Giant smiling Ronald Reagan statue unveiled by Nancy Reagan

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    Former First Lady Nancy Reagan attended a ceremony today where a statue of her late husband, President Ronald Reagan was unveiled.
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Although some news accounts are calling it a 40-foot statue of Ronald Reagan, it is, in fact, only seven feet tall.

But that's not something that former First Lady Nancy Reagan is concerned with. She's just happy it's there.

At a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda today, Mrs. Reagan teared up while delivering brief remarks prior to the unveiling of the statue.

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"The statue is a wonderful likeness of Ronnie, and he would be so proud," she said.

Noting that it's the first time she's been in the rotunda since "Ronnie's funeral," Mrs. Reagan said, "it's nice to be back under happier circumstances."

Happy

The statue of the former president seems happy too. This stands in direct contrast to most of the figures in Statuary Hall. Their expressions signal concern, great angst, perhaps even indigestion.

President Reagan, on the other hand, is smiling. Or at the cusp of a smile, which seems appropriate for the always optimistic Commander-in-Chief.

That's by design. The sculptor told the Washington Times that after studying hours of video, he saw a pattern and decided to capture it.

"The moment before he says something great, his face would go through the exact same motion every time," Chas Fagan told the newspaper. "You can see his eyes are smiling already....The corners of his mouth are moving, so you've got slightly parted lips, and he's just about to speak, but you've got the beginning of a smile. The hope was to capture a warm expression and, with [Mr. Reagan], the one that we're all most familiar with is the very large smile."

Other Nancy

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was all smiles during the ceremony too. Not because she was a die-hard Reagan supporter or anything. It's just that she was very involved in the ceremony -- something that Mrs. Reagan paid attention to.

"There are so many people to thank, but I want to particularly thank Nancy Pelosi for all she did to organize this, bring it together, and make it happen," she said.

Reagan added that she wanted to thank "everybody else too" before saying, "but especially Nancy."

The smiling former president will stand in great company, at least initially. He joins George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln in the rotunda. The permanent location has yet to be decided on.

Fast-track

His inclusion in Statuary Hall was fast-tracked. Only two years after his death, the California Legislature voted to make Reagan one of two statues representing the state (each state gets just two). In doing so, they booted Thomas Starr King from the hallowed grounds. That's not to say the statue of the 19th-century San Francisco preacher will end up at a Burger King or anything -- he's just no longer part of the exclusive club.

Reagan joins the statue of Junípero Serra -- he was a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded the mission chain in Alta California.

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