London today celebrated Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday and his role in bringing down the Iron Curtain with the unveiling of a 10-foot bronze statue of the former President at the U.S. Embassy in England.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke at the event, which drew a crowd of 2,000. Reagan’s statue will stand alongside those of former Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The tribute is one of many commemorations of Reagan’s legacy held across Europe over the past week.
Hague called to mind Reagan’s legacy, remarking that, “Statues bring us face to face with our heroes long after they are gone. Ronald Reagan is without question a great American hero, one of America’s finest sons and a giant of 20th century history. You may be sure that the people of London will take this statue to their hearts.”
Ronald Reagan was a great President and a great man – a true leader for our times,” wrote Baroness Thatcher.
He held clear principles and acted upon them with purpose. Through his strength and his conviction he brought millions of people to freedom as the Iron Curtain finally came down. It was a pleasure to be his colleague and his friend and I hope that this statue will be a reminder to future generations of the debt we owe him.”
Ronnie would have been so touched that his centennial birthday is being celebrated in London and central Europe. He felt a special bond with people who struggled to be free and was so very thankful that Great Britain shared our commitment to bringing down the Iron Curtain. I know he would want these events to remind us all of the power of freedom.
That bond was felt across Eastern Europe last week. USAToday writes that in Krakow, Poland, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, personal assistant to Pope John Paul II, said a Mass of thanksgiving in Reagan’s honor at the Basilica of St. Mary. Meanwhile a special session of the parliament in Budapest, Hungary, was due to honor Reagan, while a statue of Reagan was to be unveiled there in Freedom Square in front of the U.S. Embassy. And on Thursday, Prague was to rename the street in front of the U.S. ambassador’s residence “Ronald Reagan Street.”
It’s no wonder that the people of Europe celebrate Reagan’s legacy today. As millions suffered under the Soviet Union’s oppression, Reagan took communism head on and held firm to his belief that the liberating light of freedom would break through the Iron Curtain. The Heritage Foundation’s Lee Edwards said of Reagan’s vision:
President Reagan had the ability to foresee what others could not. In the early 1980s, liberal intellectuals such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and John K. Galbraith were lauding the economic accomplishments of the Soviet Union. At the same time, Reagan told the British Parliament that a “global campaign for freedom” would prevail over the forces of tyranny and that “the Soviet Union itself is not immune to this reality.” By the end of the decade, as he predicted, Marxism–Leninism was dumped on the ash heap of history.
And today, as we celebrate America’s new birth of freedom, we remember Reagan’s commitment to our founding principles — rooted in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Edwards writes:
From his very first national speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater’s presidential bid in October 1964 to his farewell address to the nation in January 1989, Reagan turned again and again to the wisdom of the Founders. Indeed, more than once, he sounded like one of them.
Reiterating the central role of the American Revolution, the President said: “Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words, ‘We the people.’”