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Getting to Know Ronald Reagan through his Presidential Library
The Greeter at the Reagan Library
A Short Anniversary Trip to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California
We used our 47th wedding anniversary in June as an excuse to see the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. We only had time for a short trip, and this filled the bill. As a native Californian, I have casually followed Reagan's career as governor and later, as President of the United States, but I was curious as to what influences made him the person he was. I met him in a new way in his library.
In this picture, you see President Reagan's statue greeting visitors at the entrance. The glass in the entrance doors reflect the spacious courtyard visitors have already passed through. The library seems to make the most of open space.
First, it's located at the top of a mountain, and the view from there is to die for. On a clear day one can see all the way to the coast. Second, one passes through a maze-like series of exhibits that cover every stage of Reagan's life and career, ending with a film of his memorial service that hardly anyone leaves with dry eyes. It's interesting to note that as one leaves this part of the library, tissues are available from a docent station.
Probably one of the most effective uses of space is in the part of the library housing Air Force One, Marine One, and the Presidential Motorcade. This is supposed to be one of the stations you pass through in order in the library, but I somehow missed it and had to ask a docent where it was after I had finished the rest of the exhibits.
Although I saw it out of order, I'm glad I waited until the end or I never would have left it to see the rest of the exhibits, and I would have missed some of the best parts. This area encompassed three levels, and the exterior walls are made of glass, so that you have a view all the way around.Since this library contains so much, I will focus on what impressed me most, show you some pictures, and mention some other bits of information in passing.
See a Bit of the Reagan Library for Yourself
This brief video tour is presented by the Ronald Reagan Foundation.
- Reagan Library Video Tour
Although I would have preferred to take my own videos, I wasn't sure it was allowed, and I simply did not have the equipment to do this library justice. Although this account is not unbiased, it will give you a peak at the library and inside Air For
Location of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
This map not only shows you the location of the Ronald Reagan Library, but also the location of the Posada Royale Hotel, which is very close to it. Friends of ours stayed there for a week and they highly recommended it after staying there while adding onto their house. We have stayed there twice now, and found it comfortable. They also provided a free hot breakfast we enjoyed.
Have you enjoyed America: The Movie? - If so, you might also like what Dinesh D'Souza wrote about Ronald Reagan
I hadn't realized that D'Souza used to work for Reagan as a domestic policy advisor, so what he wrote isn't just from book research. He knew Reagan.
This is on my wish list, since I have learned a lot from D'Souza's documentary movies.
Where Freedom Prospers
Ronald Reagan had a Godly Mother. - This is a picture of her Bible, as preserved in the Reagan Library.
Reagan's Mother Influenced His Faith
Ronald Reagan's mother, Nelle Reagan, was a devout Christian and very active in her Disciples of Christ church in Dixon, Illinois, where Ronald Reagan grew up. She maintained ties with this church even after she moved to California. Ronald Reagan credits his mother's influence with making a Protestant of him, even though his father, Jack Reagan, was Catholic. The Bible in the picture had many handwritten notes, indicating that it was often read and well-used. Nelle was a woman known for prayer, and fellow churchgoer Mildred Neer recalls that she had a "passion for prayer. "
A Bit of Reagan's Biography
Ronald Reagan's parents never owned a home while he was growing up. The family had moved wherever Jack Reagan, a shoe salesman, had been able to get a job, so the Reagans had lived in several small towns in Illinois. When he later wrote about his boyhood, Reagan said, "I realize now that we were poor, but I didn't know it at the time."
According to the archives in the Reagan Library, he got his first job from a construction contractor at the age of 14, digging ditches ten hours a day, six days a week, for a wage of 35 cents per hour. He saved the money earned (about $200) for his college tuition to supplement his scholarship to Eureka College, which was affiliated with the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. He also was a lifeguard during the summers of 1926 to 1933 at Lowell Park along Illinois's Rock River. During these seven summers of high school and college he is credited with rescuing 77 people and one pair of dentures while he worked this job. (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Pu-Ro/Reagan-Ron... ).
He graduated from Dixon High School in 1928 and from Eureka College in 1932. He played football in both high school and college, and also served as student body president at Dixon High and Eureka College.This background, I believe, helped Reagan understand the aspirations and hardships of those in America's heartland, since he had experienced them both himself. He knew what it meant to work hard for what he wanted, since no one handed it to him. This made it easier to relate to all Americans when he later went into politics.
That's all the biographical detail I will go into here, since my object is not to write a biography, but to help you experience the Reagan Library. I will supply you with the links I used to get the biographical information in a link list near the end of this article.This photo is by Courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan - A Love Story with No End
When I saw the various exhibits on Nancy Reagan and her marriage, I could not help but be moved by the way she supported her husband in all he did. She wanted him to be successful, and she did her best to make him so. I wasn't quite sure whether to put this at the beginning, here, to illustrate the relationship Nancy and Ronnie shared, or to put it at the end, since it contains scenes from the funeral and grave site. I decided to put it here.
How to Identify a Communist
"Tear Down This Wall"
This is probably the speech most people think of when they remember President Reagan, but most people have not heard this famous line in context. Here's the context.
A Look at the Berlin WallClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Assassination Attempt
One of the exhibits that made the biggest impression on me was the life size (or maybe bigger than life) cineramic view of the video of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. Try to imagine you are standing here on this sidewalk when without warning this plays out in front of you. That's how you feel when you see this at the Reagan library.
Every YouTube video I have tried to put here of the actual footage of the assignation attempt has later been shown here as having the account removed due to copyright violations by the ones who had uploaded them, even thought they are still on YouTube. This is the closest I could come to the real thing. If you click through to YouTube, you can probably see the real footage as one of the suggested videos. Go figure.
How the Secret Service Protected Reagan During the Attempt to Assassinate Him
Have you been able to visit the Ronald Reagan Library yet?
One way to make sure crime doesn't pay would be to let the government run it.
Air Force One Pavilion - You can't fully appreciate it except in person.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Air Force One Pavilion -- The Video
ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth! -- Ronald Reagan
Popular Photo Opportunities at the Reagan Library
Although there will be many subjects that will tempt your camera here, there a couple of places where people like to pose. One of them is behind this podium, with that cast of political stars standing behind it.At the other place, a professional photographer invites you to pose as if you are entering or leaving from Air Force One. I resisted the temptation to pose here for two reasons. First, I didn't look very presidential and I was having a bad hair day. Second, I didn't expect this was free, and I didn't check out what the price might be to get the picture. I wasn't sure I wanted to pay a price to impress my friends, who wouldn't be all that impressed anyway.
The Death and Funeral of Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan died on June 5, 2004, at the age of 93. I remember watching his funeral at my Mom's home. I watched it again at the Reagan Library on very large screens, one after the other. It was much more impressive at the Reagan Library. For one thing, you felt like you were there, and you could see the people up close, especially as they focused on Nancy. This was not just the death of an ex-president, but also the death of a much-loved husband and father. That part hadn't been as clear when I watched it on television.Another part I didn't see on television was the the part that took place on the West Coast, as Reagan was moved to his library in Simi Valley. It was especially meaningful to me because I had lived in Newbury Park, California, before moving here, and as the hearse moved along Interstate 101, I saw the people of Newbury Park lined up on the streets near where I had lived, to pay their last respects as the hearse passed by their town. The video showed the hearse making its way up the hill to the library to lay the president to rest where he had wanted to be buried.
Ronald Reagan's Final Journey
Many of these scenes were in the video footage we saw on the big screens at the library. This is similar, but not identical to the last one we saw. I didn't see the part in this video where I saw the street signs the I recognized in Newbury Park. What does come through is Nancy's emotion as she related to the casket. I identified with her because that's how I felt when my son died. When you lose someone very close, that casket holds all you have left of them, and irrational as it may be, you want to cling to that, as you could see Nancy doing. I came out of that last exhibit with tears in my eyes, and I must not have been the only one the film had that effect on. There was a box of tissues at the docent station we passed right after we came out. I hope you will take the few minutes to watch this final tribute.
Sources I Used to Collect My Facts and Quotes
- Brainy Quotes
This site is a great place to find quotations from about anyone you can think of.
- Wikipedia on Nelle Wilson Reagan
This is a fairly reliable information source, but I did double check the facts I found here with a friend who is a docent at the Reagan Library.
- Notable Biographies: Ronald Reagan
I just discovered this source for short biographical sketches
- From Revolution to Reconstruction
This had another biographical sketch of Ronald Reagan
- Reagan Archives at the University of Texas
This was a great source for both facts and photographs.
Any feedback is welcome. Comments are moderated to prevent spamming. I welcome your own impressions of the Reagan library or other presidential libraries you may have visited.
© 2011 Barbara Radisavljevic