By Jack Cascone.
Eureka College is approaching the 18th anniversary of installing the Ronald W. Reagan Peace Garden. The Peace Garden was unveiled to the public on May 9, 2000.
This memorial is intended to honor the S.T.A.R.T. speech that Reagan gave at the May 9, 1982 Eureka College commencement which challenged the Soviet Union to a new era of negotiations to reduce nuclear arms. It has since been heralded as, “The beginning of the end of the Cold War.”
The Garden is home to a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers that are on the perimeter of a circular pathway that surrounds a bronze bust of Reagan that was created by Peoria native, Lonnie Stewart. On the base of the bust appears quotes from Reagan’s commencement address.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means,” reads the quote on the front of the bust that welcomes guests into the Peace Garden.
To the East of Reagan’s bust sits a five-foot-by-four-foot piece of the Berlin Wall- a gift from the Federal Republic of Germany. The placement of the Wall is symbolic because it shows that Reagan will always be West of the Berlin Wall, or in other words: free.
The ceremony in 2000 was grandiose. The 399th Army Brass Quintet from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri performed pre-ceremony music, the college president and alumni spoke, and, most notably, Maureen Reagan, daughter of Ronald Reagan, was the keynote speaker.
“[I hope that guests] will remember that [Ronald Reagan] put us on the road to a peaceful world. I hope that the people who come here, and the students who come here, will remember that a graduate of this college brought back to his college a gift that only a president can give: a part of national history,” Maureen Reagan said.
When Ronald Reagan gave his S.T.A.R.T. commencement speech at Eureka, he elevated Eureka College to a global scale.
“Eureka College played a major role in a cataclysmic event in world history,” Anthony Glass, director of Melick Library, stated.
The Ronald W. Reagan Peace Garden was made possible through a generous gift from David and Anne Vaughan. It is also because of the work that Dr. Junius Rodriguez, professor of history, contributed that Eureka College was able to obtain a piece of the Berlin Wall.