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Emotional Nancy Reagan unveils statue of late president

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  • NEW: Former first lady touts husband's "commitment to freedom"
  • California donated figure for Capitol Rotunda to honor former president
  • Pelosi says statue contains pieces of Berlin Wall
  • Commission planning events to mark 100th birthday in 2011
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An emotional Nancy Reagan helped unveil a statue of her late husband, President Reagan, on Wednesday, calling the 7-foot figure "a wonderful likeness."

Nancy Reagan, with House Minority Leader John Boehner, wipes away tears at Wednesday's event.

Nancy Reagan, with House Minority Leader John Boehner, wipes away tears at Wednesday's event.

"I know Ronnie would be deeply honored to see himself with a permanent home in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol and very proud to be representing his beloved California," Nancy Reagan said.

She appeared to battle emotions as she mentioned her last visit to the marbled hall for Reagan's memorial in June 2004.

"It's nice to be back under happier circumstances," she said. Video Watch Nancy Reagan unveil the statue »

The statue is one of two from California in the National Statuary Hall Collection donated by states to honor significant figures.

Nancy Reagan stood arm-in-arm with House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio to pull down the curtain from the statue. She thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California for making the event possible.

In her remarks, Pelosi noted that the former president's statue contains pieces of the Berlin Wall, "as a symbol of his commitment to national security and to his success." The wall was torn down shortly after Reagan left office.

"I'm so grateful to Californians for giving him this honor," Nancy Reagan said. "Artist Chas Fagan has captured his likeness so well, and I think the addition of the pieces of the Berlin Wall in the pedestal reflects my husband's commitment to freedom and democracy for everyone."

The former president is credited with polices that led to the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the dismantling of the wall that divided Berlin as a symbol of Cold War politics.

James Baker, a longtime Republican who served in the Cabinets of Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, recalled that Reagan inherited some major problems when he took office in 1981.

Citing the former president's trademark optimism, he quoted from Reagan's first inaugural address that "we are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline."


Nancy Reagan attended a White House ceremony Tuesday marking Barack Obama's signing of legislation authorizing a Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission. The 11-member commission will plan activities marking Reagan's 100th birthday on February 6, 2011.

Reagan was president from 1981 to 1989.

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