'He Lifted Up the World'; 'Country He Loved'mourns Reagan

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 12, 2004 | Go to article overview

'He Lifted Up the World'; 'Country He Loved'mourns Reagan


Byline: Bill Sammon, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, left Washington for the final time yesterday after a moving state funeral in the National Cathedral, where he was remembered as the man who defeated Soviet communism and restored America's belief in itself.

"Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now, but we preferred it when he belonged to us," said President Bush, who joined three former world leaders to give eulogies that also honored the former president's widow, Nancy, seated in the front row.

After the service, marked by a mixture of tears and laughter, Mr. Reagan's body was flown back to California for a private burial at sunset atop a hill at his presidential library in Simi Valley.

"With the lever of American patriotism, he lifted up the world," former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said in her eulogy, which she videotaped months in advance because of her own ill health.

"And so today the world - in Prague, in Budapest, in Warsaw, in Sofia, in Bucharest, in Kiev and in Moscow itself - the world mourns the passing of the great liberator and echoes his prayer 'God bless America,'" she added.

Mrs. Thatcher's soft voice echoed off the walls of the towering cathedral, where she was seated among thousands of invited guests who arrived under gloomy skies and a misting rain.

Outside, mourners who had gathered to watch the arrival of the funeral motorcade kept vigil. Some had been among the more than 100,000 who bid farewell to Mr. Reagan during the 36-hour public viewing in the Capitol Rotunda.

Tributes played out across the city and country as the funeral service began at 11:30 a.m.

American guns around the world fired 21-gun salutes at the stroke of noon local time at U.S. military bases. At dusk, there was another worldwide round of 50-gun salutes.

One of the most emotional moments came as Mr. Bush's father paid tribute to his political mentor.

"As his vice president for eight years, I learned more from Ronald Reagan," the elder Mr. Bush said, his voice quavering before he paused to regain his composure, "than from anyone I encountered in all my years in public life."

Later, Mr. Bush drew the biggest laugh with an example of Mr. Reagan's legendary sense of humor:

"When asked, 'How did your visit go with Bishop Tutu?' he replied, 'So-so.'"

Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney reminded mourners of Mr. Reagan's unflinching opposition to the Soviet Union.

"Some in the West, during the early 1980s, believed communism and democracy were equally valid and viable," he said. "This was the school of moral equivalence.

"In contrast, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet communism as a menace to be confronted in the genuine belief that its squalid underpinnings would fall swiftly to the gathering winds of freedom," he added. "And we know now who was right."

Mr. Mulroney and the elder Mr. Bush delivered their eulogies from a simple wooden lectern placed on the vast marble floor of the cathedral. They were followed by President Bush, who ascended to an ornate stone pulpit to deliver the final eulogy.

"We lost Ronald Reagan only days ago but we have missed him for a long time," the president said. "We have missed his kindly presence, that reassuring voice and the happy ending we had wished for him."

Mr. Bush told a funny story about a boy who wrote Mr. Reagan a letter "requesting federal assistance to help clean up his bedroom."

"Unfortunately, funds are dangerously low," Mr. Reagan wrote back. "I'm sure your mother was fully justified in proclaiming your room a disaster.

"Therefore, you are in an excellent position to launch another volunteer program in our nation," the letter continued. "Congratulations."

The congregation erupted in laughter.

"See, our 40th president wore his title lightly," Mr. …

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