President Obama on Saturday eulogized former first lady Nancy Reagan in his weekly address, praising her for her commitment to stem cell research and fighting Alzheimer’s disease.

“As President, I know just how important it is to have a strong life partner, and President Reagan was as lucky as I am,” Obama said. “Nancy Reagan redefined the role of first lady of the United States. In addition to serving as a trusted adviser to her husband, and an elegant hostess for our nation, she was a passionate advocate for issues that touched the lives of so many."


After her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1994, Nancy Reagan became an active supporter of efforts to combat the disease.

“The American people were deeply moved by the love Nancy felt for her husband,” Obama continued. “And we were inspired by how, in their long goodbye, Nancy became a voice on behalf of millions of families experiencing the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer’s disease.”

“She brought her characteristic intelligence and focus to the twin causes of stem cell research and Alzheimer’s research.  And when I signed an order to resume federal stem cell research, I was proud that she was one of the first phone calls I made. Nobody understood better than Nancy Reagan the importance of pursuing treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives.”

Obama drew criticism this week for not attending Reagan’s funeral on Friday. Instead he spoke at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

Still, he had high praise for the former first lady and called on the country to help further her healthcare efforts.

“Thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Nancy Reagan, I’ve never been more optimistic that we are getting closer to the day when every single patient can get the care they need and deserve,” he said. “I’ve never been more optimistic that we will one day find a cure for devastating diseases like Alzheimer’s.  And I can think of no better way to honor our former first lady’s legacy than by working together, as one nation, toward that goal.”