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Posted at 3:20 PM ET, 02/ 6/2011

The Reagan Centennial tribute

By Emi Kolawole


Credit: Eric Thayer/Getty Images

The Reagan Centennial celebration started just before 2 p.m. ET Sunday, with musical performances by popular Christian singer Michael W. Smith and pop singer Amy Grant.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan laid a wreath in honor of her husband, former president Ronald Reagan. A wreath must be laid at the tomb of every former president on the anniversary of their birth. The wreath-laying was followed by a 21-gun salute and the playing of "America the beautiful" by the Marine Corps band.

The celebration was attended by a number of political heavyweights, including former vice president Dick Cheney, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) among others.

During her formal remarks, the former first lady thanked the crowd saying, "It's wonderful to see all of you here today. ...It brings back so many memories to see all of your faces."

"I know that Ronnie would be thrilled, and is thrilled to have all of you share in his 100th birthday. 'Doesn't seem possible, but that's what it is," Reagan said.

Reagan was followed by actor Gary Sinise who admitted to never having met Reagan personally. "I felt so strongly the flame of the man this site enshrines," said Sinise of his first visit to the Reagan Presidential Library. Sinise also tied his background to Reagan's -- both men are Illinois-born actors. "The life story of Ronald Reagan is truly worthy of its own 10-part mini-series," said Sinise, taking an opportunity to highlight Reagan's early acting career and work with members of the Armed Forces. Sinise, who also spends time working with service members and their families, said Reagan, "made sure they had everything they needed and more."

Sinise was followed by Fred Ryan, president of the Reagan Library. "The purpose of the Reagan Centennial celebration is not so much to look back, but to look forward," Ryan said. "At the end of the day, he showed he could get together with his political adversaries" with a nature of "good will and respect," Ryan said, adding that even though Reagan was the nation's oldest serving president, he had a close relationship with young people.


Ryan also announced the following events that will occur throughout the year in celebration of the president's 100th birthday:

-- Special coins with Reagan's image will be sent to every high school, NCAA division school and professional football team in America to be used in the coin-toss to kick off the football season
-- Annual conferences at universities to celebrate Reagan's life and legacy
statue unveilings around the world, including London, Prague and Budapest.
-- On May 2, Republican candidates will gather to debate the "pressing issue of our time" and how Reagan's vision might apply to them.

Ryan was followed by former secretary of state James A. Baker III who began by reminiscing about the nation Reagan inherited -- one with a high misery index and where the American Dream seemed like a "national nightmare." Baker also praised Reagan for "defending American exceptionalism," citing Reagan's oft-cited joke that the nine-worst words were "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

Baker continued to make references to the highlights of Reagan's career, and described the 40th president as "a master at reaching across the aisle for solutions to our nation's problems." Baker also emphasized that lawmakers should work together to fix the nation's problems rather than leave them unaddressed, "Like Ronald Reagan, we should relearn, as citizens of a democracy, we have a right to voice our disagreements, but at the end of the day ,we have to come together to solve problems, rather than to cynically rely on them for partisan advantage."

"He could express more with a smile than many of us could express with a thousand words," continued Baker. "He was, very simply, a beautiful human being in body and in mind and in spirit, and everyone who knew him would agree with that statement."

In describing Reagan's relationship with his wife, Baker called theirs "the love of ages."

Baker finished by saying that Reagan had "helped us discover who we were."

Grammy-winning artist Lee Greenwood sang his hit song "God Bless the USA," and was followed by a tribute from service members aboard the USS Ronald Reagan.

The former first lady and Ryan conducted the formal ribbon cutting for the Reagan Museum and were followed by a presentation of the official Reagan Centennial cake along with a joint performance by The Beach Boys, Greenwood, Grant and Smith to sing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President." The cake was complete with the Stars and Stripes, an eagle and photos of the former president.

Carol Leonnig contributed to this report.

By Emi Kolawole  | February 6, 2011; 3:20 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

spirited - a political term reflecting much of the anti-Reagan comments put forth in this forum.

Winemaster states President Reagan was senile for thirty years, which would include his Presidential years; so if you are right Wine, just who was responsible for the Reykjavik pullout and the subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union?

Posted by: jon2 | February 8, 2011 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Naybe by the Bicentennial of his birth, this country will have recovered from the havoc this horrible president wreacked upon this country. I am not falling for this revisionist, rose collored view of Reagan. I lived through that time and he was a TERRIBLE president. We had the worst recession, he RAISED taxes (despite the propaganda about him cutting taxes) and he was divisive. No minorities supported him, nor did he even attempt to cooperate with minorities. He totally stepped on the necks of the poor. He was not what this country needed and we are still paying the price for his wreckless policies.

Posted by: PepperDr | February 7, 2011 3:38 PM | Report abuse

A danger in rewriting history is that we will not learn from past mistakes. There is so much misinformation put out there about Ronald Reagan that future historians may not be able to separate fact from fiction. In our culture when myth and reality collide, myth usually wins out.

Posted by: former_michigander | February 7, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

A danger in rewriting history is that we will not learn from past mistakes. There is so much misinformation put out there about Ronald Reagan that future historians may not be able to separate fact from fiction. In our culture when myth and reality collide, myth usually wins out.

Posted by: former_michigander | February 7, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

The danger is rewriting history is that we will not learn from past mistakes. I'm afraid that there is so much misinformation out there about Ronald Reagan that future historians will have a difficult time separating myth from reality. In our culture, myth usually wins out.

Posted by: former_michigander | February 7, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm no fan of Reagan, but the current crop of GOPers don't even come close to him. He would be disgusted with the current state of the party.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 7, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

"Wow, the last few comments have been amazingly hateful. You are truly a bunch of left wing idiots. Ronald Reagan was the President this nation needed after the depression brought on by Vietnam, Johnson, Carter, and the drug filled 70's."

I notice you skipped over Republican FAILED presidents Nixon and Ford. You are nothing but a deranged, hyperpartisan drooler.

Posted by: Observer691 | February 7, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

"By a narrow margin he is acknowledged as the best president of the 20th century, and one of the best ever.

I'm afraid he would not like what he'd see in present-day America. After the defeat of communism as a global threat, he'd be surprised and deeply concerned to find it making a resurgence in the US, and especially on the pages of the Washington Post and other prominent newspapers."

You are deranged.

Posted by: Observer691 | February 7, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Is the left just a bunch of haters now? It appears that instead of bettering Republicans, they're just imitating them with all their hatred.

They used to stand for something, but now they're just politicians who will steal your children's checkbook and write checks for more than is in their account in order to serve their special interest groups. (Banks, Unions, Lawyers, and anybody who wants an entitlement)

Posted by: Benson | February 7, 2011 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Loonybin2000, You sound like you may be taking way too many medications. It was Ronald Reagan who was on the good ship lollypop during his Presidency. It figures the crooks like Cheney, and the rest would celebrate this dispicable nutjob.

Posted by: sheilahowison | February 7, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Loonybin2000, You sound like you may be taking way too many medications. It was Ronald Reagan who was on the good ship lollypop during his Presidency. It figures the crooks like Cheney, and the rest would celebrate this dispicable nutjob.

Posted by: sheilahowison | February 7, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

RR was not perfect, no man is, but he did the best he could at every job he had. By a narrow margin he is acknowledged as the best president of the 20th century, and one of the best ever.

I'm afraid he would not like what he'd see in present-day America. After the defeat of communism as a global threat, he'd be surprised and deeply concerned to find it making a resurgence in the US, and especially on the pages of the Washington Post and other prominent newspapers.

Posted by: JBaustian | February 7, 2011 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Too bad this hog wash event did not prepare and bury all the nit wit conservative republican menace, along with their malignant narcissism, chronic scape goating, uncorrectable grab bagging, their perversity of inequality, rights only of their bigoted and yes racists kind. After all the man was total senile for over some thirty years now. Far better for this nation is to leave dead dogs buried and dead.

Posted by: winemaster2 | February 7, 2011 7:40 AM | Report abuse

I get such a kick out of liberals. Ronald Reagan was/is HATED by the likes of you, so tell me why is your savior, the messiah himself all about linking his likeness to Ronald Reagan? Why is the liberal media so determined to link these to OPPOSITES at the hip? It's rather easy to figure out, shall we take a guess?

Posted by: vatownsend | February 7, 2011 6:48 AM | Report abuse

I get such a kick out of liberals. Ronald Reagan was/is HATED by the likes of you, so tell me why is your savior, the messiah himself all about linking his likeness to Ronald Reagan? Why is the liberal media so determined to link these to OPPOSITES at the hip? It's rather easy to figure out, shall we take a guess?

Posted by: vatownsend | February 7, 2011 6:47 AM | Report abuse

Of course Ronnie would be thrilled. He loved the combination of money, lousy ideas, and the opportunity to hurt as many working people as possible.

He would also be thrilled to know that the government which he scorned is now giving his widow a life time of free medical benefits paid by the American taxpayer.

The evil government at work again!

Posted by: sufi66 | February 7, 2011 6:31 AM | Report abuse

Reagan is the godfather pond scum like George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, et.al, made it to places they had absolutely no business being, politically speaking, but for this sh^t-stain of a bad-actor-masquerading-as-a-president?


Who made it politically viable to glorify greed while gutting programs that were charged with administering to this country's less-fortunate? Who took this country from being the greatest lender nation in the world to being the greatest debtor nation, all in eight short years? Who made it the national pasttime to be afraid enough to grasp at the mirage he posed: an America that wore the white hat in the international community, when things like Iran-Contra stood in abject and eloquent dissent to any such claims?


I hope there is a hell, if only to accommodate Reagan's craven carcass.


.

Posted by: DrainYou | February 7, 2011 12:43 AM | Report abuse

Did we have our first 'female' presidency with Nancy Reagan 'in charge.' I remember so vividly when President Reagan could not come up with an answer to a question, it was Nancy Reagan who (not very silently) gave him the answer, which he repeated verbatim. We must also remember, Nancy Reagan 'hand picked' those who would be 'close' to President Reagan, giving him advice and council. Is he actually the 'Myth of the 20th Century?"

Posted by: rbsher | February 6, 2011 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Where are the honors for the servicemen murdered in Beirut on October 23, 1983 due to Reagan's inept leadership. Let's put the blame on the "light" Colonel Gerharaty who was the 24 MAU commander.
Let's honor the liberator of "Club Med" students in Grenada less than 30 days after the bombing.
Let's honor a true "American Idiot."

Posted by: Shaun-kar | February 6, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow, the last few comments have been amazingly hateful. You are truly a bunch of left wing idiots. Ronald Reagan was the President this nation needed after the depression brought on by Vietnam, Johnson, Carter, and the drug filled 70's. He made America realize it IS and WAS the greatest nation on this globe. You left wing scum really hate that, don't you? Someone who makes one proud of America. Oh well, like the poor, you left wing, hateful people will always be with us. Love you for all that you hate because it means America is doing something right. God Bless America and Reagan. r/ Bedrock Guy - Go Packers!!!!

Posted by: historian1 | February 6, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Nancy Reagan should have just said no instead of going to the party and reminding the world what an old crone she has become.

Posted by: dsrobins | February 6, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

It is great to see the wife of Reagan, once the most powerful woman on the planet, being dragged around like a rag doll. This should remind everyone in power that you only take with you what good you have done. Once the escort drops her home, she'll be at the mercy of the home health aide, who will smack her around while giving her her medicine. The spirits of all those she abused, including the children who have died as a result of Reagan's foreign policy, will fill the hearts of the home health aide, who will then unload justice upon this skeleton.

I hope I die before I'm weak.

Posted by: americanjew1971 | February 6, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

What a celebration of The Gipper’s 100th… Did Reagan rid the world of commie scum? I’ve posted my portrait of him from my Cult of Personality series on my site at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/02/happy-100th-gipper.html Let me know what you think.

Posted by: dregstudios | February 6, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Damn the memory of this wretched broken toilet of a man: cut & run from Beirut after getting over 200 soldiers killed; negotiated with terrorists and lied about it (Iran-Contra); supplied terrorists (Contras). Destroyed the economy by union-busting, debt build-up, de-regulation, exporting jobs - all the things that have come home to roost.

He also warned us in the 60s that Medicare would destroy our way of life and that the US would be "unrecogonizable" after it was enacted. He was always a lying tool for his rich masters who put him in power.

In short, this s.o.b. was always full of crap and he managed to turn us from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation during his disasterous administration.

He also withdrew the US from the World Court and had the most corrupt administration in history measured by the number of criminal convictions.

Well at least he promoted family values - Oh wait! He was a divorced hollywood B actor that wasn't even on speaking terms with his only son.

He is a fecal smear on the face of US history. We should be remembering this villian for the damage he did and mourning the beginning of the true destruction of our democracy initiated by this reality-challenged little tool of the weathly elite.

Posted by: CheneyinChains | February 6, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

In case you didn't notice, this is a media event.. Americans don't care.
Ronnie is dead and gone, though his hate lives on.

Posted by: newagent99 | February 6, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Ronny was an fool who sold us all out. A b actor for b class dreams. A fraud and an imposter. He ran up the deficit to pander to his white middle class base, all the while, diminishing truth, justice and the American dream for all. His intentional disregard for the rule of law, equal justice before the law and human decency will follow him throughout history. Mint all the silly coins you want, it doesn't change the scoundrel that was Ronald Reagan.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by: right_as_rain | February 6, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Ronny was an assfool who sold us all out. A b actor for b class dreams. A fraud and an imposter. May he rest in peace.

Posted by: right_as_rain | February 6, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Idon't know how wonderful he was but I'm going to be 84 this month. So now we have two wonderfuls.

If Reagan was so wonderful, maybe Obama can read about some of his wonderful accomplishments as president. Possible he could learn something, that is if his Ego and his quest for selling out to the MONEY Men Republicans come before the welfare of the American people. If not lets put him on the "Good Ship Lollipop" and send him on his way!

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000 | February 6, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Idon't know how wonderful he was but I'm going to be 84 this month. So now we have two wonderfuls.

If Reagan was so wonderful, maybe Obama can read about some of his wonderful accomplishments as president. Possible he could learn something, that is if his Ego and his quest for selling out to the MONEY Men Republicans come before the welfare of the American people. If not lets put him on the "Good Ship Lollipop" and send him on his way!

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000 | February 6, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

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