Finding a Tribute for Reagan

Alexander Hamilton (search) is so 18th Century, say Reagan enthusiasts who argue that the face of the nation's first treasury secretary should be stripped from the $10 bill and replaced with an image of the Gipper.

"We need to honor Reagan for what he lived for: The destruction of the Soviet empire and the rebuilding of what it means to be an American," said Chris Butler, spokesman for the Reagan Legacy Project (search), which has been pushing hard to replace Hamilton with the nation's 40th president.

A federal building in Washington, D.C., already bears Reagan's name, as does Reagan National Airport (search), which serves the nation's capital. Dozens of roads and schools across the country have given tribute to the former president by making him their namesake. Among the dedications are Ohio's Ronald Reagan Highway and New York's Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

The Reagan Legacy Project is pushing for the establishment of one significant monument in each state to be named after Reagan, as well as some dedication in every county in the United States and in every formerly communist country.

"We currently have 55 known Reagan dedications in the U.S. [Former President John F. Kennedy (search)] has 600 to 800 named after him. Martin Luther King has 800 to 1,000 named after him. For Reagan, we're not even close to approaching what is considered normal for heroes of the 20th Century," Butler told

In what would be a major change, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., submitted an amendment on Monday to the defense authorization bill that would rename the Pentagon (search) the "Ronald Reagan National Defense Building."

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution honoring Reagan, 375-0. The Senate passed a similar measure 98 to 0. Both chambers adjourned until Monday to honor the late president, who was to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda until his funeral Friday at National Cathedral (search).

Although he co-sponsored the Senate resolution, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle seemed hesitant about suggesting the best way to honor the former president.

"I think we have to allow historians and others with some thought to consider how we might best remember President Reagan officially," Daschle, D-S.D., said Tuesday.

Others say Reagan has been paid a number of tributes, and changing the currency may be a step too far.

"You'd think [Hamilton] would be the absolute hero of the Republican Party," said Willard Sterne Randall, author of "Alexander Hamilton: A Life." "He was a great genius at the beginning of the country. It was the genius of Hamilton that made sure the revolution and the country survived."

Randall outlined a long list of Hamilton's accomplishments, including founding America's entire financial system, Wall Street (search), the Coast Guard, the Navy (search) and the Treasury Department. Another Hamilton achievement was founding the Federalist Party, which was the precursor to the GOP.

Hamilton "should really be beloved by both sides, except they don’t know their history," Randall said.

Hamilton's image has been on the $10 bill since 1928. Before Hamilton, the note at different times bore portraits of Abraham Lincoln (search), Merriwether Lewis and William Clark together and America's seventh president, Andrew Jackson (search).

Randall said a more logical switch would be to take Jackson, a Democrat, off the $20 bill because he was a slave owner and inflicted great suffering on Native Americans.

Butler said the biggest opponents of the Reagan naming project are the same people who opposed the Great Communicator while he was in office: "People who thought it was foolish and impossible to stop the Soviet Union," he said.

Proponents of changing the $10 bill say a consensus is now emerging to put Reagan's image on the note. Grover Norquist, chairman of the Reagan Legacy Project, has been talking to lawmakers for years. He said it would be easier to replace Hamilton on the bill because he was never president.

The project is planning on launching its major congressional effort next week, and Butler said he is encouraged by the level of backing the initiative has gotten so far. "We have seen a major groundswell of support."

Among the efforts on Capitol Hill to honor Reagan have been a number of currency initiatives.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had been pushing for the $10 bill switch. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., wants to bump Jackson from the $20 bill.

On Tuesday, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., introduced legislation to have Reagan replace JFK on the 50-cent piece.

Earlier this year, Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., sought to have dimes bear the likeness of Reagan. But the dime effort ran into problems when Democrats, who strongly resisted removing Franklin Delano Roosevelt (search) from the 10-cent piece, and Nancy Reagan, the former first lady, opposed the initiative.

Daschle suggested that the best way to honor Reagan has nothing to do with putting his face on U.S. currency.

"I think the best way to remember President Reagan is to fully fund Alzheimer's (search) research and to find a cure to that dreaded disease some time soon." Reagan died Saturday after a decade-long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.