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I cried. Several times. And I feel so inspired after visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
To get here, I drove on the Ronald Reagan Freeway, and followed a dozen signs to “Presidential Library.” This is my third time here. The first time I was on my honeymoon in 1996, and there was a special treat: We got to see President Reagan while hew as visiting the grounds himself. Although stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease, he saw us all wave to him, and he waved back. It was simply wonderful.
The library sits on 100 acres on the top of a hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the distance. There are two stated purposes: to be a Library and a museum. There is a third purpose: itis a place for people to gather; be it for a Presidential Debate, or for groups to meet to further conservatism. There was a nominal cost to tour the museum, and for only $7 more, you can get an audio wand which corresponds to different spots on the tour. (It is worth every penny to hear snippets from President Reagan, as well as Nancy and even one by JFK.)
At the start, there are portraits and statutes of President Reagan that people take pictures of themselves with. There were lots of great Reagan quotes. “America’s best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments ate yet yo be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.”
There were three parts to the museum: First Reagan’s family, growing up, going to college, leading a college protest as a Freshman (!), his radio career, his movie career, his TV career, and the epochal “Time for Choosing” speech in 1964. Then on to his governorship, his daily radio five minute messages, the 1976 race against Ford, his race against Carter where he carried 44 states, and the first 70 days of his Presidency, followed by him being shot. There was a replica of the Oval Office with the famous brass quote: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”
Second is the Air Force One Exhibit. That 707 is one huge airplane, and its exhibit was built on the only appropriate site left on the top of the hill where it could be connected to the rest of the buildings. It is lots of fun. There is also the Marine One helicopter, and various armored cars and the story of how the plane was flown into the San Bernardino airport was disassembled, and then driven on the freeways to the library where it was reassembled on-site, with the new building being half constructed.
And then third, back to the chronology, now by themes of the Reagan Presidency. I was reminded of how bad things were when Reagan was elected, from high inflation and high unemployment to poor military preparedness. I remember how crushed the nation was from Jimmy Carter’s stagflation. I teared up over the Morning in America TV ad. Then Reagan honoring the boys of Pointe du Hoc. Tears again. Then pride at Reagan walking out of Reykjavik Summit. (I remember watching a Dallas Cowboys Football game during this and the worry on the announcer’s face after Reagan walked out.) Then American Heroes. Then the Reagan Ranch. And finally mourning President Reagan with eulogies by Margaret Thatcher and H.W. More tears.
I was emotionally flooded. Fully motivated, I hit the Museum Store. I bought a bunch of books and a “Future President of the United States” toddler t-shirt for my 11-month-old great-niece. I bought so much stuff I got a free tote bag for the library! (I also got two President Reagan rulers for the office, and a square magnet with the same picture of a smiling Reagan in a cowboy hat that I use to symbolize me at Ricochet.) There was a nice cafe where I wrote most of this until I was kicked out when they had to secure the building at the end of the day. The only down point is that the cafe had only paper straws. But hey, this is California, what do you expect?
Outside a gentle breeze highlighted a portion of the Berlin Wall. And I paid my respects to President Reagan’s final resting place where he is now joined by his Nancy. Ronald Wilson Reagan. February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004. Nancy Davis Reagan. July 6, 1921 – March 6, 2016. “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always triumph and there is a purpose and worth to each and every life.”
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is less than an hour away from downtown LA if the freeways are clear. Don’t miss it. And bring tissues.