Washington pays tribute to Reagan with, yes, another statue
As a year-long commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth winds down, a 9-foot likeness of the former president was unveiled Tuesday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
The bronze statue depicts Reagan in a business suit in front of a low curving stainless steel wall that includes a cutout image of an eagle. The $900,000 statue was paid for by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation after a fundraising drive led by former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a former Reagan transportation secretary.
Although former First Lady Nancy Reagan did not attend the ceremony, her office issued a statement saying she was "thrilled to know that he will stand at the airport welcoming visitors to our nation’s capital."
The statue joins other tributes to Reagan, who died in 2004, in the capital region, including the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center -- one of the biggest government buildings in Washington named, ironically, after a critic of big government -- and another Reagan statue in the U.S. Capitol.
Congress in 1998 named the airport after the former president -- who had fired air traffic controllers during a 1981 union strike -- but only after a bit of political skirmishing.
The airport statue was created by North Carolina sculptor Chas Fagan, who studied videos of Reagan beforehand. Fagan also created the Reagan statue placed in the Capitol Rotunda in 2009 and a Reagan statue unveiled in London earlier this year.
The unveiling comes in a year filled with Reagan tributes, including a Reagan-themed float in the Rose Parade; a Super Bowl tribute; a jet flyover and howitzer salute at the Reagan library in Simi Valley; the naming of a street after the former president in Prague (Ronalda Reagana) and the unveiling of a Reagan statue in Newport Beach.
The Motion Picture Assn. of America plans to hold a discussion in Washington this month on how Reagan’s work as an actor shaped his role as president and political communication. The National Archives also is exhibiting more rarely displayed items from Reagan’s presidency, including a copy of his 1986 speech on the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and pages from the former president’s 1989 farewell address from the Oval Office.
An effort to put Reagan's face on the $50 bill in place of Ulysses S. Grant's has faltered.
-- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.
Photo: From left; Frederick Ryan Jr., chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Charles Snelling, chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, unveil the statue of former President Reagan on Tuesday at Washington's Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press