WASHINGTON, June 11 (UPI) -- "He had firm principles and, I believe, the right ones," former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said Friday as she eulogized her friend and ally, former President Ronald Reagan.
Thatcher, in a rare public appearance, was one of several dozen current and former world leaders who traveled from around the globe for the tribute to Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, who died Saturday from complications arising from his 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.
"Nothing was more typical of Ronald Reagan than that large-hearted magnanimity, and nothing was more American," Thatcher said in remarks that were presented via a videotaped statement.
"Therein lies perhaps the final explanation of his achievements. Ronald Reagan carried the American people with him in his great endeavors because there was perfect sympathy between them. He and they loved America and what it stands for: freedom and opportunity for ordinary people," she said.
Her words set the theme sounded repeatedly by Thatcher and the others selected by the family to speak to the Reagan legacy: former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; former President George Herbert Walker Bush, who served as Reagan's vice president; and President George W. Bush, each of whom tried to explain Reagan's impact on the world.
Citing The New York Times' observation that "Men will thank God 100 years from now that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House," the elder Bush said, "It will not take 100 years to thank God for Ronald Reagan."
"He was beloved first because of what he was. Politics can be cruel, uncivil. Our friend was strong and gentle. Once he called America hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent and fair. That was America and, yes, our friend," the elder Bush said.
"Ronald Reagan was beloved because of what he believed. He believed in America, so he made it his shining city on a hill. He believed in freedom, so he acted on behalf of its values and ideals. He believed in tomorrow, so the great communicator became the great liberator. He talked of winning one for the Gipper. And as president, through his relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev," who traveled from Moscow to attend the funeral, "won one for peace around the world," the elder Bush said.
"Ronald Reagan," Mulroney said, "does not enter history tentatively; he does so with certainty and panache."
"At home and on the world stage, his were not the pallid etchings of a timorous politician, they were the bold strokes of a confident and accomplished leader," said Mulroney, who bonded closely with Reagan thanks in part to their shared Irish roots.
Calling Reagan "a president who inspired his nation and transformed the world," Mulroney credited Reagan's "rare and prized gift called leadership -- that ineffable and magical quality that sets some men and women apart so that millions will follow them as they conjure up grand visions and invite their countrymen to dream big and exciting dreams."
The longest of the four eulogies was given by the current president, George W. Bush, who began his remarks by saying, "We lost Ronald Reagan only days ago, but we have missed him for a long time.
"We have missed his kindly presence, that reassuring voice and the happy ending we had wished for him," the president said. "It has been 10 years since he said his own farewell, yet it is still very sad and hard to let him go. Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now, but we preferred it when he belonged to us."
"When the sun sets tonight off the coast of California and we lay to rest our 40th president, a great American story will close," Bush said.
That story began with his boyhood in Dixon, Ill., Bush said. "The Reagan family would see its share of hardship, struggle and uncertainty," he continued. "Out of that circumstance came a young man of steadiness, calm and a cheerful confidence that life would bring good things.
"Ronald Reagan believed that everything happens for a reason and that we should strive to know and do the will of God. He believed that the gentleman always does the kindest thing. He believed that people were basically good and had the right to be free," the president said.
"He believed that bigotry and prejudice were the worst things a person could be guilty of. He believed in the Golden Rule and in the power of prayer. He believed that America was not just a place in the world, but the hope of the world. And he believed in taking a break now and then, because as he said, there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse," Bush said.
"Ronald Reagan's moment arrived in 1980. He came out ahead of some very good men, including one from Plains and one from Houston," he said, alluding to former President Jimmy Carter, whom Reagan defeated in the presidential election of 1980, as well as the president's own father, George H. W. Bush, who Reagan beat out for the Republican Party nomination that same year. "What followed was one of the decisive decades of the century, as the convictions that shaped the president began to shape the times."
"He came to office with great hopes for America and more than hopes. Like the president he had revered and once saw in person, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan matched an optimistic temperament with bold, persistent action," Bush said.
"The ideology he opposed throughout his political life insisted that history was moved by impersonal tides and unalterable fates. Ronald Reagan believed instead in the courage and triumph of free men, and we believe it all the more because we saw that courage in him," the president observed.
And in what may be a coda to what many this week have said was a great life, as big and full and rich as the United States itself, Bush said that as Reagan "showed what a president should be, he also showed us what a man should be."
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