- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2003

Peace through strength

The nation’s 40th president continues to stand watch on the West Coast and couldn’t be on deck, but his first lady and an army of comrades came from near and far for Saturday’s commissioning in Norfolk of the super aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).

“It’s a wonderful tribute to a terrific person and it’s great to see so many old friends and former colleagues,” said former White House Chief of Staff and Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III. “What a beautiful ship.”

“These are absolutely the greatest presidential tools,” agreed presidential historian and longtime Time magazine correspondent Hugh Sidey, among the many Reagan admirers standing in line for blue-and-gold USS Reagan flight caps that depict the former president riding a white horse across the carrier’s 4-acre deck.

“These ships are magnificent and they project power,” Mr. Sidey observed, adding with a wink, “and they are built to please former presidents.”

Mr. Reagan would be beaming from ear to ear. His is the most advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the world, which is only fitting given the former president made it his legacy to keep the U.S. fleet modern and strong. Although he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, he was given a model of the USS Reagan by Newport News Shipbuilding President William Fricks in April 1996.

“My husband’s enduring legacy of freedom lives through you and those who will serve aboard the ship named in his honor for the next 50 years,” the nearly-6,000 member crew was told by former first lady Nancy Reagan, who was escorted to Saturday’s ceremonies by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Others who came to salute “the Gipper” included former Attorney General Edwin Meese III and former U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick. Forever the diplomat, she encouraged this columnist to take note of France’s sophisticated high-tech contributions to the USS Reagan.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Mr. Reagan’s closest ally across the pond, couldn’t be on hand, but Frederick J. Ryan Jr., chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, made it a personal point to present the newest Beanie Baby, “Ronnie the Bear,” to her representative.

She’ll no doubt be amused by the Ronnie doll, which is dressed in naval uniform, bears the name and hull number of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), shares Mr. Reagan’s birthday of Feb. 6 and contains a poem that reads in part, “As you sail out on your way, in our hearts you’ll always stay.”

Among the hundreds of other VIPs on deck was actress Bo Derek, who served on the ship’s national commissioning committee along with former President George Bush and former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, among others.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, was on hand to declare it USS Ronald Reagan Day throughout the commonwealth, as did Democrat Gov. Gray Davis in California, where the Reagan will make its home port in San Diego.

Capt. J.W. Goodwin, a 28-year Navy veteran and native of Dublin, Ga., has assumed command of the USS Reagan, its red, white and blue seal bearing a recurring theme of the president’s life in public service, “Peace Through Strength.”

So nobody forgets, a piece of the Berlin Wall, which Mr. Reagan all but tore down by himself, greets visitors as they board the ship.

She’s a Reagan

The most popular names in America? A little research reveals a trend that will make Republicans proud.

Last year, according to the Social Security Administration, a whopping 24,262 girls were named Emily, while 30,122 boys were named Jacob. But the name “Reagan” is becoming increasingly popular, too — for baby girls.

The name of the 40th president of the United States has seen steady gains in the past decade. In 1993, for instance, Reagan ranked 998th, when only 202 baby girls were given the name. Last year, 1,603 American girls shared Reagan, making it the nation’s 201st most popular name.

By comparison, just 236 boys last year were named “Clinton,” which ranked No. 735, according to the SSA (www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames).

And while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new memoir is a certified million-seller, the New York Democrat’s name is not popular with parents nowadays. While “Hillary” ranked No. 261 among girls’ names in 1993, a search of last year’s top 1,000 … well, the computer message reads: “The text ‘Hillary’ was not found.”

Here’s how Reagan has grown in popularity:

1993 — No. 998

1994 — No. 730

1995 — No. 595

1996 — No. 455

1997 — No. 387

1998 — No. 328

1999 — No. 348

2000 — No. 285

2001 — No. 223

2002 — No. 201

For what it’s worth, “Monica” ranked No. 179 among baby girls’ names last year. For some reason, the name fell out of the top 100 after 1998. As recently as 1997, “Monica” was the 77th most popular American baby name.

Oh, and “John” was the 17th most-popular name for boys last year.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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