In 1987, then U.S. President Ronald Reagan stood before the United Nations and ended his Cold War speech with something that made UFO enthusiast perk their ears up by saying:

In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world and yet I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?

This a video of a portion of that speech.

This moment has been explained away as an effort from the American President to unify nations under the flag of humanity but Reagan is rumored to have had an experience that shaped this speech and his ideas about our cosmos.

In 1974 Ronald Reagan was the Governor of California and traveling on his private aircraft approaching Bakersfield, CA. According to the pilot Bill Paynter via How Stuff Works, there were four passengers, it was Paynter, two security guards and Ronald Reagan. He alleges that everyone onboard the aircraft observed a UFO,saying the passengers (Reagan and staff) drew his attention to it.

Paynter described the craft by saying:

It appeared to be several hundred yards away, it was a fairly steady light until it began to accelerate. Then it appeared to elongate. Then the light took off. It went up at a 45-degree angle-at a high rate of speed. Everyone on the plane was surprised. . . . The UFO went from a normal cruise speed to a fantastic speed instantly. If you give an airplane power, it will accelerate-but not like a hot rod, and that's what this was like.

According to How Stuff Works and Science News Podcast, Reagan told Washington  bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal Norman C. Miller about the incident a week later, he reportedly said:

We followed it for several minutes. It was a bright white light. We followed it to Bakersfield, and all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens.

So metaphor or first-hand knowledge, what do American presidents know about the existence of extra-terrestrials?