(CBS News) Former first lady Nancy Reagan turns 91 Friday.
Reagan appeared at the Reagan Presidential Library Thursday, hosting an exhibit from the Walt Disney Archives. It was her first public appearance since a fall in April left her with broken ribs.
Reagan joined Robert Iger, chairman of the Walt Disney Company, to open the exhibit. Perhaps it wasn’t the kind of birthday greeting a 91-year-old might expect, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse serenading the former first lady with “Happy Birthday.”
While Reagan rarely speaks in public these days, inside the GOP her voice can still be powerful and influential. Reagan is taking on a familiar role this election year - as the first lady of the Republican Party. In the 24 years since her husband left office, Reagan’s endorsement has been sought by Republicans, successfully so most recently by Mitt Romney. And a new generation has come calling—including Marco Rubio, who saved Reagan from a fall during his visit.
“She’s sort of, you know, a living symbol, in many ways, of what her husband’s ideals were,” Iger said, “and I think that’s a good reason to respect her.”
But Reagan’s draw isn’t only about the past.
Robert Tuttle, former ambassador to Great Britain, said, “You know she’s not afraid, if she feels strongly about an issue, to speak out on it. And I think that’s what’s so wonderful about her, how contemporary she has kept herself through all these years.”
George Shultz was secretary of state under President Reagan. He says one of the things that characterized Reagan’s presidency was Nancy Reagan was always at his side. When asked if the president could have been elected to the nation’s highest office without her, Shultz said, “I doubt it. Because he depended on her.”
Shultz himself is now 92. He said, “Happy Birthday, Nancy. And oh, to be 91 again - such a young girl.”
The woman who supported Ronald Reagan in the White House remains a living link to his legacy.