WASHINGTON -- On Tuesday a 9-foot-tall, 900-pound bronze statue of Ronald Reagan will be unveiled at Reagan National Airport outside Washington.
Part of a year-long tribute in the 100-year anniversary of Reagan’s birth, the sculpture may reopen old wounds for those local residents who have gritted their teeth ever since the airport was contentiously renamed in the 40th president's honor 13 years ago.
The statue, in front of one of the airport's busiest intersections, will show the former president in mid-stride. Behind him there will be a 38-foot curving stainless steel wall with his name and the image of an eagle cut out.
"To have a statue at his airport was important to us," said Melissa Giller, a spokeswoman for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, which raised over $900,000 in private donations to pay for the statue. "The mission of the centennial wasn't just to have a celebration, it was to promote the legacy of Ronald Reagan and his life."
"It's going to be near the front of Terminal A," said Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Rob Yingling. "It's a highly visible location, because it is at a junction point where vehicles that are headed to Terminal A or Terminal B split from the main roadway."
The airports authority budgeted $80,000 in public money for "site preparation," Yingling said.
The Northern Virginia airport formerly known as Washington National -- and still called that by some anti-Reaganites -- was renamed for Reagan in 1998 by pugnacious congressional Republicans and an acquiescent President Clinton, over the strenuous objections of many Washington area political and business leaders. At the time, Reagan's name had already been attached to a gargantuan federal office building in downtown D.C.
Fans of the former president see him as a champion of individual liberty, economic opportunity, global democracy and national pride. His critics, however, see him as in part culpable for the decline of the American middle class over the last 30 years.
Gillers said she hopes no one will be frustrated or upset about the presence of the statue. "No matter what his politics are and no matter what your beliefs are, he was the 40th president of the United States," she said. Either way, there will really be no missing it -- unless you come by Metro.
"It will be a highly visible feature of the airport as people drive onto the property for many years to come," Yingling said.
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Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for The Huffington Post. You can send him an e-mail, bookmark his page, subscribe to his RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, become a fan and get email alerts when he writes.
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