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Charles Selle: Time to hit the trail for Reagan

Updated: February 2, 2011 2:46AM

Illinois Republicans are set to hold a big wing-ding this week. They are not celebrating the attempt to dismantle the health-care reform bill in the U.S. House.

Party leaders from across the nation are heading to the Land of Lincoln to honor another Illinois president, Ronald Wilson Reagan.

The state, and to a lesser extent Democrats, are marking the centennial of the birth in Tampico of our 40th president. The GOP is not partying in Tampico or Dixon, where Reagan grew up, but in downtown Chicago. Guess they don’t have enough hotel space along the Rock River.

In his 100th year, there is renewed interest in the Reagan legacy. Perhaps that is because the current occupant of the White House reminds more than a few Republicans of Jimmy Carter, the man Reagan fortunately replaced in 1981.

Most of us around back 30 years ago recall how that one-termer fared. Remember “America Held Hostage --- Day way too many”?

Democrats are trying to ignore Reagan’s birth centennial, which is Feb 6, because they don’t want to be reminded of the economy during the Carter administration. That was when inflation was 12.5 percent when Reagan took office. Or that joblessness was 7 percent or that interest rates were around 15 percent.

By the time Reagan left office in 1989, inflation leveled off at 4 percent, unemployment fell to 5 percent. Americans were feeling better about themselves. That alone should merit some edifice or street acknowledging Reagan’s legacy for nowhere is Reagan’s name prominent in Lake County.

We have Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson schools, even a Stevenson High School, but nothing for a true son of the prairie. We have schools named for a poet, an astronaut, trees and lakes. We have streets named for various public and private officials. But missing is Ronald Reagan.

This is not automagically going to happen. Some leader needs to step up and grace his town or city or village with the Reagan legacy. It’s not like I worship Reagan, but I think there should be some recognition of him in the third-largest county in Illinois.

For starters, he was one of the few presidents to visit Lake County. His wife even showed up here.

Maybe a county forest preserve trail could be named for Reagan. He did like trees and riding horses. There is precedent. We have the Robert McClory Bike Trail, named for a former Lake Bluff congressman, in eastern Lake County. Didn’t Reagan appear in “Santa Fe Trail”?

I’m not convinced Lake County’s government officials are fired up about honoring Reagan as I am. Perhaps they recall Reagan’s famous quote about government: “...government is not the solution; government is the problem.”

Reagan’s centennial would be the perfect time to recognize his eight-year administration and his giant service to the country.

For those of you who disagree, I offer up the celebration Saturday of a great Lake Countian, Adlai Stevenson. Since 2009, Illinois has celebrated Adlai Stevenson Day on Feb. 5, the date of his birth.

And he wasn’t even elected president.

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