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Former Soviet President Pays Tribute to Ronald Reagan

In the midwestern state of Illinois, the town of Eureka is home to a small liberal arts college. Eureka College gained national attention when one of its graduates, Ronald Reagan, became President of the United States. President Reagan gave several speeches at his alma mater, including a 1982 address where he proposed a reduction in nuclear weapons.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the symbolic end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visited Eureka College and paid tribute to the man he came to know as a partner in peace.

President Ronald Reagan is revered in Eureka.

Signs welcoming visitors to the small town announce that it is home to Mr. Reagan's alma mater, Eureka College.

Mr. Reagan received an undergraduate degree here in 1932 and on May 9, 1982, the 50th anniversary of his graduation, he made history by proposing, here, a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as START.

On May 9, 1982, President Ronald Reagan said, "The focus of our efforts will be to reduce significantly the most destabilizing systems, the ballistic missiles, the number of warheads they carry, and their overall destructive potential."

This year, the Ronald Reagan Society at Eureka College invited Mr. Reagan's onetime foe and then friend, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, to speak about Mr. Reagan's legacy.

"No one can deny one important fact. The Cold War was ended. We started the process of eliminating nuclear weapons. And relations between our two nations at that time turned into an excellent relationship," former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev stated.

One of the first stops on Mr. Gorbachev's visit to Eureka was the Reagan Peace Garden, not far from where the former President delivered his 1982 speech.

The Garden also features a remnant of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War symbol Mr. Reagan famously told Mr. Gorbachev to tear down.

"When I am asked what was my impression when he said that, it didn't have much of an impact on us. We knew that President Reagan in his initial career was an actor," Mr. Gorbachev said.

Mr. Gorbachev's light-hearted reflection provided insight into historic events that occured before students like Jennifer Dama were born.

"The Cold War and Ronald Reagan and the Gorbachev connection happened before most of us on the college were even born," Dama said. "So it's like living your history books. It's very exciting."

Dama was one of several students invited to ask Mr. Gorbachev questions at a convocation in his honor.

Her question focused on the current state of U.S.-Russia relations.

"I believe however that there is still understanding and importance in our relations, but many people in Russia believe that Americans can not be trusted, and that's why the main issue is how to rebuild the trust, how to rebuild a normal relationship of trust," Mr. Gorbachev said.

In another historic moment for Eureka, Mr. Gorbachev received an honorary degree from the faculty.

So in addition to sharing credit for moving to end the Cold War, Mr. Gorbachev now shares an honorary doctorate from Eureka College with its other famous alumni, Ronald Reagan.