George W. Bush photo

Remarks on Presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to Former President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan

May 16, 2002

Thank you all very much. Ever since the American Revolution, our Congress has given gold medals to heroes of our Republic. Today I'm honored to join the Members of the Congress from both parties in paying tribute to Nancy and Ronald Reagan as they receive this high award, the Congressional Gold Medal, in recognition of their contributions to America and to the cause of freedom.

Mrs. Reagan, it's great to see you again. It's always a pleasure to be with you.

I want to thank our Secretary of State, Colin Powell, for joining us today; Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming. I appreciate the justices from our courts being here. I particularly want to thank the Members of Congress, Mr. Speaker and Senator Byrd and all the Members of the Congress who are here.

I want to welcome all the friends of President and Mrs. Reagan. All of you all who work in the Reagan administration, welcome back to your old stomping grounds.

Ronald Reagan is one of the largest figures of our time. His name will always stand for courage and consistency, for patriotism and resolve, and for humor and optimism. He's a man of great talent and great character. Yet, his entire career is a tribute to the power of great ideas.

President Reagan believed deeply in American character and destiny. He believed deeply in the power of freedom to improve the lives of average men and women. These ideas changed America, and they changed the world, not only because he eloquently explained them, because they are right and they are true. Ronald Reagan believed that prosperity is another—another name for economic freedom, and his policies of freedom laid the foundations for a prosperous and for a generous society.

Ronald Reagan believed that history is on the side of human liberty, that all tyranny must be temporary, because liberty is the universal hope of all mankind. He believed that the aspirations of our country require the might of our military. And he knew that the cause of freedom is served by moral clarity, a willingness to call oppression and evil by their proper names.

Above all, Ronald Reagan believed in the strong character of the American people, even when some on both the left and right were quite skeptical of that character. He would recognize the country we have seen since September the 11th. He would look at the spirit and sacrifice of the firefighters and police officers, the men and women of our military, average Americans, and he'd be proud. He wouldn't be surprised. He knew the courage and decency and generosity at the heart of this country because he shared it and he embodied it.

At every step of an amazing life, Nancy Reagan has been at Ronald Reagan's side— right by his side. As his optimism inspired us, her love and devotion strengthened him. As first lady of California, Mrs. Reagan spoke out on behalf of POWs and American servicemen missing in action. As our First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan led an antidrug campaign that helped significantly reduce teen drug use. Now she has joined the fight against the terrible curse of Alzheimer's.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan were married in 1952, and their love for one another has only grown greater with the passage of time. They set out to make a life together, and this amazing partnership helped change the world. Now on a difficult journey, we admire Nancy Reagan's eloquent example of loyalty and love.

May God bless you and your husband, Mrs. Reagan. And may God bless this country he loves so much.

And now I'm honored to present the Gold Medal, along with the Speaker and Senator Byrd, President pro tempore.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:50 p.m. in the Rotunda at the Capitol. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

George W. Bush, Remarks on Presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to Former President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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