John Heubusch is the Executive Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.
As Americans all over the world celebrate their Independence Day, a small number of them will be in London, joined by hundreds more British and European guests, for the unveiling of a new statue of Ronald Reagan near the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. In this same park are statues of two other American Presidents who stood shoulder to shoulder with the British people and helped liberate a captured continent: Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower.
The General Dwight D. Eisenhower statue, dedicated in 1989, was placed in Grosvenor Square as a tribute to his accomplishments as the Great Liberator of Western Europe. The statue of Franklin Roosevelt serves to remind all nations of the remarkable bond between President Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill. This bond was forged through bloodshed, and yet it endures today as one of the greatest forces for peace and stability.
Today, a bronze of President Ronald Reagan will be unveiled in the Square, directly across from that of General Eisenhower, to celebrate President Reagan’s strong bond with Margaret Thatcher, the end of the Cold War, and the cause of world freedom. A piece of the Berlin Wall is embedded as part of this memorial to honor his work as the Great Liberator of Eastern Europe. It is a tribute to the solidarity of the Western alliance, which was essential to the promotion of freedom.
The statue is elevated by a 6-foot plinth of Portland stone and features the US presidential seal with a quote from President Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” A symbolic presence, the heroic statue includes a portion of the Berlin Wall and a personal tribute by Margaret Thatcher etched within the base which reads, “Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot.”
The Centennial anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth is a historic celebration of freedom. But the 100th birthday of America’s 40th President is not only for Americans, just as his legacy of freedom is not confined to any one country.
Last week, three European nations honored President Reagan– Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Several American dignitaries attended attend the events, including Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a delegation of US Congressmen led by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.
The celebrations began in Krakow last Monday, June 27, with a special Catholic Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica celebrated by Archbishop Dziwisz. Poland was the birthplace of one of the 20th Century’s other great anti-Communists, Pope John Paul II. Ronald Reagan and the Holy Father met at Vatican City in 1982. The two heads of state quickly found they had plenty in common. Both had survived assassination attempts one year before. Both shared a vision of a Poland free from the tyranny of Communism.
On Wednesday, June 29th the Reagan Centennial Celebrations moved to Hungary where a new statue of Ronald Reagan was dedicated in “Freedom Square.” It is the site of the sole remaining Soviet monument in Budapest, placed to remind Hungarians that Communist Russia freed them from Nazi Germany. It is poetic that the Centennial statue of President Reagan, who played a major role in freeing Hungary from Communism, now overlooks the old Soviet monument.
The Czech people are also no strangers to the evils of Communism. Out of their defiance emerged the next generation of pro-market European leaders, including Vaclav Havel, first president of the Czech Republic. Reagan was honored in Prague on Friday, July 1st, with a street re-named after him.
Today’s it is London’s turn. In the United Kingdom, the deep and enduring friendship between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan proved to be one of the most consequential alliances in modern history. His legacy still animates British lore. Foreign Secretary Hague referred to it in February of this year when he said that the global challenges we face today are “immense and unpredictable, and in need of that Reagan optimism.”
It is fitting that these four nations now honor an American president during the Centennial of his birth. Like Reagan, they embraced freedom and fought against the agony, fear and oppression that defined Communist rule. And although many U.S. presidents voiced solidarity with those locked behind the Iron Curtain, and those immediately facing it, it was Ronald Reagan who had the courage and conviction to declare that one day their long nightmare would end. In this effort he found staunch and unwavering allies in the British people.
The legacy of Ronald Reagan is all around us, from the foundations of Eastern European democracies to the buds of freedom in the Middle East today. In honoring President Reagan in London today, we reaffirm our commitment to freedom and liberty the world over.
> In today's Times (£) Rudolph Giuliani writes that "Reagan’s revolution is still toppling tyrannies".