A Statue for the Gipper
Ronald Reagan is still a rather controversial figure in the United States, even after his death. It doesn't appear that the same controversy exists in Czechoslovakia, however. Enjoying a much better life now than they did 20 years ago, Czechs revere the Gipper as the major figure in the fall of Communism.
I remember the first time I voted. I didn't really know in detail why I did, but I voted for Ronald Reagan for President. Time has made me wiser, and now I understand why. A man of remarkably disarming grace and aplomb, Reagan was not afraid to call the world as he saw it. He developed a friendly relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev, yet he was not afraid to ask him in no uncertain terms, "Mr. Gorbachev...Tear Down This Wall!" Millions in former Warsaw Pact countries are better off because Reagan stuck to his principles.
Other factors came into play in the orchestration of the fall of Communism, but Reagan played a prominent role. And the Czech people want their appreciation for him to be made known.
Reagan was "the most important personality that enabled the fall of communism" and is thus a key figure in Czech history, Prague Mayor Thomasz Chalupa said.
Reagan was in office from 1981-89. He gained a reputation as a staunch opponent of communism and socialism, and is often credited for helping end the Cold War peacefully by forging a close relationship with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
"[Reagan's] policies helped the fall of communism. He can be considered the originator of the defeat of communism," Prague 6 spokesman Martin Šálek said.
Ironically in light of recent dictatorial events, the other prominent statue of a foreign statesman in Prague is that of Simon Bolivar, the man from Venezuela who rallied the masses of South Americans to demand liberty.Politics clouds a lot of issues in America, but apparently not so much in Czechoslovakia. They recognize Reagan for the great man and statesman that he was.
Reagan laid a wreath at Bolivar's grave in 1982. Somehow I don't think he would afford the same courtesy to Hugo Chavez. Nor would Chavez deserve it.