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Public Statements

Mourning the Passing of President Ronald Reagan

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MOURNING THE PASSING OF PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN -- (House of Representatives - June 09, 2004)

Mr. COX. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the previous order of the House, I call up the resolution (H. Res. 664) mourning the passing of President Ronald Reagan and celebrating his service to the people of the United States and his leadership in promoting the cause of freedom for all the people of the world, and ask for its immediate further consideration.

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Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, this opportunity to share a few words about President Reagan.

Mr. Speaker, when our country was confronted with a terrible menace of dangerous ideology, Reagan rallied America and united the world to decisively defeat the threat of Communism. We are grateful for that leadership.

Ronald Reagan elevated the office of President. When mistakes were made, Ronald Reagan personally accepted responsibility. It did not matter what focus groups, polls, his advisers, political consultants said, he understood that the buck stopped with him and him alone.

He was an American icon, forever remembered for his warmth and the respect he afforded to others, and our thoughts and prayers today are with Nancy and his children and his family at this very difficult time.

Even when President Reagan broke the hearts of the Democrats, he was respected for his honesty, his beliefs, and the dedication he displayed in pursuing them.

As a young elementary student during the Challenger disaster, it was enormous comfort to those of us who were all watching, because there was a teacher on the Challenger at that time, to listen to President Reagan as we began to question why America was sending these astronauts up into space; why was there a teacher on the Challenger at that time. And President Reagan said to us that the future does not belong to the faint-hearted, it belongs to the brave, and communicating to us what America was all about.

I also remember as a young man President Reagan interacting with then-Speaker Tip O'Neill, in the way they got along, and they laughed and they talked and they joked. And that was a great example for those of us who were beginning to get acquainted with the political system.

I remember the courage and the humor that President Reagan showed when he was shot, hoping that the doctors were all Republican and telling his wife, who was terrified, that he forgot to duck.

I also cannot help but remember President Reagan, during the Washington Redskins ceremony at the Rose Garden after winning the Super Bowl, hitting Gary Sanders on the money as he ran a drag pattern across the Rose Garden.

The differences then, despite our disagreements, were real; but because of the way President Reagan led, he taught us that there is a big difference between strong beliefs and bitter partisanship. Strong beliefs and a love of country are the only way to bring this country forward as we face the enormous challenges that we have before this body today.

Ronald Reagan always stressed that we are a can-do country. Democrats and Republicans both believe this. And I believe it is that sense of optimism, as we look back on history, that the Presidents that moved the Nation forward were optimistic and believed the best and the brightest in this country would continue to move us forward.

Mr. Speaker, I believe we can get back on the right track with strong leadership and a real commitment to confronting the problems that face American families today. In the words of Ronald Reagan, we can do better. With tolerance and inclusion, uniting rather than dividing, we can continue the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

So when we return to work next week, I hope this House will be inspired by the leadership of Ronald Reagan instead of mired in the partisan politics that have too often affected our work as of late. We should be inspired by his patriotism and devotion to our country, and we should remember his faith, his optimism, and his unwavering commitment to his convictions as we do the work of the American people.

In the words of President Reagan, those comforting words he gave us some 18 years, and we will never forget Ronald Reagan, nor the last time we saw him, for now he has slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God. We will miss him.

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Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to share my heartfelt condolences with Nancy Reagan and the Reagan children. Our nation owes them a special debt of gratitude for their strength in caring for their husband and father over the past decade as he battled Alzheimer's disease and for everything they've done to uphold his dignity and legacy for our country.

As we prepare to lay former U.S. President Ronald Reagan to rest, it's important that we reflect on his brave and principled leadership-and the hope he gave to countless individuals in our country and around the world.

Looking back at the footage of Reagan's speeches and other public appearances, one of his most striking qualities was his enduring optimism. At the time that he entered the White House, self-doubt and pessimism had practically paralyzed our nation and most Americans saw no end in sight to soaring inflation, economic stagnation and the Cold War.

Though he had a realistic view of the challenges that faced the United States, Reagan believed in us. He knew that free individuals have immense potential for good, and he knew the strength of our American system of free enterprise and self-government. His "can-do" spirit infused our country and brought a renewed sense of hope and opportunity to those who had nearly forgotten what America stands for.

Fundamentally, Ronald Reagan trusted us. He trusted that Americans know how to spend the money they earn better than the federal government does. He trusted that, once barriers to private enterprise and economic growth were lifted, American creativity and drive would bring our economy and jobs back. He trusted American resolve in defense of liberty. And he trusted people enough to speak plainly with them about his beliefs and intentions.

President Reagan's words carried weight because we knew he meant what he said-and the Soviets and the rest of the world knew it too. He was not a poll-watcher. He was a man of conviction-a man with a clear philosophy that guided his actions. This philosophy was rooted in a love of freedom and a deep faith in God.

Speaking to students at Moscow State University on May 31, 1988, Ronald Reagan said "Democracy is less a system of government than it is a system to keep government limited, unintrusive: A system of constraints on power to keep politics and government secondary to the important things in life, the true sources of value found only in family and faith."

Imagine what it must have been like for him to bring this message to the heart of an empire where government had for decades superceded individual rights. Reagan's commitment to actually winning the Cold War, his determination to secure peace through strength, and his recognition that communism is a bankrupt, immoral ideology were essential to ending the Soviet threat and liberating the Eastern bloc nations and their people.

When you consider the countless individuals who owe their freedom in part to Ronald Reagan's leadership and the many Americans who today have close friends or family with whom they have reunited in areas formerly off-limits-who had been shut away behind the Iron Curtain-you get a sense of why so many across the world feel a personal connection with Reagan.

On top of all his achievements, beyond all that Reagan did to rejuvenate our economy, win the Cold War, and renew our country's sense of purpose and optimism, there was the man himself. He had great confidence in America's founding values as well as an excellent sense of humor. And he succeeded in raising the level of discourse in our political arena. People might have disagreed with him on policy decisions, and his opponents in Congress argued fiercely with him, but at the end of the day they respected one another. It was a time of greater civility in politics, and we should strive to recapture that.

We look to Ronald Reagan's example as an inspiration today and express once more the thanks of a very grateful nation.

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