Delivers Keynote at Ceremony Honoring President and Mrs. Reagan
Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony
The United States Capitol
May 16, 2002
2:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Ever since the American Revolution,
our Congress has given Gold Medals to heroes of our republic. Today I'm honored
to join the members of the Congress from both parties in paying tribute to Nancy
and Ronald Reagan as they receive this high award, the Congressional Gold Medal,
in recognition of their contributions to America and to the cause of freedom.
Mrs. Reagan, it's great to see you again. It's always a pleasure to be with
I want to thank our Secretary of State Colin Powell for joining us today --
Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming. I appreciate the justices from our courts
being here. I particularly want to thank the members of Congress -- Mr. Speaker,
and Senator Byrd, and all the members of the Congress who are here.
I want to welcome all the friends of President and Mrs. Reagan. All of you all
who work in the Reagan administration, welcome back to your old stomping grounds.
Ronald Reagan is one of the largest figures of our time. His name will always
stand for courage and consistency, for patriotism and resolve, and for humor
and optimism. He's a man of great talent and great character. Yet his entire
career is a tribute to the power of great ideas.
President Reagan believed deeply in American character and destiny. He believed
deeply in the power of freedom to improve the lives of average men and women.
These ideas changed America, and they changed the world. Not only because he
eloquently explained them, because they are right and they are true.
Ronald Reagan believed that prosperity is another -- another name for economic
freedom. And his policies of freedom laid the foundations for a prosperous and
for a generous society.
Ronald Reagan believed that history is on the side of human liberty; that all
tyranny must be temporary, because liberty is the universal hope of all mankind.
He believed that the aspirations of our country require the might of our military.
And he knew that the cause of freedom is served by moral clarity, a willingness
to call oppression and evil by their proper names.
Above all, Ronald Reagan believed in the strong character of the American people,
even when some on both the left and right were quite skeptical of that character.
He would recognize the country we have seen since September the 11th. He would
look at the spirit and the sacrifice of the firefighters and police officers,
the men and women of our military, average Americans, and he'd be proud. He
wouldn't be surprised. He knew the courage and decency and generosity at the
heart of this country because he shared it and he embodied it.
At every step of an amazing life, Nancy Reagan has been at Ronald Reagan's side.
Right by his side. As his optimism inspired us, her love and devotion strengthened
him. As First Lady of California, Mrs. Reagan spoke out on behalf of POWs and
American servicemen missing in action. As our First Lady of the United States,
Nancy Reagan led an anti-drug campaign that helped significantly reduce teen
drug use. Now she has joined the fight against the terrible curse of Alzheimer's.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan were married in 1952, and their love for one another
has only grown greater with the passage of time. They set out to make a life
together, and this amazing partnership helped change the world. Now on a difficult
journey, we admire Nancy Reagan's eloquent example of loyalty and love.
May God bless you and your husband, Mrs. Reagan. And may God bless this country
he loves so much.
And now I'm honored to present the Gold Medal, along with the Speaker and Senator
Byrd, President Pro Tempore.
(The medal was presented.) (Applause.)
MRS. REAGAN: Thank you very much. Well, it's such an honor to be here. And thank
you, Mr. President. And thank you, Mr. Speaker, and everyone.
This is a very, obviously, very special occasion for me, and very memorable,
because it was in this room that Ronnie and I came after his first inaugural.
And it was in this room that we found -- we were told that the prisoners had
been released, and they were in Iranian airspace, and everything was going to
be all right. It was very exciting.
But I want to thank you, all of you, for all your expressions and what you've
said. And I -- I can't say any more. Thank you very much. (Applause.)