Wednesday, November 10, 2004

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Ronald Reagan is going onto the nation’s postage stamps, in a picture that shows the 40th president with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes.

Five months after Mr. Reagan died of Alzheimer’s disease complications at 93, widowed Nancy Reagan unveiled a giant replica of the stamp during a brief ceremony yesterday at the hilltop Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

“If he were here today, I know that Ronnie would be very touched,” Mrs. Reagan said. “He considered it an honor of a lifetime to be president. And I know he would say, ‘Now don’t make such a fuss.’”

Mrs. Reagan smiled widely, nodded and applauded as a curtain fell away from the giant portrait.

The stamp won’t be available for sale until February, but is was decided that Nov. 9 — the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — would be a good day to unveil it. The ceremony on the library’s replica of the White House South Lawn was steps away from a chunk of the Berlin Wall.

“The famous Reagan smile reflected in the stamp’s image radiates confidence. It signaled that he believed in himself and in us, his fellow countrymen,” said Postmaster General John E. Potter.

It is the tradition of the Postal Service to honor prominent Americans with a stamp no sooner than 10 years after death. The single exception is for a U.S. president, who may be honored as early as the first birthday following his death. Mr. Reagan died June 5.

He was born Feb. 6, 1911, and the first-day-of-issue stamp dedication ceremony will take place at the Reagan library on Feb. 9.

Rather than depicting Mr. Reagan in cowboy attire or as a Hollywood actor, the selection of an image for the stamp came down to two “presidential-looking” portraits, Reagan Foundation Chairman Frederick J. Ryan Jr. said.

“It was kind of a debate,” Mr. Ryan said. “Some thought it should be serious, and others thought it should be warm, smiling.”

Mrs. Reagan liked both images, he said.

“It was just a matter of serious side or warm, lighter note. They are both very statesmanlike,” Mr. Ryan said, adding the smiling version displayed “a twinkle in the eyes.”

The image on the stamp looks much like an oil portrait.

“He’s in a blue suit, presidential looking,” Mr. Ryan said. “We thought this one was the warmest, happy, positive Ronald Reagan with an optimistic look to it.”

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