A legacy remembered: Reagan's 100th birthday

February 6, 2011 4:59:41 AM PST
Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Illinois native Ronald Reagan, and celebrations of Reagan's legacy are happening in many places, including a big Republican event in Chicago.

First, a book signing by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich was organized to commemorate his take on the Reagan years -- a way into the celebration of an American icon on the centennial of his birth.

Many came to Chicago Saturday night to celebrate the lion of conservatism and how he inspired them.

"I just learned so much about leadership, about focusing on a handful of really big things, and frankly, the extraordinary effect of defeating the Soviet empire," Gingrich said.

"I really watched one of the ultimate pros, a man who could deliver a speech better than anyone, define American values and focus on the big things, defeating the Soviet Union, recovering our economy and reminding us that we were an exceptional nation," said U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

That notion of exceptionality was on the lips of many of the 700 people who came to downtown Chicago, intent on ensuring the 40th president's legacy.

"When I was a little girl, my mother often talked about one of the presidents in an unkind way because it was her country that, after World War II, was given to the Soviet Union. She was always very upset about that and I lived long enough to see Ronald Reagan break down the wall," said Agnes Christman, a Reagan fan from Danville, Ill.

Several luminaries said the Obama Administration could learn a thing or two from how Reagan governed America.

Former Republican Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolten sees inconsistencies in the White House's approach to the calls for democracy in Egypt.

"I think the immediate need is to restore stability and to work with legitimate political forces in Egypt, not terrorists, not totalitarians, and see what the way forward is, and I think that's what Reagan would have done," Bolten said.

For the young at this celebration, Reagan's appeal is timeless.

"He made the world realize America stood for liberty, human rights, freedom and that is what we need to be again today. We need to be a beacon of freedom," said Northwestern University student Ali Riegler.

Sunday's Super Bowl will include a special tribute to Reagan just before kickoff.

Additionally, Reagan's library announced Saturday night that it has surpassed its fundraising goal of $100 million to fund scholarships dedicated to studying what 'The Gipper' stood for.