Year-Long Celebration Planned to Mark President Ronald Reagan's 100th Birthday
Most of the events staged in the past to celebrate the bicentennial or centennial of a U.S. president or first lady were paid for with money appropriated by Congress. But the proclamation signed by President Barack Obama last year to set up a commission for the Reagan centennial does not require federal funding.
“True to form for Ronald Reagan, the legislation calls for no taxpayer funds,” John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, told CNSNews.com. “So all of the activities will take place ,not because we asked the taxpayers to dig into their pockets and throw money to Washington, but rather because we are successful in raising the funds necessary to do it through the president’s foundation.”
To that end, Heubusch and Stewart McLaurin, who is the executive director of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration, are trying to rally Reagan supporters to donate to the cause at www.reagancentennial.com.
The plans for the centennial celebration are ambitious, starting with a presence at the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1, 2011. “We hope to be the first float out in that parade,” McLaurin said.
On Feb. 5, the newly renovated Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., will be dedicated. The library includes the Ronald Reagan Museum, which is being transformed to reach out to young people who weren’t yet born when Reagan was in the White House and who live in a world of high technology.
The museum will offer virtual exhibits that allow visitors to share the stage with Reagan as he takes his oath of office or ride side by side with the former president on horseback at his beloved California ranch.
On Feb. 6, Reagan’s birth date, a military ceremony will be held at the library, including a flyover. That event will be followed by an evening concert at the Hollywood Bowl featuring yet-to-be named celebrities.
One of the highlights of the celebration also will take place on Reagan’s birthday. That is the day that the “Reagan Torch of Freedom” will leave the library for a cross country tour that will end at the U.S. Capitol on July 4, 2011.
The torch will travel along Highway 66 and be traded off by participants who want to honor the former president, including students, military veterans and Reagan administration alumni.
Heubusch and McLaurin said the tour is meant to bring the Reagan celebration to “the heartland of America.”
Another plan for spreading centennial events across the country is a partnership between the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation with universities where academic workshops will take place to study Reagan and his role in changing the nation and the world. Themes will include the restoration of the American economy and winning the Cold War.
When asked why Reagan remains such an icon in the conservative movement, Heubusch acknowledged that the president’s influence has not waned.
“I don’t want to paint it as a resurgence of Ronald Reagan because I frankly think that his popularity, his strength as a moral leader for the country, really has never lapsed,” Heubusch said. “I think this kind of attention is justly deserved because there’s no question that he is one of, if not the greatest, American presidents in the last century.”
Until March 12, people can vie for a chance to attend three days of the celebration in California in February, 2011 by signing up at http://www.reagancentennial.com/#/celebration.