Ronald Reagan Honoured With London Statue

Rachel Younger, Sky News correspondent
4 July 2011

A statue of Ronald Reagan has been unveiled in London to mark what would have been the former US president's 100th birthday.

The 10ft bronze figure is designed to celebrate the enduring alliance between the UK and US at a time when many commentators believe the special relationship is fraying.

The inauguration ceremony outside the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square honoured the deep, personal friendship between Mr Reagan and Baroness Thatcher.

The woman he described as "the best man in England" was reportedly determined to attend the event but ill health kept the increasingly frail 85-year-old away.

The Iron Lady's words about the former president winning the Cold War "without firing a shot" are etched into the statue's plinth.

Both leaders are recognised as among the greats of 20th century politics, even by those who disagreed with their conservative principles.

The inauguration, attended by Foreign Secretary William Hague and former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, is part of a series of events across Europe to mark Mr Reagan's role in bringing down the Iron Curtain.

The 40th president of the US met the Soviet Union's leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin to urge him to "tear it down" at a time when many of his advisers believed the mission to be futile.

But he was strongly supported throughout by Lady Thatcher who shared his idealism and conviction, leading him to call her his "tower of strength".

A crowd of 2,000 people came to celebrate his achievements at the London ceremony, which coincided with American Independence Day.

In his address, Mr Hague said: "Statues bring us face to face with our heroes long after they are gone.

"Ronald Reagan is without question a great American hero, one of America's finest sons and a giant of 20th century history.

"You may be sure that the people of London will take this statue to their hearts."

The Foreign Secretary told the crowds that although Lady Thatcher could not be at the ceremony, she had given him a statement to read on her behalf.

It said: "'Ronald Reagan was a great president and a great man - a true leader for our times. He held clear principles and acted upon them with purpose.

'Through his strength and his conviction he brought millions of people to freedom as the Iron Curtain finally came down.

"It was a pleasure to be his colleague and his friend and I hope this statue will be a reminder to future generations of the debt we owe him."

Mr Reagan was president of the US between 1981 and 1989 and a recent Gallup poll found he remains one of the country's most popular leaders.

At 90, his widow Nancy was not strong enough to make the trip but she was represented by Ms Rice.

Mrs Reagan told her: "Ronnie would have been so touched that his centennial birthday is being celebrated in London and central Europe.

"He felt a special bond with people who struggled to be free and was so very thankful that Great Britain shared our commitment to bringing down the Iron Curtain.

"I know he would want these events to remind us all of the power of freedom."

The statue, created by sculptor Chaz Fagan, stands alongside existing statues of other American presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin D Roosevelt.

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