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Former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy in a 1992 photo.
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RONALD REAGAN: 1911-2004

Farewells to a friend

Here are excerpts of eulogies:

By wire services
Published June 12, 2004

PRESIDENT BUSH: "Great American story will close'

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

It has been 10 years since he said his own farewell, yet it is still very sad and hard to let him go. Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now, but we preferred it when he belonged to us. . . .

When the sun sets tonight off the coast of California and we lay to rest our 40th president, a great American story will close. . . .

He believed in the golden rule and in the power of prayer. He believed that America was not just a place in the world, but the hope of the world. And he believed in taking a break now and then, because, as we said, there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse. . . .

There came a point in Ronald Reagan's film career when people started seeing a future beyond the movies. The actor Robert Cummings recalled one occasion: "I was sitting around the set with all these people and we were listening to Ronnie, quite absorbed. I said, "Ron, have you ever considered someday becoming president?' He said, "President of what?' "President of the United States,' I said. And he said, "What's the matter? Don't you like my acting either?' " . . .

Ronald Reagan's moment arrived in 1980. He came out ahead of some very good men, including one from Plains and one from Houston. What followed was one of the decisive decades of the century as the convictions that shaped the president began to shape the times. . . .

As he showed what a president should be, he also showed us what a man should be. . . .

A boy once wrote to him requesting federal assistance to help clean up his bedroom. The president replied that, unfortunately, funds are dangerously low. He continued: "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. Congratulations."

See, our 40th president wore his title lightly, and it fit like a white Stetson. . . .

We know, as he always said, that America's best days are ahead of us. But with Ronald Reagan's passing, some very fine days are behind us. And that is worth our tears.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: "I learned a lot about humor'

When Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945, the New York Times wrote, "Men will thank God 100 years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House."

It will not take 100 years to thank God for Ronald Reagan. . . .

As his vice president for eight years, I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life. I learned kindness; we all did. I also learned courage; the nation did.

Who can forget the horrible day in March 1981, he looked at the doctors in the emergency room and said, "I hope you're all Republicans."

And then I learned decency; the whole world did. Days after being shot, weak from wounds, he spilled water from a sink, and entering the hospital room aides saw him on his hands and knees wiping water from the floor. He worried that his nurse would get in trouble. . . .

And perhaps as important as anything, I learned a lot about humor, a lot about laughter. And, oh, how President Reagan loved a good story.

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

It was typical. It was wonderful.

And in leaving the White House, the very last day, he left in the yard outside the Oval Office door a little sign for the squirrels. He loved to feed those squirrels. And he left this sign that said, "Beware of the dog," and to no avail, because our dog Millie came in and beat the heck out of the squirrels.

But anyway, he also left me a note, at the top of which said, "Don't let the turkeys get you down." . . .

BARONESS MARGARET THATCHER: "Truly grace under pressure'

We have lost a great president, a great American, and a great man. And I have lost a dear friend.

In his lifetime Ronald Reagan was such a cheerful and invigorating presence that it was easy to forget what daunting historic tasks he set himself. . . .

In the terrible hours after the attempt on his life, his easy jokes gave reassurance to an anxious world. They were evidence that in the aftermath of terror and in the midst of hysteria, one great heart at least remained sane and jocular. They were truly grace under pressure.

And perhaps they signified grace of a deeper kind. Ronnie himself certainly believed that he had been given back his life for a purpose. As he told a priest after his recovery, "whatever time I've got left now belongs to the big fella upstairs."

And surely it is hard to deny that Ronald Reagan's life was providential, when we look at what he achieved in the eight years that followed. . . .

I cannot imagine how any diplomat, or any dramatist, could improve on his words to Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva summit: "Let me tell you why it is we distrust you." Those words are candid and tough and they cannot have been easy to hear. But they are also a clear invitation to a new beginning and a new relationship that would be rooted in trust.

We live today in the world that Ronald Reagan began to reshape with those words.

FORMER CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER BRIAN MULRONEY: "Confident and accomplished'

In the spring of 1987 President Reagan and I were driven into a large hangar at the Ottawa Airport, to await the arrival of Mrs. Reagan and my wife, Mila, prior to departure ceremonies for their return to Washington. We were alone except for the security details.

President Reagan's visit had been important, demanding and successful. Our discussions reflected the international agenda of the times: The nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union and the missile deployment by NATO; pressures in the Warsaw pact, challenges resulting from the Berlin Wall and the ongoing separation of Germany; and bilateral and hemispheric free trade.

President Reagan had spoken to Parliament, handled complex files with skill and good humor - strongly impressing his Canadian hosts - and here we were, waiting for our wives.

When their car drove in a moment later, out stepped Nancy and Mila - looking like a million bucks. As they headed toward us, President Reagan beamed, threw his arm around my shoulder and said with a grin: "You know, Brian, for two Irishmen we sure married up." . . .

Ronald Reagan does not enter history tentatively - he does so with certainty and panache. At home and on the world stage, his were not the pallid etchings of a timorous politician. They were the bold strokes of a confident and accomplished leader. . . .

[Last modified June 11, 2004, 23:46:13]


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