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The Great Communicator quietly celebrated his 90th birthday in his Los Angeles home on Tuesday, which his wife, Nancy, called just another day. Former President Ronald Reagan suffers from Alzheimer's disease and, as a result, has no contact with friends or associates.

According to his wife, the ex-president would want to be remembered the way he was before the disease struck. The request is not too much to ask.

Wednesday night in Washington, Republicans threw a bash in his honor. It was a chance for many of those he brought to Washington during his two terms as president in the 1980s to pay homage to the man who helped restore confidence to a country at a time when it needed it most.

Reagan's admirers are not ashamed to gush. Some of them, in an admission to the New York Times, acknowledge that they often sound like cult members. Some have named children after the former president. Grover Norquist, a conservative activist who helped in getting Washington National airport renamed for Reagan, would actually like to see his likeness replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill.

If Will Rogers never met a man he didn't like, we wonder if anyone ever met Reagan who didn't like him. Even those who differed politically with the former president couldn't escape the infectious optimism and general amiability of the man. For Reagan, hope was everywhere.

He took over a country that simply didn't feel good about itself. Raging inflation, the embarrassment of the Iran hostage crisis and what former president Jimmy Carter called a general "malaise" gripped the country. Reagan helped change the way millions of Americans felt about America.

Not everyone agreed with the ex-president on a number of issues - from housing to race relations and gay issues. Some doubt the conservative gospel that Reagan's defense spending brought down the Soviet Union.

What is not in doubt, however, is the influence that this man had on the American consciousness. That cannot be underestimated.

On the occasion of his birthday, it's right for Americans to remember that.

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