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Reagan Sculpture Makes Poignant Debut

With a tug by Nancy Reagan on the blue shroud, a smiling Ronald Wilson Reagan was unveiled Wednesday in bronze under the United States Capitol Rotunda.

"The statue is a wonderful likeness of Ronnie, and he would be so proud," said a frail and tearful Mrs. Reagan, who is 87.

The new statue, by Chas Fagan, was celebrated by congressional leaders and a who's who of surviving Reagan administration Cabinet members, staffers, writers and even some of the reporters who covered the 40th president.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who was elected to the Senate in Reagan's landslide 1984 re-election, told the packed Rotunda that Reagan occupies a "treasured place in our hearts and in our nation's storied history."

"Many today are too young to remember what a difference he made," McConnell said.

"When America thought our best days lay behind us, Ronald Reagan showed they still lay ahead," the senator said. "When the world thought freedom was in retreat, Ronald Reagan proved that liberty was still the strongest force in history. And when many thought freedom should negotiate with tyranny, Ronald Reagan had the courage to call tyranny by its name, and to say that freedom would win."

James A. Baker III, Reagan's former chief of staff and treasury secretary, said his late boss rightfully belongs in National Statuary Hall because he was a patriot like Samuel Adams, an orator like Henry Clay, a great president like Washington and a story-teller and humorist like Will Rogers.

And, Baker said, "President Reagan demonstrated the power of big ideas."

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Reagan "had the mind of a committed conservative and the temperament of an extraordinary leader."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., noted that the statue contains chunks of the Berlin Wall as a symbol of Reagan's commitment to freedom.

And, turning to Mrs. Reagan, Pelosi said that besides honoring her husband, "I hope you know that we honor you."

Walking with help, a white-suited Mrs. Reagan noted: "The last time I was in this room was for Ronnie's service (in 2004), so it's nice to be back under happier circumstances."

Among those under the Rotunda was Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, one of Reagan's chief political advisers.

"There was so much purpose" in the Reagan White House, Daniels said. "We always said we knew every morning what the job was: Shrink government, cut taxes and fight Russians."

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