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Ronald Reagan Celebrates 93rd Birthday - 2004-02-06


On February 6, 2004, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California, will mark the 40th President's 93rd birthday with a special ceremony. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan will unveil the cornerstone of the new Air Force One Pavilion at Library and Museum. The Pavilion, which is set to open in Spring 2005, will house the plane that was used by the President. Cake will be served, but sadly, the President will not be there to join in the festivities. Mr. Reagan is now in the final stages of Alzheimer's, a disease that robs its victims of their memories. While he may not recall his place in history, many others do.

"It's really sad. He's the man who rejuvenated America's economy, restored its faith in itself, and, in Madam Margaret Thatcher's words --'won the cold war without firing a single shot.' And he really doesn't know i," says Jim Miller III, President Reagan's director of the office of management and budget. Mr. Miller remembers President Reagan as an optimistic and friendly boss.

"You really wanted to be with him because you felt like if you're not around him; you'd miss out on something special," he says. " He was particularly good at making people feel at ease. You'd be around him and you'd be in awe of him, but he would try very hard to make you feel at ease. He was a tremendous, wonderful communicator."

Working with Mr. Reagan was the highlight of Mr.'s miller's career. He says President Reagan was a boss with a vision.

"I remember frankly being in the national security council meetings where everyone around the table advised him to go one way and he'd say, 'No. We're going to do this, because I know this is right,'" he says.

President Reagan's former deputy chief of staff, Michael Deaver, says his boss not only had a vision, but also a strong faith.

" Reagan always had a great sense of destiny and believed in destiny. He believed that there was some sort of a higher direction for all of us. So it kept him marching forward regardless of what hurdles were put in his way," he says.

Edwin Meese wrote a book about his experiences working with the President -- With Reagan: The Inside Story -- that chronicles not only his tenure as Attorney General, but also his time on Reagan's staff when he was Governor of California. Mr. Meese describes his former boss as "genuine."

"He didn't have two faces, one for the public and one for those who were close to him," he says. "But he was a genuine person with both types of audiences. He was a great boss. He had great ideas; he was humorous and cheerful. He was a person who relied on the people working with him to do their jobs, and he didn't look over their shoulders a lot."

Journalist Lou Cannon agrees. He says Reagan's style of management served him well. In his recent book, With Governor Reagan: His rise to Power, Mr. Cannon traces Ronald Reagan's journey in politics.

"As governor, he never held any public office before in his life," he says. "In the words of Lynn Noffsinger, who was his communications director: 'We weren't just amateurs, we were novas amateurs.' There was an awful lot of on-the-job learning for Reagan as governor. The interesting thing about Ronald Reagan to me is how he quickly learned. He made a number of mistakes in the first months in office, but he didn't make the same mistake twice."

Fifteen years after his eight-year term in the White House ended, there are a number of books out on Ronald Reagan recalling his extraordinary life and his role in American history. He remains one of the towering figures of the 20th century.