By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Ronald Reagan is fast becoming the Elvis of the political world, if the surge in events and sponsors around his 100th birthday in 2011 is any signal. John Heubusch, who runs the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, says he's adding new events every week to his already long list that includes a celebrity concert at the Hollywood Bowl on his centennial, February 6, a coast-to-coast national torch run, a new postage stamp, a special coin for sports teams to toss, and the unveiling of statues around the country.
Heubusch, who likes to brag that no tax dollars are being spent on the events, says sponsors aren't hard to find. In fact, some have ties to the Gipper, who died June 5, 2004. One is General Electric. Reagan used to host General Electric Theater and was a corporate goodwill ambassador. Not only does GE have a tribute to the 40th president on its website, it also is sponsoring a new GE-Reagan college scholarship.
Most of the events are taking place in California and Washington, starting with the January 1 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, which will feature a Reagan float. A top-notch salesman and promoter in his TV days, Reagan probably would have liked the latest bid by his foundation to gin up interest in the centennial. It set up an online raffle to give the winner a free trip to California for a Concert for America and a huge birthday celebration at Reagan's library and museum in Simi Valley, generating a surge of traffic to the foundation website. "There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there is a free trip to the Reagan Centennial waiting for a lucky person that enters," he says.