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Bush: Reagan's Death a Sad Day for America - 2004-06-05

President Bush has expressed his condolences over the death of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Bush is in Paris where he is preparing to take part in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

President Bush says it is a sad hour in the life of the nation as a great American life has come to an end.

"He leaves behind a nation he restored and world he helped save," he said. "During the years of President Reagan, America laid to rest an era of division and self doubt. And because of his leadership, the world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny. Now in laying our leader to rest, we say thank you."

President Bush says Mr. Reagan won America's respect with his greatness and won its love with his goodness. He says the former president had the confidence that comes with conviction, the strength that comes with character, the grace which comes with humility, and the humor that comes with wisdom.

"He always told us that for America, the best is yet to come," he said. "We comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this is true for him too. His work is done and now a shining city awaits him. May God bless Ronald Reagan."

The president telephoned former First Lady Nancy Reagan and on behalf of the nation, offered her and the Reagan family prayers and condolences.

Mr. Bush learned of the news when Mr. Reagan's former chief of staff Fred Ryan telephoned White House Chief of Staff Andy Card just after 10 p.m. Paris time. Mr. Card then told the president who had just returned from a dinner with French President Jacques Chirac.

The U.S. flag over the White House was lowered to half staff within an hour of the announcement.

There were no immediate plans to change the president's schedule for Sunday's D-Day commemoration, but White House officials would not say whether there may be changes to the president's plans to host a summit of leaders from industrialized nations in the coming week.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called Mr. Reagan a truly great American hero who was one of her closest political and dearest personal friends.

She says the president will be missed not only by those who knew him and not only by the nation that he served so proudly and loved so deeply but also by millions of men and women who live in freedom today because of the policies he pursued.

Mrs. Thatcher says Mr. Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the cold war for liberty and did it without a shot being fired.

The presumptive Democratic nominee in this year's election, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry says Ronald Reagan's love of country was infectious. Even when he was breaking Democratic hearts, Mr. Kerry says, he did so with a smile and in the spirit of honest and open debate.

The Massachusetts Senator says the differences were real but because of the way President Reagan led, he taught Americans that there is a big difference between strong beliefs and bitter partisanship.

At 93, Mr. Reagan lived longer than any other U.S. president and was a legend for American conservatives. He suffered from the debilitating brain disease, Alzheimer's, and had not been seen in public during most of the last decade.