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One for the Gipper: Brits to mark 4th of July by honoring Ronald Reagan

06 Jul

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Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher meet in Century City, Calif., in 1995. Faced with a persistently volatile Middle East and questions about the future of NATO, Reagan and Thatcher’s steadfast friendship of the Cold War days is almost appealing, analysts and former diplomats told msnbc.com.

(Photo by Mike Guastella/WireImage)

By Marian Smith, msnbc.com

LONDON – An $800,000 statue honoring former President Ronald Reagan is set to be unveiled on Independence Day, joining monuments to Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower in the heart of the British capital.

At a time when the much-celebrated “special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain is widely seen to have frayed, about 2,000 people are expected at the ceremony. Organizers say that is about ten times the typical crowd for such an event.

Former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who declined an invitation to Prince William’s recent wedding due to her poor health, is said to be “determined” to attend. Now aged 85, the “Iron Lady” rarely appears in public.

Nancy Reagan will be represented at the ceremony by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will give the keynote address. U.S. Ambassador Louis B. Susman and a congressional delegation led by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy are also due to attend on Monday.

Reagan Foundation executive director John Heubusch told msnbc.com that roughly $800,000 had been raised from private donors for the sculpture, with around 40 percent of the funds coming from people in the U.K.

‘Guts’
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who served as Thatcher’s Secretary of State for Scotland, recalled that Britons were initially skeptical of Reagan due to his perceived lack of experience. However, the Conservative lawmaker – who also served as Britain’s foreign secretary – said many were won over by the former actor’s “good judgment, good instincts and guts.”

“The qualities he had served both countries very well at the end of the Cold War, which was a crucial period in history,” Rifkind told msnbc.com. To this day, Rifkind said, “people here respect his achievements.”

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