President Barack Obama will miss the funeral of former first lady Nancy Reagan on March 11.
First lady Michelle Obama will attend on his behalf, and she will be joined by former first lady and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, according to media reports.
Obama had scheduled a keynote speech for March 11 at the South By Southwest festival in Texas before Reagan’s death. The 94-year-old, whose husband former President Ronald Reagan was president for two terms beginning in 1981, died from congestive heart failure on March 6.
As well as hosting music performances and movie screenings, South By Southwest has become popular among those in the tech industry. Obama is expected to encourage those in attendance to use their creativity in their work with developing new technologies.
“Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House,” the president and first lady wrote in a joint statement, according to The Washington Post. “She was right of course. But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice.”
Obama praised her for having “redefined the role” of first lady.
During her husband’s presidency, Mrs. Reagan played a prominent part in protecting his image and also set up her own initiative to combat drugs, known as the "Just Say No" campaign.
“Drugs take away the dream from every child's heart and replace it with a nightmare, and it's time we in America stand up and replace those dreams,” she said in a speech launching the initiative, Daily Mail reported.
“Later, in her long goodbye with President Reagan, she became a voice on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer’s, and took on a new role, as advocate, on behalf of treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives,” Obama added.
Officials announced March 7 that Reagan will be laid to rest alongside her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Her funeral is set for 11 a.m. and will be closed to the public.
There will be opportunities for the public to pay their respects to Reagan on March 9 and 10 at the presidential library.