"President Reagan helped as much as any president to restore a sense of optimism in our country, a spirit that transcended politics," Obama said as he signed the legislation with former first lady Nancy Reagan at his side. "President Reagan had the ability to communicate directly and movingly to the American people; to understand both the hardships they felt in their lives and the hopes that they had for their country."
Obama also praised Nancy Reagan, saying she redefined the role of first lady and has "taken on a new role, as an advocate on behalf of treatments that hold the promise of improving and saving lives."
"There are few who are not moved by the love that Ms. Reagan felt for her husband -- and fewer still who are not inspired by how this love led her to take up the twin causes of stem cell research and Alzheimer's research," Obama said. "In saying a long goodbye, Nancy Reagan became a voice on behalf of millions of families experiencing the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer's disease."
The panel Obama established will have 11 members and plan events for Feb. 6, 2011.
"I was delighted to be back at the White House today and even more delighted to be part of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission bill signing ceremony with President Obama," Nancy Reagan said. "I look forward to working closely with the commission and the Reagan Foundation to honor Ronnie in 2011 for his 100th birthday."