WASHINGTON, DC—Americans lined Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC on Wednesday to pay respect to Ronald Reagan. As the funeral procession made its way from the White House to the Capitol, tens-of-thousands stood in stone-silent tribute to America’s 40th President.
"Tears came to my eye,” explained Marsha Baiser of Springfield, Virginia. When the caisson passed, “I felt a sense of gratitude. He was a once-in-a-lifetime President.”
Lady Margaret Thatcher, both Presidents Bush and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney will deliver tributes at Friday’s funeral, but on Wednesday Americans from all walks of life offered their own eulogies for President Reagan. Most pointed to winning the Cold War, unleashing prosperity, and restoring dignity to America and the office of President as Reagan’s greatest achievements.
“The buildup that he did,” former military man Jim Gollogly said, “I can understand his thought process of trying to collapse the Soviet Union. He had the right idea.”
Brad Davis of Paducah, Kentucky didn’t vote for Reagan, but paid tribute to him as an American nonetheless. “What he did with the Soviets and the Cold War—if he wasn’t the only factor, he was a contributing factor,” Davis observed.
Ampara and Arnold Moles drove to the nation’s capital from Miami to pay their respects. “For us, [the fall of the Berlin Wall] was great because that was the end of the Communist Party” in Europe, said Ampara Moles, who got out of Cuba with her husband in 1968. Reagan “has done a lot for this country,” Mrs. Moles reminisced. “When he took over, this country was falling apart. He reunited America.”
Others concurred. “He brought back respect to the country,” explained Reverend Brother Joseph Scott, Jr., who took a commuter train from Chase, Maryland to witness the historic event.
“I support Reagan’s vision of what America could be, especially coming out of the 1970s,” remarked Dan Saunders of Clarksville, Maryland. “We were in a national funk. He wanted a strong America. Through his efforts, we got it.”
“To me, President Reagan ranks as one of the top three presidents in American history,” opined Roland Baiser, who viewed the funeral procession from west side of the Capitol. “We’re living today in the prosperity that he began.”
Wednesday’s outpouring of public support is the latest event in the continuing love affair America has had with Ronald Reagan. He was elected governor of California in 1966 by the greatest vote margin in the history of the Golden State. Then he went on to Reagan win 44 states to capture the White House in 1980, and 49 states in his landslide reelection four years later. Several opinion polls conducted since Reagan left office rank him at or near the top of all U.S. presidents in the eyes of the American people.
A twenty-one gun salute, companies of marching soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, a state funeral attended by 800 foreign and domestic dignitaries, and formations of jets flying overhead all honored the late President. His greatest tribute, however, came from his fellow Americans enduring the sweltering heat and a terrorist false-alarm just to say farewell to the Gipper.
“Everyone said Reagan was a ‘B’ actor,” Reverend Brother Joseph Scott, Jr. remembered. “But I say that his greatest performance was as president of the United States.”