By Michael D. Shear With former first lady Nancy Reagan by his side, President Obama today created a commission to plan events that will honor former president Ronald Reagan on what would have been his 100th birthday. Signing the bill in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Obama was effusive in his praise of Reagan, even though the former Republican president's economic philosophy set the government on a radically different course from the one Obama is pursuing. "President Reagan helped as much as any president to restore a sense of optimism in our country, a spirit that transcended politics -- that transcended even the most heated arguments of the day," Obama said. "It was this optimism that the American people sorely needed during a difficult period -- a period of economic and global challenges that tested us in unprecedented ways." In his four months in office, Obama has steadily assailed the economic principles that Reagan stood for. But there are times for partisanship and policy -- and today was not one of them. Obama praised Nancy Reagan, describing her as a first lady who redefined the role and praising her work for stem cell research. "There are few who are not moved by the love that Ms. Reagan felt for her husband -- and fewer still who are not inspired by how this love led her to take up the twin causes of stem cell research and Alzheimer's research," he said. "In saying a long goodbye, Nancy Reagan became a voice on behalf of millions of families experiencing the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer's disease." Obama escorted Nancy Reagan through the door of the room. Reagan was wearing a bright red pant suit and walked with a cane in her right hand. She stood by his right shoulder as the president signed the bill with his left hand. "You're a lefty?" Reagan asked. "I am a lefty," Obama said. The panel Obama established will have 11 members and plan events for Feb. 6, 2011. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44...to_create_rea.html?wprss=44?hpid=sec-politics . . . . Great show of respect for a great man.