Ronald Wilson Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911, and over the next 12 months there will be a statue unveiled in London's Grosvenor Square, a National Portrait Gallery exhibition in Washington, a mass of Thanksgiving in Krakow, Poland, and a video tribute Feb. 6 before the televised airing of the Super Bowl.
The Tampico, Ill., native was sworn in as the 40th -- and oldest -- president in United States history, and during his eight years in office he left a divided legacy, USA Today reported Friday.
Reagan, who died in 2004 at age 93 a decade after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, is known for his promotion of supply-side economic policies, which became known as "Reaganomics." He deregulated the nation, some say to the point of anarchy, busted unions, and in the process some say broke the back of the middle class and hence the country's tax base, and reprioritized federal spending. Loved by Americans for his style, many skeptics say the former Hollywood actor's disciples exaggerate his legacy, the newspaper said.
"He's become a folklore president," says historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan's diaries. "He's as much Buffalo Bill or Kit Carson as he is Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson."
Brinkley says although many on the right emulate what they see as Reagan's model, they're off base because the president said the GOP should be a "big tent" tolerating opposing views.
"This hard, no-compromise is not the Reagan approach," Brinkley says. "He was the person who ended conservatism as being ideologically frozen, and he became the genial, pragmatic conservative. He gave a smiley face to the conservative movement."