Reagan’s 78th Birthday Includes Posh Party, Campus Speech, Courtesy Call
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Ronald Reagan celebrated his 78th birthday by saying he’s had enough of retirement and was ″saddled up and ready to ride again″ for a balanced federal budget and repeal of the two-term presidency.
The 40th President’s birthday celebration Monday included an office chat with Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, a black-tie party and a speech to students at the University of Southern California, where he was serenaded by the USC Marching Band.
″One of my biggest disappointments as president was I wasn’t able to balance the budget,″ Reagan told the college audience.
Reagan received extended applause when answering a question about over-the- counter military weapons, such as the AK-47 assault rifle used to gun down five Stockton schoolchildren last month.
″I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense,″ he said. ″But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.″
The speech was Reagan’s first public event since a spirited welcome home airport rally Jan. 20, the day he relinquished the presidency to George Bush. The former president said he does not relish retirement.
″Two weeks ago, I went into retirement. Boy, am I glad that’s over,″ said Reagan.
″I don’t like retirement. It took all the fun out of Saturdays. For two weeks, I tried to adjust to private life and growing old gracefully, but that’s not my style. Here I am, saddled up and ready to ride again.″
Earlier Monday, the visiting Japanese prime minister paid a 30-minute courtesy call on Reagan at the former president’s 34th-floor Century City office.
On Monday night, comedian Bob Hope, actor Jimmy Stewart and other members of Hollywood’s elite helped Reagan and his wife, Nancy, celebrate his birthday at the posh Bistro Garden in Beverly Hills.
″We’re all here to wish him the best,″ Hope said before entering the private party.
The president, who joked it was the 39th anniversary of his 39th birthday, said his wish was ″that I’ll have a lot more.″
Guests at the celebration included two of Reagan’s inner circle in government, former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Attorney General William French Smith. Also among the approximately 100 guests were MCA Inc. chief Lew Wasserman, Texas oilman Marvin Davis, actress Eva Gabor and entertainment tycoon Merv Griffin.
The menu was roast chicken with baby carrots, asparagus, and noisette potatoes. The prelude to the meal included rigatoni with salami, ham, bacon, black and green olives and Italian-style sauce.
The birthday desert was chocolate tartuffo ice cream and lemon cake.
In his 22-minute address at USC, Reagan outlined some of his political work for the future.
″Today I start stumping for our future president, Republican or Democrat, to bring government under control,″ he said. ″We don’t have a deficit because the people aren’t taxed enough; we have a deficit because the Congress spends too much.″
He criticized the constitutional amendment that limits presidential terms to two.
″The 22nd Amendment is politically motivated, and it should be repealed,″ Reagan said. ″Two times isn’t necessarily enough time to get all you want done, done. I still had things to do when I left.″
About a dozen demonstrators staged a brief protest outside the auditorium, most of them decrying Reagan’s stance against abortion. The protesters were countered by members of the campus Young Republicans.