as Glassboro High School seniors prepared to share the limelight of their graduation day Thursday with the President of the United States.

But what would they really remember?

"I guess shaking the hand of the President," said Kevin Baldwin the day after graduation. And his friend Craig Cassaday added, "I've never seen a 74- year-old man with a grip like that before." Reagan turned 75 in February.

"He's bigger than life, that guy," Cassaday said. "He's got to be the most charismatic person."

Glenn Esgro, who had served as president of the Student Government Association, said his lasting memory would probably be of that moment when a blue-velvet backdrop behind the platform parted and Reagan strode into the gym to the strains of "Hail to the Chief."

"I think the thing people will remember most is the speech," said Sherri Nelson. "In a way, it seemed like he wasn't even talking to the press. It was like he was talking to us." Reagan, who called for an arms- control summit with the Soviets in his speech, directed most of his remarks to the students.

Nelson was not alone in her feeling that a friend, however famous, had come to town.

"He was so happy, so outspoken," said Regina Luongo. "He cracked jokes and made us feel comfortable. He made the tenseness go away."

As some seniors made tentative plans to keep in touch with one another in the years ahead, others seemed to yearn for a way to keep alive their brief contact with the President.

Malcolm Dougherty has lined up a summer job on a fishing boat in Sea Isle City, and in September he'll enter the College of Engineering at Rutgers University. "Hopefully, I'll end up graduating somewhere where the President can give me my diploma again," he said.

"I'll be going into the Navy in September," said Tom Wood. "So I'll be working for the President.

"I guess I'll remember all the reporters and people talking to us and being on TV so much," said Wood.

Like Wood, some students said they got used to sharing their school with reporters, camera crews and White House aides. Some even adjusted to the idea of walking through a metal detector to get into the gym, where the commencement was held.

During commencement rehearsals, students were urged not to slouch, chew gum or make any fast moves.

"You were afraid to adjust the tassel on your cap," Cassaday said.

The graduating seniors, who each got to shake Reagan's hand, are not the only people in Glassboro who will have lasting memories of the day the President came to town.

At Angelo's Diner on Monday morning, Dominick Ferrante was back to flipping eggs for the regulars. Angelo's was busy, and Ferrante, the short-order cook, had no time to talk to the reporters who had hounded him the week before.

Ferrante had written to President Reagan and offered to cook him dinner, if the chief executive had time to drop by while he was in town.

Ferrante echoed the sentiments of many in this mostly Democratic borough.

"I'm a registered Democrat," he said, "but a Reagan fan."

The cook had hoped to get a glimpse of the President, but more than 12,000 people turned out for the rally on the school's athletic field after his speech, most arriving before Ferrante.

"Dominick was very disappointed, but he's OK," his wife, Dorothy, said. ''The crowd was so thick, we couldn't get near the place. We sat a distance away on Main Street near a gas station. We listened to it on the radio and saw the helicopter and the balloons."

She said he had not yet received an answer to his dinner invitation.

*

Not that everyone was a Reagan fan for the day.

Al Taylor, 59, a Pitman resident, was one of a group of about 35 loosely organized dissidents who had come on their own to the high school to protest Reagan's policies. Taylor marched at the head of the group, carrying a sign that read "Reagan, Mad Dog of the Potomac."

Taylor said he was surprised by the reception that the townspeople gave the President.

"I'd have to say that considering the number of people in Glassboro who have been harmed by Reagan's policies, I was surprised how they could sit there and cheer that phony like he's some big hero," Taylor said.

Taylor described the protesters' brief confrontation with Glassboro police as "friendly harassment. . . . Nobody threatened us physically."

Some of the protesters were able to enter the outdoor area behind the school where Reagan addressed the crowd before boarding his helicopter for his trip back to Washington, Taylor said.

"I would say the kind of reception we got was mixed," Taylor said. "Some people called us un-American and some people said, 'Right on. We support you.' I felt a certain satisfaction in having people see that the support (for Reagan) was not unanimous."

For Dorothy Lisa and Evelyn Silvestri, Reagan's visit provided a bit of deja vu.

In 1967, the women, who run Dorothy's Flower Shop on Main Street, arranged the flowers for the summit conference between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin, which was held at Glassboro State College.

Last week, they arranged the flowers that adorned the podium in the gymnasium.

"We did red roses for Johnson and yellow for Kosygin. We also did the floral arrangements for the meeting table and the mantels," said Lisa. Last week, they used the high school colors for their arrangement - gold flowers with maroon-and-gold ribbons.

On the day the President came to town, the women closed their flower shop early.

At 2 p.m., they donned Reagan commemorative T-shirts they had purchased and headed for the site where the presidential helicopter would land.

"We didn't want to miss seeing him. It was a big day for us," Lisa said. ''We were right up there in the front at the ropes. You couldn't get any closer. We even got to shake hands with the governor."

For Joe Brigandi, it was also a repeat performance.

The owner of Joe's Sub Shop, Brigandi made subs for Secret Service agents during the 1967 summit and was commissioned by the White House staff to prepare 55 subs for the President and his staff to eat on their flight back to Washington.

"I'm anxious to hear how they liked them," Brigandi said.

The day after Reagan's visit, Brigandi, also vice president of the Glassboro Board of Education, was patting the town on its collective back. The event, he said, had come off as well as anyone could have hoped.

"As far as the administration and school board are concerned," Brigandi said, "we feel it went smoothly. In fact, it was excellent."

Brigandi and the other eight members of the school board were among a group of VIPs invited to meet Reagan after the commencement and have their photos taken with him.

"I want you to know I'm shaking the hand of the most powerful man in the world," the sub-shop owner told the President. "He just said, 'Thank you very much,' " Brigandi recalled.

Brigandi expects one day soon to receive a photograph of himself shaking hands with Reagan.

"I imagine that that picture will be sent back with the President's signature on it and I will be very happy and proud to hang that picture in my sub shop."

Patty Roda will remember spending most of that day in an ambulance.

Roda, a paramedic from Underwood-Memorial Hospital, was part of the medical team designated to take charge if the President needed emergency assistance.

"I didn't get to see much of the President," Roda said.

But she did get to meet Reagan's personal nurse, who stopped by the ambulance, parked on the athletic field and handed out mementos for the staff.

"She gave me a pen with the President's signature on it," Roda said, ''and she let us know that the President had his own physicians with him."

Raymond Kennedy will remember riding to the commencement in a limousine.

Kennedy, 44, a Glassboro councilman, was chauffeured in a white stretch limo complete with a telephone and color TV.

But what he will remember most of all is the moment the President walked into the gym.

"The aura that came through - it filled the gym," Kennedy said. "The atmosphere was just something I've never felt before, and something I will proabably never feel again. I still feel goose pimples when I think about it."

Throughout the frenzied week of planning, school officials reminded whoever would listen that it was to be, after all, a commencement - that moment at the end of four years when friends would say goodbye and thanks and good luck. And then go their separate ways.

The thought was not lost on David Taylor, a senior member of the Glassboro High School Concert Choir.

"When I sang my solo - that's what really brought up my tears," said Taylor, who will be a music major at West Chester College. "I remembered singing that song ("Moving On") with the choir when I was a freshman, and I thought it's the last time I'll be singing with that choir."

The thought also was not lost on Khatija Bilgrami, who will be attending Caldwell College in Caldwell, N.J., studying elementary education.

The commencement, Bilgrami said, "was over so fast. It only took an hour, and we rehearsed for three long days. I just wish it was a little longer."


Paying The Tab For Reagan's Trip

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20160101103009/http://articles.philly.com/1986-10-04/news/26059167_1_graduation-ceremony-air-conditioning-expenses Posted: October 04, 1986

Like a Christmas shopper facing the January bills, the Glassboro Board of Education is searching for a way to finance the $6,400 extra it spent when President Reagan delivered a commencement address and foreign policy speech at graduation ceremonies June 19.

The district has asked the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders to pay part of those expenses, and at a meeting Wednesday night the board agreed to consider giving the district $2,000, said Jay Sharp, freeholder director. The board will vote Oct. 15.

"The freeholders had mentioned to us during the President's visit that they wanted to help out. And they did by installing fencing around the school property," School Superintendent Nicholas A. Mitcho said.

"They had said, 'When it's all over, put your bills together and we might be able to help you,' " Mitcho said.

In the hectic days prior to the President's visit, Mitcho said, he asked the White House aide responsible for planning the event what part of the extra expenses the White House would cover.

"We asked and we were told what the White House was going to pay for and what they would not pay for," Mitcho said in an interview yesterday. The White House share included expenses for security, a communication system for the media, a communication system for the White House staff, lighting in the gymnasium where the graduation ceremony was held, and sound systems in the gymnasium and outside on the athletic field.

"They paid those things up front," Mitcho said. "There were no surprises on our part."

The district's extra expenses included staging equipment, air conditioning, carpeting, additional chairs, tickets and programs, a banner, fliers, balloons, and photographs of each student with the President.

The total cost of the graduation ceremony was slightly more than $16,000, Mitcho said. Of that, $2,170 were expenses the board would have incurred for any graduation ceremony and an additional $1,320 was paid by donations from local businesses and individuals.

Of the remaining $12,590, the district absorbed $6,116 for air conditioning and carpeting in the gymnasium where the ceremony was held. The air conditioning is a permanent improvement to the gym, he said, and the carpeting was cut up and used in classrooms and offices.

That leaves $6,474.

The school board considered advising the White House of the additional expenses - "just to let them know," Mitcho said. "But at this point I have absolutely no intention of asking for reimbursement from the White House."

Reagan's visit, initiated by the White House, represented the first time a president delivered a commencement address at a public high school graduation. For students, who shook hands with the Chief Executive as he handed out the diplomas, for borough officals and school board members who attended a private, if brief, reception for the President, and for residents - it was a day to remember, Mitcho said.

"It's a shame to have that tainted by a cloud of expenses," he said.


The Glassboro History Handbook - Denise Norton, Ruth Cibo, & Rebekah Byrer Remember Shaking President Reagan’s Hand the Day He Stopped Into Glassboro High School By Eric Conklin

Source: https://glassborohistoryhandbook.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/denise-norton-ruth-cibo-rebekah-byrer-remember-shaking-president-reagans-hand-the-day-he-stopped-into-glassboro-high-school/

February 24, 2017


Denise Norton (nee Adam) shaking hands with President Ronald Reagan at Glassboro High School on June 19, 1986

I remember reading about Glassboro’s history one day and saw that Ronald Reagan spoke at Glassboro High School’s 1986 Graduation. The 2016 Presidential Election has made me enthusiastic about learning about politics and political events in the United States. However, Reagan’s appearance in Glassboro didn’t seem to be a political event. It was a day the President of the United States was an ordinary American once again.

When Glassboro’s Graduates of 1986 heard that having a guest speaker forced their graduation date to be moved back three days, everyone assumed someone special was coming. Originally, members of the senior class were thinking that a celebrity was coming. Tom Cruise and Whitney Houston were a few of the names passed around the school. Eventually, the seniors learned that President Reagan would be taking stage at their graduation. The day came to graduate, and three class members I interviewed over the phone said the day went like this:


photo-of-press
Members of the Media assembling inside the Glassboro High School Gymnasim. Photo provided by Ruth Cibo
Eric Conklin: “Do you remember what people were

denise-norton-headshot
Denise Norton (nee Adam) First Graduate to Shake hands with President Reagan
thinking when President Reagan first walked into the gymnasium?”

 

Denise Norton: “We knew that when the song came on he was coming in. If you’re at the football field, he came in one of the doors at that parking lot out there. He came through what was the weight room back then, and that’s where the Secret Service Detail was located. A man came on stage and introduced the President of the United States, and sure enough the music came, the Air Force Band was there playing, and sure enough there he came.

It was surreal. I had the excitement before hand. Not just the excitement of graduating, but because the President was there. It was when you saw him it was like, ‘Oh my God the President is really here. It’s a moment when you want to pinch yourself to make sure that you’re actually not dreaming.’ I know that’s the reaction I had, and I think a lot of my class mates had that same reaction as well.”

Conklin: “What were some of President Reagan’s reactions that day?”

Norton: “I can tell you he had a firm handshake, but I could tell he was a little nervous at first. He had a little bit of a shake to his hand. I wasn’t the only one nervous on that stage that day, so that was kind of interesting.”

Conklin: “Do you remember where he landed? I don’t know if this is correct, but I’ve heard he landed on the football field.”

Norton: “From what I heard, he landed on the field hockey field over where the tennis courts are.”

Conklin: “Did he hand you your diploma?”

Norton: “He didn’t hand us the diploma. He just shook our hands, they took a picture, and then we went through and got our diploma from I believe it was the superintendent. We shook his hand, the principles, and then the superintendent.”

Conklin: “If there was one thing you could take away from President Reagan speaking at your graduation, what would it be?”

Norton: “I’ll tell you what, he was a really a nice guy. He was down to earth. He might have been president, he might have been a politician, he might have been an actor, he might have been a lot of things. But that day, he was just a regular guy. He was like one of our friends. The way he spoke with us, the way he treated us, the way he acted toward us, it felt like we became friends with him.”


 

Ruth 1.JPG
Ruth Cibo (nee Lockbaum) 1986 Class President
Ruth Cibo was class president in 1986. She had the opportunity to sit next to the president and remembers some of the small talk she had with him. 

 

Conklin: “Can you recall any personal experiences you had with the president that day?”

Cibo: “When we were up on stage we were sitting next to each other. He leaned over to say something to me. He was pointing out the banners in the gym. Because we were in the

presentation-of-ghs-jacket
Ruth Cibo (nee Lockbaum) presenting Preisdent Reagan with a Glassboro Bulldogs Jacket. Photo provided by Ruth Cibo
gym we had all the championship banners. He was pointing them out and he was saying, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of championships.’ It was just very small answers.

 

Conklin: “Did he say anything else to you besides the championship banners? Did you have any personal conversation?”

Cibo: “Personal conversation I’m going to say no. We didn’t get to talk to him. We gave him a sports jacket that was donated by Two Vics Sports Shop which is in Glassboro.  When we gave him the jacket, it was kind of a funny story. My mom was all excited and we wanted to present him with a gift. My mom went to the store and she found three different kinds of wrapping paper. She wrapped it up and they had to unwrap. The Secret Service had to unwrap it. They couldn’t president it to the president wrapped up.”

Conklin: “Do you know the reason why President Reagan came to Glassboro High School?”

Cibo: “I think it was because of two things, the Glassboro Summit and the diversity of the town. For some reason I thought it had to do with being a multi-cultural class.”


 

rebeka-1
Rebeka Bryrer, Glassboro High School class of 1986 member
Rebekah Byrer may not have been on the stage next to the President, but she still remembers shaking the President’s hand before receiving her diploma.

 

Conklin: “Does anything particular part of President Reagan’s appearance stick out to you?”

Bryrer: “We were set up and waiting, and then we heard noise as the helicopter landed, they came in and it started and he came up right to the podium.”

Conklin: What was preparation for the graduates like?”

Bryrer: “I remember practicing the walk and getting to our seat and following the rules like we were supposed to. They cancelled our final exams for that, so we didn’t even have final exams [Laughs].

Conklin: “Did you have any reactions with any of his staff?”

Bryrer: “We had interactions with a White House staffer who’s name I can’t recall. But he kept telling us he was pretty high up.”

Being a fan of history, I love learning about the past. Speaking with these three women allowed me to hear personal accounts of what this day at Glassboro High-School was like, which I often consider is the best way to learn history. Hearing personal stories – and not fictional stories – is what I’ve learned to enjoy the most about journalism. Journalist learn more from people who have a story to tell and  see events like Reagan’s appearance in Glassboro from a first person point-of-view. In a way, journalism allows someone to travel back and learn more about the world they live in.

Special Thanks to Denise Norton, Ruth Cibo, and Rebeka Bryrer for sharing their experiences.

President Reagan’s entire speech at the 1986 Graduation is available to read at this link here.

President Obama also spoke at a Joplin High School’s graduation in 2012.

Glassboro High Graduation Order of Exercises.jpg
Glassboro High School 1986 Graduation Order of Exercises. Photo provided by Ruth Cibo


GALLERY: Look back at President Ronald Reagan's visit to Glassboro High School - The Press of Atlantic City - January 15, 2020
https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/gallery-look-back-at-president-ronald-reagans-visit-to-glassboro-high-school/collection_5dca151a-2fcc-529c-9450-9cc539e529fc.html#1