Renaming History


Mt. Reagan, Alaska? Reagansburg, Poland? Planet Reagan? These places don't exist–not yet, anyway. But if the folks heading the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project get their way, every state in the country–and even some other countries–will eventually have some landmark named after the president who attacked government as "the problem."

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, dreamed up the naming plan in 1997 as a way to instill appreciation for the Gipper. The country isn't quite sure how it feels about the Reagan years, says Norquist, who worries that the former actor's presidency is doing a slow fade in the public imagination. "That must not happen to the legacy of Ronald Reagan," declares Norquist.

The legacy project had its first big success early in 1998 with the renaming of the Washington (D.C.) National Airport to include Reagan's name. A few months later, Florida state officials agreed to rename the Florida Turnpike (I-75) after Reagan. And there will likely be a Mt. Reagan designated sometime this year by a group of climbers who plan to claim an anonymous Alaska peak in the statesman's name.

The effort is also stretching to Eastern Europe, where Reagan's role in destroying the Soviet Union makes the project an easy sell. "Most of the people there are pretty fond of Reagan, even more so than some people here in America," says Michael Kamburowski, executive director of the legacy project.

To be sure, there's more than a little irony in naming public facilities after a president who campaigned on reducing federal expenditures. The inconsistency is one reason the renaming of the D.C. airport caused a controversy. But Kamburowski says his group is seeking only "appropriate" targets for the Reagan brand. Changing the airport name made sense, he says, because Reagan was instrumental in turning the airport's federal control over to a local authority.