Washington, D.C.-- Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders spoke at a ceremony this morning in the Capitol Rotunda to unveil a statue of former President Ronald Reagan. The statue will become part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, which is comprised of two statues from each state to honor notable men and women. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
“It is a distinct honor for my colleagues as well as for myself to welcome so many distinguished guests on this very special day in the Capitol.
“The unveiling of a statue in the Capitol is always exciting. But rarely are we able to do it in the presence of an immediate family member. It's usually about history. Today, it is a great privilege for all of us to be joined by the former First Lady, Mrs. Ronald Reagan, Nancy Reagan. We're honored by your presence.
“President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan had one of the great love stories of all time and the American people benefited from that. The support, the love, that Mrs. Reagan gave the President were a source of joy to the American people and of strength to the President of the United States.
“Mrs. Reagan, with your presence here today, I hope you know that we honor you. Not only for your support of the President, but for turning that support and love into action. Your support for stem cell research has made a significant difference in the lives of many American people. It has saved lives, it has found cures, it has given hope to people.
“It is appropriate that we gather here with leaders from both sides of the aisle and both chambers of the House and I'm pleased that my predecessor Dennis Hastert is here. Thank you, Dennis, for joining us. We're also joined by the former governor of California and Mrs. Wilson, Pete Wilson. Thank you, Governor, for joining us.
“President Reagan understood that bipartisanship and civility were important in all our debates. Ever a gentleman, he never questioned the motives of the person because he knew people in public office loved our country and acted on behalf of the American people. His friendship with another Speaker, Speaker Tip O'Neill, is legendary and that friendship was based on, among other things, their shared Irish heritage. It was characterized by grace, by charm, and by good humor.
“And in the good humor department, I'd like to share as a Californian, the special pride that we take as Californians, in the unveiling of this statue today, to tell you this story.
“When President Reagan was governor of California, he went over to the chamber, the Assembly Chamber, to deliver the State of the State address. It happened to be around the time of his birthday, so the legislators wheeled in a birthday cake. The President -- then governor -- proceeded to blow out the candles and then someone called out to him and said, ‘Governor, did you make a wish?' Without missing a beat, he said, ‘Yes, but it didn't come true.'
Jesse Unruh was the Speaker of the Assembly. He was someone who did not share, shall we say, much political ground with Ronald Reagan. So Governor Reagan said: ‘Yes, I made a wish, but it didn't come true. He's still there,' as he looked at Jesse Unruh.
“In August 2006, that same state legislature voted overwhelmingly and in a bipartisan way to establish Ronald Reagan's statue as our second California statue in the Capitol of the United States.
“And so here we are today -- standing next to this statue of President Eisenhower over here. When we dedicated this statue not that long ago, members of President Eisenhower's family were here, and they told us that he wanted to be depicted in his general's uniform as he was addressing the troops before D-Day.
“President Eisenhower, President Reagan, and all of us who take the oath of office know that our first responsibility is to protect and defend the American people. And that's why it's so appropriate that President Reagan's statue has contained in it chunks of the Berlin Wall, as a symbol of his commitment to national security and his success.
“President Reagan said, we must ‘not only preserve the flame of freedom, but we must cast its warmth and light further than those who came before us.' That is our responsibility.
“With the unveiling of this statue today, we know that all who come after us will forever know -- all visitors to this Capitol will know -- the respect and the esteem and the admiration that California, this Congress, and the American people had for President Ronald Reagan.”