With President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office

Khachigian Reflects on Working Behind the Scenes with President Reagan


By Kevork Keushkerian

PASADENA, Calif. — The Men’s Forum of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church in Pasadena had invited presidential speech writer Ken Khachigian as its guest speaker on Thursday, January 30. Father Sarkis Petoyan blessed the food, then a buffet dinner was served before Khachigian was invited to the podium.

There were around 300 people in the audience, among which were notable people, such as Michael Antonovich, the former LA County Supervisor, Randy Swan, the curator of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Museum and his wife Dana, political activist Greg Kahwajian, publishers/editors Harout Sassounian and Osheen Keshishian.

The Men’s Forum Chairman Berj Gourdikian presented the biographical sketch of Ken Khachigian and then invited Osheen Keshishian to narrate a few cordial encounters with Khachigian over the years that he had known him.

Before Khachigian’s lecture, he was presented with a commendation by Kathryn Barger, LA County District 5 Supervisor, and a US flag that had flown over the Capital for a full day by House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy. He was also presented with a lifetime achievement award by the Men’s Forum.

Khachigian’s topic was titled “Behind the Scenes with President Reagan,” and was presented with a slide show. First and foremost, Khachigian said that he was not a speech writer, rather a speech collaborator, as the drafts that he presented to the president were edited before a final draft was prepared.

With President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan aboard Air Force One

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He said that his involvement with politics and political campaigns had started with a letter sent to Presidential candidate Richard Nixon in 1967, requesting to volunteer in his campaign, and the rest is history. His experience working for Nixon then led to his career work in nine presidential campaigns. He served three presidents and was instrumental in guiding George Deukmejian to victory as governor of the state of California.

One of Khachigian’s most memorable achievements, as a chief speech writer, senior political advisor, and special consultant to President Reagan, was the “Holocaust Proclamation,” signed by the President on April 22, 1981. It says, “Like the Genocide of the Armenians before it, and the Genocide of the Cambodians which followed it — and the too many other such persecutions of too many other people — the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.”

Khachigian admitted that he had cleared this speech with two senior members of the National Security Agency before presenting it to Reagan. Such measures were necessary, he noted, to make sure that there were no international political repercussions harmful to the United States.

In the course of his professional work with President Reagan, Khachigian was a frequent visitor of Camp David. He also once visited the president’s Santa Barbara ranch, which President Reagan used for rest and relaxation.

During the question-and-answer session that followed the lecture, Khachigian anticipated one question raised by a member of the audience and answered right away, saying; no, I was not the author of the famous line “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.”c

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