Gipper plans return to show 'What would Reagan do?'

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Ronald Reagan,Martin Dempsey,Chuck Hagel

As Washington struggles to find its way on everything from the budget to national defense, a voice from the nation’s glory years — former President Ronald Reagan — is about to weigh in and offer a path to improving the nation based on the successes he helped create.

Starting with military policy and then moving to economic and domestic issues, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library is embarking on a legacy building project that is also aimed at offering a model for today’s leaders.

“The foundation has operated for many years and done a terrific job of preserving the memory of President Reagan and preserving his legacy,” foundation Executive Director John Heubusch told Secrets. “But we’re now about to take a step further forward and actually take a number of actions to promote his legacy, which means his ideals and what he stood for.”

As president, Reagan was often able to find ways around the acrimony in Washington and work with Democrats to craft solutions. “He is relevant as ever,” said Heubusch. “We’re just looking to assure that somebody takes the lead and acts as a voice for, ‘What would Reagan do?’”

Up first is a blockbuster event -- Reagan National Defense Forum: Building Peace Through Strength Through 2025 -- at the Foundation's Simi Valley, California facility focused on national defense. The Nov. 16 forum will feature a rare gathering of the nation's top defense experts. Included are: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Navy Secretary John McHugh; Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval Operations; Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; and House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon.

The one-day forum is open to the public at a cost of $499. Registration for the conference is at www.reaganfoundation.org/defense. Discounts are available to government and military officials. Officials described it as an event “that gets into some deep topics” and one that will be held annually.

The foundation plans to build on that first event with others. “We’re trying to use the model of what Reagan stood for — pride of country, strong defense — and have people focus on that once again,” said Heubusch. “We need leadership on that front.”

Reagan biographer Craig Shirley applauded the effort, noting that Reagan was an intellectual leader on policy topics long before -- and after -- he became president.

“As the realm of Reagan scholarship continues to expand, it is important to remember that he engendered an era of conservative enlightenment. Even before Reagan was elected in 1980, he unleashed an intellectual revolution,” Shirley told Secrets.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.