World leaders mourn, remember Reagan


2004.06.11
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WASHINGTON, June 11, 2004-All four surviving American presidents and heads of state and government from around the world gathered here Friday for the funeral of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who died over the weekend at age 93.

President George W. Bush delivers eulogy at the funeral service for former President Ronald Reagan at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on June 11, 2004. (Soure: Whitehouse.gov)

The state funeral, the first in Washington in 31 years, took place under tight security and a drizzling rain, with a formal military procession from the Capitol building to eulogies at the soaring National Cathedral.

U.S. President George Bush described Reagan as a gentle optimist who transformed the United States. "He was optimistic that liberty would thrive wherever it was planted, and he acted to defend liberty wherever it was threatened... Through his love of our country, he became an enduring symbol of our country," Bush said.

"The ideology he opposed throughout his political life insisted that history was moved by impersonal ties and unalterable fates. Ronald Reagan believed instead in the courage and triumph of free men. And we believe it, all the more, because we saw that courage in him," Bush said.

In his eulogy, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney described Reagan as a president who "inspired his nation and transformed the world."

"He possessed a rare and prized gift called leadership-that ineffable and magical quality that sets some men and women apart so that millions will follow them as they conjure up grand visions and invite their countrymen to dream big and exciting dreams," Mulroney said.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is greeted by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev before the funeral service for former President Ronald Reagan at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on June 11, 2004. (Soure: Whitehouse.gov)

Speaking in a pre-recorded message because her own ill health prevented her from travelling, former British prime minister Lady Margaret Thatcher mourned the loss of a "great president, a great American, a great man" and a personal friend.

During his years in office, Thatcher said, Reagan inspired America and its allies with a "renewed faith in their mission of freedom."

"He won the Cold War, not only without firing a shot, but also by inviting enemies out of their fortress and turning them into friends," she said. "Though it is now a different world with different challenges and new dangers," Thatcher said, it is a world "more hopeful" than the world that Reagan inherited on becoming president.

Tens of thousands of mourners passed through the Capital Rotunda, where the body of the 40th U.S. president lay in state from Wednesday to Friday.

Thousands visited overnight, and many waited in line for up to seven hours to pay respects to the onetime movie actor whom many credit with hastening the end of the Cold War. Security in and around the U.S. capital was extremely tight because of fears of a terrorist attack.

President Bush and other world leaders attend the funeral service for former President Ronald Reagan at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on June 11, 2004. (Soure: Whitehouse.gov)

Other world leaders in attendance included British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, ex-U.S. presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, South African President Thabo Mbeki, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the widow of the late Shah of Iran, Farah Pahlavi. Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing represented France.

John Danforth, a former American senator from Missouri and an ordained Episcopalian priest, officiated, remember Reagan as "a child of the light." But clergy from the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jewish faiths also took part.

President Bush designated Friday a national day of mourning, with government offices and the New York Stock Exchange closed.

The proceedings began around 10:30 a.m., with a motorcade from the Capitol to the National Cathedral several kilometers north. Reagan's body was to be flown to California for a private burial late Friday in Simi Valley.

A movie actor who rose above poverty and survived an assassination attempt, Reagan served as president from 1981-89 and is credited by many with hastening the end of the Cold War.

As president, Reagan oversaw the largest military buildup in history, a huge tax cut, reduction in spending on domestic programs, and record-setting budget deficits.

Known as a genial man and dubbed "the great communicator" for his ability to convey his vision in simple, memorable language, Reagan often disarmed critics with quips and humor. He famously termed the Soviet government in Moscow "the evil empire" and described the United States as "a shining city on a hill."

During his second term in office, Reagan stepped up pressure on Moscow, then under the reformist leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, to stop the U.S.-Soviet arms race and end the Cold War. In 1989, the Soviet empire collapsed. Many people credit Reagan's policies with hastening that outcome and regard it as his most important legacy.

But Reagan's presidency was also tarnished by scandals, including what came to be called "the Iran-Contra affair," after senior aides were found to be shipping arms illegally to Iran and sending the profits to Nicaragua's right-wing Contra guerrillas.

Their aim was to secure the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Islamic groups linked to Iran. Reagan denied knowing about the operation.

Paid groundbreaking visit to China

Then U.S. President President Ronald Reagan, who died Saturday at 93, walks with Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, in Washington, Oct. 1, 1984. Both men held umbrellas to deflect rain after a meeting in the Cabinet Room in the White House. Zhao later became Chinese Communist Party general secretary, but he was stripped of his post days before the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989 for sympathising with students who occupied the square in Beijing. Zhao remains under watch at home in Beijing (Photo: APF).

Reagan began his two-term presidency a strong advocate for Taiwan, with which the United States had severed diplomatic ties in favor of the rival Communist government in Beijing in 1979. In 1984, however, Reagan met with China's then-premier, the reformist Zhao Ziyang, in Washington, and paid a landmark visit to China.

"They are opening up now," Reagan said, with U.S. companies able "to create branches of their own in China, in this so-called Communist China... Capitalism will be there in these plants."

"We went to China to advance the prospects for stability and peace throughout the world. We went to illustrate, by our presence, our sincere desire for good relations. We went to meet again with the Chinese and review our concerns and differences. We went to China to further define our two countries' relationship and by defining it, advance it. I feel we have progress to report."

James Lilley, former U.S. ambassador to China, served as head of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) under Reagan from 1982-84. He said in an interview Sunday with Radio Free Asia (RFA)'s Mandarin service that he had met with Reagan a number of times and that Reagan "cared about China."

In the early 1980s, Reagan regarded the Soviet Union, not China, as "the primary devil." It was therefore "essential" in Reagan's view for Washington to work with Beijing, Lilley said. But Reagan also wanted good relations with Taipei.

"He had a deep friendship with Taiwan," Lilley said.

In a separate interview with RFA's Korean service, Lilley described what some experts consider one of Reagan's finest foreign policy moves. Reagan sent a letter in June 1987 to South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan, who was facing widespread student demonstrations.

Lilley personally delivered the letter to Chun. It counseled Chun against declaring martial law and against using force against the students. After his meeting with Lilley, Chun agreed.

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911, in the Midwestern U.S. state of Illinois. His father sold shoes and his mother was a homemaker and sometime shop clerk.

After college, Reagan worked as a sports broadcaster in Iowa. He took a screen test in 1937 and was cast in Love Is On the Air . He worked as an actor for 28 years and appeared in dozens of movies. He entered the U.S. Army Air Corps as a second lieutenant in 1942.

Disqualified from combat duty because of his poor eyesight, he was assigned to make training films.

He was elected governor of California in 1966 and entered the presidential fray two years later, but he lost the Republican nomination to former California governor Richard Nixon. He lost the Republican nomination again in 1976 to President Gerald Ford. Four years later he defeated Democratic President Jimmy Carter in a landslide.

Less than three months after being sworn in, Reagan was shot in the chest while leaving a Washington hotel. "Honey," he told his wife immediately afterward, "I forgot to duck."#####

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