This exclusive interview was conducted by NBC’s Tom Brokaw with Patti Davis on Feb. 9, 1996. The interview was originally conducted with the knowledge that it would be held until the former president's passing. This week we reviewed the videotape and contacted the family — who agreed that it would be appropriate to run.
Tom Brokaw: When you and your mother were at such odds and not talking to each other—
Patti Davis: Uh-uh.
Brokaw: Did your father try to act as a peace broker, so to speak?
Davis: Constantly. Constantly. He used to write me notes. He used to call me and—I rejected those peace offerings really.
Brokaw: The conventional wisdom from the outside was that your parents were so caught up with just each other —
Brokaw: -- and their political lives that they just didn’t have any time for the children. Is that right?
Davis: I think there’s probably an element of truth to that, sure. I mean my parents’ relationship was very, very close. And I think to a child’s point of view and to an adolescent’s point of view — you tend to feel a bit left out. Now I see it as a great gift because it gives me hope that their can be love like that in this mortal world.
Brokaw: When your father was president, members of your generation, many of them your peers probably some your friends mocked him.
Brokaw: Would make fun of him.
Brokaw: Did that trouble you?
Davis: It was a very troublesome time for me because I did have a political ideology which obviously was very opposite from his. And I had this desire to express it.
Brokaw: The irony is that your father had election success, in part because he ran against that anger—because he stood up to it.
Davis: I wanted to be… a bridge between the politics of my generation and the politics that he represented. I really sincerely did. I didn’t realize that you don’t build a bridge out of anger. You don’t build a bridge out of doing the kind of things that I did — that, you know, appearing at demonstrations. I don’t regret expressing my opinions. I do regret the way in which I did it.
Brokaw: The book on your father was that he was not very intellectually curious when he was in office.
Brokaw: And you’ve always thought that that was a bad rap for him?
Davis: Yeah I did, because I think he was intellectually curious. Except I think it’s because his intellect act was also infused with great faith and faith simplifies things… I think that falls within the realm of what’s in your heart. So ultimately I think he led with his heart when he was the most effective.
Brokaw: What do you think your father’s place will be in the big picture of American history not just as a president but as an American icon, if you will?
Davis: I hope that his legacy will be sort of beyond politics, you know that he did inspire people — that he sort of fed people’s imaginations about what was possible.