WASHINGTON -- President Bush, touched by a 'really lovely, warm note' from his predecessor, disclosed Saturday that Ronald Reagan's parting words of wisdom in a personal message were: 'Don't let the turkeys get you down.'
Bush, talking with reporters during his first trip to the Oval Office as president, drew from the desk drawer a small notepad that Reagan had left before leaving the office for the last time as president Friday morning.
Describing it to a group of supporters at the State Department later, Bush said the message 'had special meaning for me.'
'I opened the top drawer of (what is) my desk now,' Bush said, 'and here was a really lovely, warm note from my predecessor, which I think ... said a lot about our own personal friendship ... a lot about how I got the chance to be in this job. And so it was emotional and yet it had a very nice, steady feeling to it, that the presidency goes on.'
The top note on the pad had been used by Reagan, who scrawled, 'Dear George. You'll have moments when you want to use this particular stationery. Well, go to it.'
The pad, a type often seen in card shops, shows on every page a crowd of cartoon turkeys trying to pull an elephant to the ground and offers printed advice at the top of each note: 'Don't let the turkeys get you down.'
The symbolism of the elephant, mascot of the Republican Party, was unlikely to be lost on Bush. The turkeys, however, were unidentified.
The new president, reading the note aloud, told reporters they should not take it personally. He joked, 'This is a broad ecumenical statement. I don't know who he is speaking of there.'
On a more personal note, Reagan had continued, 'George, I treasure the memories we share and wish you all the very best. You will be in my prayers. God bless you and Barbara. I'll miss our Thursday lunches. Ron.'
A spokesman said Reagan had left one other personal note to Bush, more comical in tone, upstairs in the White House residence. Bush said Reagan indicated it was 'over where the underwear goes, in the right-hand drawer or something, but I haven't found it yet; I'll have to keep looking.'
Former first lady Nancy Reagan also left a note of good wishes for Barbara Bush along with a small white orchid.