The body of former President Ronald Reagan is now lying in state at the U.S. Capitol, after a formal ceremony attended by his wife Nancy, congressional leaders, and dignitaries. Ronald Reagan, radio announcer turned movie star turned politician turned president of the United States now lies in state at the U.S. Capitol, the tenth U.S. president to be so honored.
After being transferred the hearse that brought it from Andrews Air Force base outside of Washington, D.C., Mr. Reagan's flag-draped casket was carried on a horse-drawn caisson down Constitution Avenue, with a single riderless horse symbolic of the loss of the commander-in-chief, and a military honor guard to the base of the Capitol.
Following a fly-over by 21 military jets, the casket was slowly walked up 75 steps outside of the Capitol, and additional steps inside to the room that is the physical heart of the building, and the symbolic center of democracy, the central rotunda.
With Nancy Reagan and members of the Reagan family looking on, the House of Representatives Chaplain, the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, read an invocation.
Ronald Wilson Reagan had many roles to play in life, husband, father, governor. But the most notable role on the world stage was that of 40th President of the United States of America. With his style and grace he made it seem easy. With his compassion and sense of timing he brought strength of character to the nation and enkindled hope in a darkened world. Eulogies for Mr. Reagan were given by Senator Ted Stevens, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Congressman Dennis Hastert.
Stevens: President Reagan showed us freedom was not just a slogan; he actually brought freedom to hundreds of thousands of people around this globe by opposing oppressive regimes. Those of us from the World War II generation looked up to him for his moral courage. In him, we saw leadership of great men like Eisenhower who led the way and moved us to follow.
Hastert: Against the advice of the timid, he sent a chilling message to authoritarian governments everywhere, that the civilized world would not rest until freedom reigned in every corner of the globe. While others worried, President Reagan persevered. When others weakened, President Reagan stood tall. When others stepped back, President Reagan stepped forward. And he did it all with great humility, with great charm, and with great humor.
Calling Mr. Reagan a man of "providence" Vice President Dick Cheney said Mr. Reagan showed with his strength of character and conviction, true leadership, and courage to the end of his life.
"Ronald Reagan was more than an historic figure, he was a providential man, who came along just when our nation and the world most needed him," says Mr. Cheney. "And believing as he did that there is a plan at work in each life, he accepted not only the great duties that came to him, but also the great trials that came near the end."
President George Bush was not present for the ceremony - he remains in Georgia meeting with leaders of the G8 countries and others.
Plans are for the President Bush to return to Washington Thursday and call on Nancy Reagan at Blair House, the official guest residence near the White House. President Bush and his wife, Laura, also plan to pay their respects to former President Reagan later in the day. President Bush, and his father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush who succeeded Mr. Reagan in 1989, will be among those eulogizing Mr. Reagan Friday at the National Cathedral in Washington.
Mr. Reagan's return, in death, to the U.S. Capitol building came more than 15 years after the last of seven State of the Union Addresses he delivered, in January 1988, in the final year of his presidency.
Thousands of people, many of them traveling to Washington, D.C. from great distances, will file through the Capitol Rotunda until 7:00 a.m. Friday morning, when Mr. Reagan's casket will begin the journey back to California for a final funeral ceremony.