George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, last night told the 25th anniversary gala for The Washington Times that when the Cold War raged, he and President Reagan before him were supported by "a newspaper that would stand for free people."
Mr. Bush said that while other newspapers raised fears that the Reagan administration was leading the nation toward a nuclear holocaust, the fledgling newspaper stood firm in support of the nation's security.
"Then a funny thing happened: Freedom prevailed," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush grew philosophical as he reviewed the quarter of a century he and the newspaper shared. "This is truly a cathartic experience for me. It's been 14 years since I left Washington behind and, to be honest, when I left the White House after the 1992 campaign, I did not feel particularly charitable towards the Beltway press corps.
"For four years as president, and for eight years before that, I had been subjected to some tough treatment at the hands of the Fourth Estate. Even my friend Wes Pruden managed to zing me from time to time. I still recall how Wes once pegged me as the 'commodore of the Kennebunkport Yacht Club,' and I do not think he necessarily meant it as a compliment.
"The editors and the editorial writers of The Washington Times understood the stakes of the Cold War and were not the least bit shy about voicing their support for national leaders in the two great political parties who were trying to end the threat posed by the Soviet Union."
Rev. Sun Myung Moon followed with a 35-minute Founders Address to the audience of more than 2,000, who dined on roast beef and salmon at the National Building Museum. He acknowledged his 88 years before beginning his address, delivered in Korean with simultaneous translation into English.
"Please do not miss your chance to ride on the currents of heavenly fortune that will surge together during this important and sacred year," Rev. Moon said. He said the future of American security lies in the Pacific Rim.
Wesley Pruden, the editor in chief of The Times, thanked Rev. Moon for the gift of the newspaper to the nation, for his support over 25 years and for the guarantee of editorial independence that has enabled the reporters and editors to put out the newspaper the old-fashioned way without fear or favor.
"We only work to the old newsroom adage that 'if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out,' " he said, to laughter. "Rev. Moon has always understood that."
Tom McDevitt, the president of The Times, and Michael S. Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland now the chairman of GOPAC, presided as masters of ceremonies. Mr. Steele, an original subscriber of the paper, told the crowd that he keeps his first edition of The Washington Times, dated May 17, 1982, wrapped in plastic.
"The Washington Times never wavered to bring readers the highest quality of news," he said. "That's what we salute tonight."
Mr. Steele read a letter from President Bush, who said The Times' "efforts help advance the ideals that make our nation strong." Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom, sent greetings in a video that was projected onto several large screens.
"As long as The Washington Times is alive and well, conservative voices will never be drowned out," she said.
The night of celebration would have seemed highly unlikely 25 years ago, when newspaper executives typically predicted that it would last six weeks in competition with The Washington Post.
Four community leaders -- Robert L. Woodson Sr., Douglas M. Johnston, Gregory H. Stanton and Michele Weiner-Davis -- received the newspaper's inaugural Founding Spirit Awards, recognizing their work in community activism.
Jon Ward contributed to this article.