Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke today at the dedication of a statue of the former President Ronald Reagan in the Capitol Rotunda. The Reagan statue will become part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, which is composed of statues donated by individual states to honor notable men and women in each state’s history. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“From his earliest days as an actor entertaining crowds at the Last Frontier Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip to his profound partnership with Nevada’s Paul Laxalt, my state has always felt close to President Ronald Reagan.
“The same week Ronald Reagan became governor of California, Paul Laxalt became governor next door in Nevada. When Ronald Reagan first sought the Presidency, Paul Laxalt managed his campaign. And when President Reagan was down the street in the White House, Paul Laxalt worked here as Nevada’s Senior Senator.
“Paul was President Reagan’s number-one confidant in the Senate, and the President trusted him with many important, difficult and often classified assignments. When he sent Paul to the Philippines to convince Ferdinand Marcos to step aside, he brought that nation back from the brink of civil war.
“Senator Laxalt is with us today to honor his good friend. He was so close to President Reagan that some called him the ‘First Friend.’
“But we know no one was more important to President Reagan than his loving and beloved First Lady, Nancy. Mrs. Reagan, it is wonderful to see you today – smiling, as always, by President Reagan’s side.
“The talented sculptor Chas Fagan said that when he carved the statue we are about to unveil, he shaped the President’s face in the friendly, familiar grin Reagan would flash just moments before he would tell a joke.
“That optimism, charm and good humor is such a central part of what President Reagan brought to our country. But behind that grin lay a resolve that kept Americans safe and kept America strong.
“This is a fitting place to honor him. It was just next door, in Statuary Hall, where the new President began his first term by telling the country that the Americans held for more than a year in Iran were on their way home.
“And it was here under this dome, as temperatures outside sank into the single digits, that President Reagan began his second term. It was the first inauguration I attended as a Member of Congress, and the first and only time a President has taken the oath of office in the Capitol Rotunda.
“On that bitter cold day at the height of the Cold War, President Reagan’s characteristic confidence warmed and reassured America.
‘History is a ribbon, always unfurling,’ he said in this room nearly a quarter of a century ago. ‘History is a journey. And as we continue our journey, we think of those who traveled before us.’
“President Reagan’s travels – from Dixon, Illinois; Hollywood; and Las Vegas to Washington, Berlin sand beyond – left as enduring a legacy as anyone who has ever unfurled the long ribbon of our nation’s history. And throughout that time, Nevadans have always been proud to call him our neighbor, our leader and our friend.”