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Former President Reagan, Wife Receive Congressional Gold Medal

Former President Ronald Reagan, and his wife Nancy, have received the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington.

In the rotunda of the capitol building yet another historic event, as President George Bush joined members of Congress to honor Mr. Reagan.

The former President was not present. At 91, he suffers from advanced Alzheimer's disease and remained at home in California.

But Mrs. Reagan received a lengthy standing ovation, and then spoke briefly, recalling a moment from the past: "It was in this room that Ronnie and I came after his first inaugural. And it was in this room that we were told the prisoners had been released, they were in Iranian airspace, and everything was going to be alright. It was very exciting. I want to thank you, all of you for your expressions, what you said, and I can't say anymore. Thank you very much," Mrs. Reagan said. President Bush said Mr. Reagan will be remembered for his contributions to the United States, and to the world: "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," President Bush said.

The award culminated two days of tributes in Washington to the Reagans. Earlier, in brief remarks to a Republican party gathering, Mrs. Reagan said her husband was there in spirit.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award Congress can bestow upon a civilian.

Among the tributes to Mr. Reagan was one from former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose letter to the Reagans was read by Congressman Jim Gibbons of Nevada: "We changed the nature of relations between our two countries, by building trust and verifying it with concrete deeds. All difficulties notwithstanding, this trust has been preserved," Gibbons read.

Senate Minority leader Trent Lott recalled speeches given by Mr. Reagan in the capitol building: "From this spot he inspired our nation and he changed the world. And so it's appropriate today that we celebrate not only his presidency but a wonderful partnership. A collaboration that became over the course of time a love affair with America," Mr. Lott said.

Others who have received the Congressional Gold Medal over the years include South Africa's Nelson Mandela, and Pope John Paul the Second.