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Inside Politics

Stevens: He made us believe in that 'shining city'

Senate President Pro Tempore Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, speaks in the Capitol Rotunda.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After the casket of former President Ronald Reagan arrived at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Vice President Dick Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the president pro tempore of the Senate, spoke briefly.

Stevens made the following remarks:

STEVENS: Mrs. Reagan, Patti, Ron, Michael, distinguished guests, members of the Reagan family and friends of Ronald Reagan in America and throughout the world:

Tonight, President Ronald Reagan has returned to the People's House to be honored by millions of Americans who loved him.

Since 1824, under this Rotunda, our nation has paid final tribute to many dedicated public servants. President Abraham Lincoln was the first president to lie in state under this Capitol dome. In the coming days, thousands will come to these hallowed halls to say goodbye to another son of Illinois who, like Lincoln, appealed to our best hopes, not our worst fears.

In the life of any nation, few men forever alter the course of history. Ronald Reagan was one of those men. He rose from a young boy who didn't have much to a man who had it all, including the love of a faithful partner and friend he found in his wife Nancy.

The true measure of any man is what he does with the opportunities life offers. By that standard, Ronald Reagan was one of America's greatest. He first proved that as governor of California and later as the president of the United States.

When Ronald Reagan was sworn in as our 40th president, this nation was gripped by a powerful malaise, inflation and unemployment were soaring, and the Soviet Union was winning the Cold War.

By the time President Reagan left office, he had reversed the trend of ever-increasing government control over our lives, restored our defense capabilities, guided us through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and set in motion policies which ultimately led to the collapse of the "evil empire."

His integrity, vision and commitment were respected by all. But history's final judgment, I believe, will remember most his ability to inspire us.

President Reagan put it best when he said: "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things."

This president inspired Americans by reaching out far beyond what he could attain. Like a good coach, he understood the value of a goal isn't always in achieving it; sometimes it is enough to simply look out into the future and remind people what is possible. And, often he achieved the impossible.

He reminded us that "government is not the solution." The solution lies in each of us. True American heroes are ordinary people who live their lives with extraordinary character and strength.

President Reagan showed us freedom was not just a slogan. He actually brought freedom to hundreds of thousands of people around this globe by opposing oppressive regimes. Those of us from the World War II generation looked up to him for his moral courage. In him we saw the leadership of great men like Eisenhower who led the way and moved us to follow.

On a winter day in 1981, Ronald Reagan stood on the steps that lie just beyond these doors to deliver his first inaugural address. He spoke of a journal written by a young American who went to France in 1917 and died for the cause of freedom. From that journal he read these words:

"I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone."

Throughout his life, Ronald Reagan bore our burdens as if the outcome did depend on him alone. We will all remember him as an unparalleled leader and an exceptional man who lifted our nation and set the world on a new path.

President Reagan achieved greatness in his life; some might even argue he transcended it. He could not have accomplished this without Nancy. Nancy is one of the finest First Ladies these United States have ever known. And the love Ronald and Nancy Reagan shared touched the hearts of people everywhere.

In 1989, President Reagan delivered his farewell address from the Oval Office. In that speech, the president spoke of "the shining city upon a hill" that, "after 200 years, two centuries, still stands strong and true on the granite ridge."

Now, it is our turn to thank Ronald Reagan for making us believe in that shining city. As we say farewell, his last words as president echo across this great nation. If we listen, we will hear him whisper the humble words he used to sum up his revolution:

"All in all, not bad, not bad at all."

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