9-foot-tall Reagan Statue Unveiled – The Reagan Presidential Foundation on Tuesday unveiled a 9-foot-statue of the former president at the Washington, D.C. airport bearing his name. Former Sens. Bob and Elizabeth Dole attended the unveiling along with current Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The $900,000 cost of the 900-pound statue was covered by private donations, as were the cost of statues that are being unveiled in Simi Valley, California; Budapest; and London. The statue is the fourth dedicated this year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, which operates his presidential library.
Tuesday’s unveiling also gave travelers an opportunity to revisit the dormant debate over whether Reagan was worthy of having his name put on the airport that had long been known simply as “National.”
Democratic President Bill Clinton signed legislation in 1998 renaming Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport after the Republican-controlled Congress pushed the bill through. Critics complained at the time that Reagan was already slated to have an International Trade Center on Pennsylvania Avenue and Nimitz-class aircraft carrier named after him. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-VA) called the move by Republicans an “arrogant abuse of power.”
“I’ve never understood the people who feel he’s such a beloved figure,” said Kathleen Meehan of Madison, Wis., as she waited for her flight. “My daughter refuses to call it ‘Reagan.'” The only thing Meehan gave Reagan credit for was “the destruction of the middle class.”
“It’s crazy that they salivate over this guy like he was an angel. What’s next, canonization?” Meehan’s travel partner, Terry Scott asked. “It’s like John Wayne airport (in California). I won’t use John Wayne.”
But Carol Ole, who was headed back to Atlanta after watching her nephew run the Marine Corps Marathon, was thrilled to see the statue being unveiled. “I love it. I’m a real conservative,” she said.
In 2010, Reagan National Airport handled 18,118,713 passengers. US Airways has the largest share of traffic at the airport, accounting for 21.56% as of February 2011. Delta Air Lines, the second-largest, accounts for 14.53% of traffic, with American Airlines in third at 13.38%.