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Mark Kirk's tribute to Ronald Reagan

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WASHINGTON--The 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth is Feb. 6 and senators saluted the only president born in Illinois from the Senate floor, including Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.

Durbin's Reagan speech is here.

Click below for Kirk's remarks.

below, Kirk speech.....

President Reagan Floor Speech

As a Senator representing the state of Illinois, I am proud to speak today in recognition of the 100th birthday of a native Illinoisan, our 40th President, Ronald Reagan.

On this day (or Feb. 6) in 1911, in Tampico, Illinois, which boasted a population of 820, John and Nelle Reagan welcomed to the world a child who would one day change the direction of not just our country, but the world. According to Reagan family lore, when he first gazed upon his son John Reagan prophetically quipped, "He looks like a fat little Dutchman. But who knows, he might grow up to be president some day."

His father was a strong believer in the American dream and Nelle Reagan passed on to her son her penchant to always look for the good in people, regardless of their current position.

It was those early lessons in perseverance and faith that would inspire Ronald Reagan to pursue his dream of becoming a Hollywood actor. He signed his first professional acting contract in 1935 and went on to enjoy a successful career on the Silver Screen. But by 1946, after serving 3 years in Army Air Force Intelligence during the height of World War II, he began to have ambitions beyond Hollywood. A five-year stint as President of the Screen Actors Guild laid the foundation for Ronald Reagan's political career. During the turmoil of the Hollywood Communism craze, Reagan proved himself to be a skilled dealmaker and influential leader as he successfully navigated the upheaval in the Hollywood community. In 1964, Ronald Reagan was thrust into the National spotlight as he gave a televised speech entitled, "A Time for Choosing", in support of Presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater.

Following this speech, a group of influential citizens became convinced that Ronald Reagan could become the next Governor of California. After winning a primary and enduring a hard-fought campaign, Reagan unseated two-time governor, Pat Brown, to become the 33rd governor in California's history. During his two terms as governor, Californians enjoyed a smaller, less costly and more efficient state government. Governor Reagan returned $5 billion to taxpayers and used his line-item-veto authority 943 times to ensure that the state's budget matched its priorities. Ronald Reagan had once again proved himself a determined, capable leader during difficult times. But soon, the American people would learn that his best days were still ahead of him.

After an unsuccessful Republican Presidential Primary attempt in 1976, he knew that he wanted to be President, but would only enter the race if the people of the United States wanted him to run. In the years following the '76 primary, Ronald Reagan became increasingly concerned with the direction the country was heading, especially in the areas of national security, unemployment and the economy. More than anything, Reagan sensed that Americans had lost their sense of confidence, not just in themselves, but also in the country. Interestingly, the concerns Mr. Reagan felt as he weighed the decision to run again for President are not unlike many of the challenges we face today. Ronald Reagan was confident that he was the man who could lead the country out of the darkness of recession and doubt and into the light of prosperity and national pride.

After winning a landslide election in November, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States on January 20, 1981. He immediately went to work on repairing a broken economy, enacting the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, with his solemn belief being that if people had more money in their pockets and the confidence to invest, the country would get back on firm financial footing. During his first months in office, Reagan was as much to thank for newfound economic stability as he was for the heightened sense of optimism he brought to a people who had endured hard times. Reagan thoughtfully guided the country through a series of national tragedies and terrorist attacks on our military forces abroad. Yet through it all, President Reagan's resolve never wavered, his confidence that the American people would meet the myriad challenges they faced never faltered. This was a man who, after surviving an assassination attempt, continued to meet with Congressional leaders in his hospital room as he recovered because he believed it in the best interest of the American people that he continued working to the extent his body would allow. It was that type of steadfast determination that allowed the negotiations with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to move forward and eventually led to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the signing of the I.N.F. Treaty and eventually the end of Soviet oppression in Eastern Europe. The issue that got him into politics, ending the spread of Communism, became the crowning achievement of his presidency.

His constant refrain throughout his time in the White House was that government was becoming too big, too inefficient, too unresponsive and too wasteful. As governor, Reagan demonstrated the ability to exercise fiscal restraint and he urged leaders in Congress to do the same thing. I think it appropriate that we are celebrating Reagan's 100th birthday at time when national debt and the deficit are at an all-time high. While we know that Reagan possessed the willingness to tackle such issues, I believe the lesson we can learn most from his Presidency is the endlessly optimistic attitude he had that the United States and its people would meet challenges of the day and emerge stronger because of the struggle to overcome. His assertion that America was "the shining city on a hill" guided him, as it should us. A hard-nosed, gritty politician, Reagan would have jumped at the chance to take on the responsibility of leading this country out of this recession, just as he did in 1981. So as we celebrate Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday, let us take a moment to reflect upon the life of a man who, as President, always did what was necessary to move the country forward in the way he felt was most beneficial to those who mattered most, the people.

I know his legacy is most associated with the people of California, but as the junior Senator for Illinois, we will claim our right to note his birth in Tampico, his childhood in Dixon, and his college years at Eureka College. We will be very happy to mark the 100th birthday on Saturday in Chicagoland and through celebrations in other parts of the State, one of our great Presidents who very much changed the course and direction of this country and this world for the better.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 4, 2011 8:42 AM.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, Feb. 4, 2011. Canada PM Harper was the previous entry in this blog.

Pelosi on Ronald Reagan 100th anniversary of his birth is the next entry in this blog.

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