Political Debate at Reagan Library

Political Heavyweights and Personalities Weigh in with Opinions at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Wednesday. They're Debating the Former President's Legacy as Part of the Reagan Centennial Celebration

It was an interesting time for a symposium on a man who, throughout his career, spoke of the God-given right to freedom and liberty.

Historians, journalists and former administration members discussed the legacy of Ronald Reagan at a time when the very notion of people freely determining their own fate is under question in the streets of Cairo.

"Eastern Europe had more of a western tradition of parliaments, and of elected governments. They had done without them for 50 years, but the Arabs have done without them for centuries, so there is much more danger of upheaval and chaos and blood," said Richard Reeves an author at USC's Annenberg School.

When Ronald Reagan called on then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down this (Berlin) Wall, Reagan firmly believed that democratic institutions and the right to vote meant stability and peace in a region.

"I think we all know now, in the Middle East, you might get a different result," said Lou Cannon, Reagan biographer.

It's doubtful the 40th president would have ever envisioned a world where a free election might destabilize a region, Cannon said. This is exactly the worry of the Obama White House.

Torn between a dictator who has kept his country at peace and an elected government that might be militant and see war with its neighbors.

Cannon is confident that, whatever Reagan chose to do, he would employ diplomatic channels.

"I think he would make a strong statement about freedom and democracy, but I don't think you can publicly pressure a dictator like Mubarak to quit and hope that it's going to be very effective," Cannon said.

On the week of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday, using the past to help navigate an uncertain and troubling future.

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