WASHINGTON – Ronald Reagan would have loved the cinematic moment: a packed house Wednesday in the immense Capitol Rotunda, a horde of photographers, and a blue cloth dramatically pulled off to reveal a 7-foot bronze statue of the 40th president.
His widow, Nancy Reagan, wiped away a tear as she took it all in. “It’s a wonderful likeness of Ronnie; he would be so proud,” the former first lady, 87, told the crowd of former Reagan officials, members of Congress and old Washington hands.
Five years ago, when Reagan died at 93, his flag-draped casket was visited by thousands in the Rotunda. “The last time that I was in this room was for Ronnie’s service,” Nancy Reagan said. “It’s nice to be back under happier circumstances.”
One other Reaganesque touch: A few pieces of the Berlin Wall, torn down 20 years ago, were embedded in the statue. Several speakers recalled how Reagan’s leadership helped end the Cold War.
“Having this statue here in the Capitol means a great deal to California and the nation,” said former Calif. Gov. Pete Wilson. “It will be a reminder of what Ronald Reagan often said, that you can’t take freedom for granted.”
The statue shows a tall, confident Reagan with a hint of a smile. Sculptor Chas Fagan said he wanted to capture the president with the characteristic face he made just before telling the punchline of a joke.