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Getting to Know Ronald Reagan Through His Presidential Library

Updated on August 3, 2018

The Greeter at the Reagan Library

Statue of Ronald Reagan at his Presidential Library
Statue of Ronald Reagan at his Presidential Library | Source

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 the picture above, 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. Although I haven't been able to get back to the library since Nancy Reagan's death, I imagine this exhibit has been updated since then.

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.

Freedom Is

Creative Commons CC0
Creative Commons CC0 | Source

See a Bit of the Reagan Library for Yourself

Although some material is common to all these videos, parts of each are unique. I suggest you click through to watch them on YouTube so you can get the widest possible view. You will see guided tours inside the library, the loveliest parts of the grounds, the Berlin Wall exhibit and fragment, and the graves of Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan. The second video was taken after Nancy Reagan's death and her name has been added to the tombstone.

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.

A
Ronald Reagan Library:
40 Presidential Dr., Simi Valley, Ca

get directions

B
Posada Royale Hotel:
Posada Royale Hotel, 1775 Madera Rd., Simi Valley, CA

get directions

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.

Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader
Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader

This is on my wish list, since I have learned a lot from D'Souza's documentary movies.

 

Where Freedom Prospers

Source

Ronald Reagan had a Godly Mother. - This is a picture of her Bible, as preserved in the Reagan Library.

Nelle Reagan's Bible on display at the Ronald Reagan Library when I took the picture
Nelle Reagan's Bible on display at the Ronald Reagan Library when I took the picture | Source

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. "

Reagan's Boyhood

As a national record, this is in the public domain.
As a national record, this is in the public domain. | Source

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

Source

"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 Wall

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is part of the reconstruction of a portion of the Berlin Wall within the exhibit area. Around the corner is another hole at the bottom so children could crawl through one hole and come back out through the other. They did. This is the colorful side of the fragment of the Berlin Wall outside the library in the open air. This side is how the wall looked to the west. The other side is bleak and drab, as it appeared to those inside the wall.
This is part of the reconstruction of a portion of the Berlin Wall within the exhibit area. Around the corner is another hole at the bottom so children could crawl through one hole and come back out through the other. They did.
This is part of the reconstruction of a portion of the Berlin Wall within the exhibit area. Around the corner is another hole at the bottom so children could crawl through one hole and come back out through the other. They did. | Source
This is the colorful side of the fragment of the Berlin Wall outside the library in the open air. This side is how the wall looked to the west. The other side is bleak and drab, as it appeared to those inside the wall.
This is the colorful side of the fragment of the Berlin Wall outside the library in the open air. This side is how the wall looked to the west. The other side is bleak and drab, as it appeared to those inside the wall. | Source

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 though 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?

See results

How to Make Crime Pay

Air Force One Pavilion - You can't fully appreciate it except in person.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Although we were allowed to enter and walk through Air Force One, we were not allowed to take pictures inside. I would have loved to make my own video of this.Seeing Marine One has the same effect of making you seem very small in comparison. This is what carried the President from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base to catch Air Force One, and it was also used for other kinds of trips.This is the display of the presidential motorcade. The 1984 Cadillac Limousine was first used in Reagan's hometown of Dixon for a celebration of his 73rd birthday. He was the first president to use this then state of the art vehicle.
Although we were allowed to enter and walk through Air Force One, we were not allowed to take pictures inside. I would have loved to make my own video of this.
Although we were allowed to enter and walk through Air Force One, we were not allowed to take pictures inside. I would have loved to make my own video of this.
Seeing Marine One has the same effect of making you seem very small in comparison. This is what carried the President from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base to catch Air Force One, and it was also used for other kinds of trips.
Seeing Marine One has the same effect of making you seem very small in comparison. This is what carried the President from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base to catch Air Force One, and it was also used for other kinds of trips.
This is the display of the presidential motorcade. The 1984 Cadillac Limousine was first used in Reagan's hometown of Dixon for a celebration of his 73rd birthday. He was the first president to use this then state of the art vehicle.
This is the display of the presidential motorcade. The 1984 Cadillac Limousine was first used in Reagan's hometown of Dixon for a celebration of his 73rd birthday. He was the first president to use this then state of the art vehicle.

The Air Force One Pavilion Made Me Feel Very Small

The photographic equipment I had could not do this exhibit justice. You can't fully comprehend how large these aircraft are until you are standing beside them or looking up at them from underneath. I felt like an ant.

The few video tours of the inside of Air Force One in the Pavilion that have been allowed to remain posted on YouTube don't show as much as I'd like, but they do give you a glimpse. Of what remains, I will share these three here. They seem to have the proper permissions to stay up.

The first shows President Reagan and his wife Nancy having lunch aboard Air Force One on the way to California. The President talks to his staff in another part of the plane. At the end we see The President and his wife leaving Air Force One and getting into a limousine after landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

The second is an official look inside the plane and the Pavilion. Produced by the Reagan Foundation, it shows a bit more of the plane than the first video.

The third video shows how Air Force One was moved into the Air Force One Pavilion and has great views of the plane's exterior from all angles.

President Reagan and Nancy Aboard Air Force One

Inside Air Force One and the Pavilion

Air Force One Pavilion -- The Video

The Closest Thing to Eternal Life on This Earth

Behind the Podium is a Popular Place to Get One's Photo Taken

Presidential Podium at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Presidential Podium at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library | Source

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 the presidential podium, with that cast of political stars standing behind it (pictured above.)

Another opportunity is when 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's Burial Place
Ronald Reagan's Burial Place

The Death 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. Missing in this video is the part where I saw the street signs that 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.

© 2011 Barbara Radisavljevic

Thank you for stopping by to read this article. - Please let me know you were here by leaving a comment.

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    • Monica Ranstrom profile image

      Monica Ranstrom 

      6 years ago

      Really wonderful tribute to Regan. Thank you for this. I'm featuring this on my lens about California Piers (work in progress right now!).

    • profile image

      PatriotDesigns 

      6 years ago

      Greart lens! Very pleased to see you are featuring several Patriot Designs items here!Why not take a look at our store, as there are lots of new unique Ronald Reagan themed t-shirts & gifts you might like to include.Thanks!

    • MrsPotts profile image

      MrsPotts 

      6 years ago

      A wonderful lens and I appreciate all the quotes! I believe our best presidents have been Washington, Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.

    • Amyrandall profile image

      Amyrandall 

      6 years ago

      no place that far...

    • profile image

      ptnjust007 

      6 years ago

      good lens

    • dwnovacek profile image

      dwnovacek 

      6 years ago

      Ronald Reagan is my favorite president and I loved this wonderful lens in his honor. Angel Blessed!

    • profile image

      im1337mi 

      6 years ago

      Very detailed, thanks for sharing!

    • TenPoundTenor profile image

      TenPoundTenor 

      6 years ago

      Great Lens. I just finished reading "When Character Was King" a biography of Reagan. I'm very impressed with the man.

    • kTerrain1 profile image

      kTerrain1 

      6 years ago

      Excellent, excellent quotes perfect for today. Thanks so much.

    • SciTechEditorDave profile image

      David Gardner 

      6 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Very nice lens! Congratulations on a Squidoo masterpiece! (And Squidoo front-page prominence!)

    • sweetstickyrainbo profile image

      sweetstickyrainbo 

      6 years ago

      the Berlin Wall exhibit is pretty cool!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      He gave us back our pride in our country...I miss him and that ability he had to make us see how great we are and could yet become. God Bless him and Nancy. Thank you so much. I loved this lens.

    • SecondHandJoe LM profile image

      SecondHandJoe LM 

      6 years ago

      thanks BarbRad- This is as close as I've gotten to President Reagan's library so thanks for that! I miss how I used to feel when I was younger and he was in office! We all seemed proud to to be Americans- Number 1 on planet Earth. How do we feel now???

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 

      6 years ago

      Nice lens

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful lens and great tribute for Ronald Reagan, I love the history facts. Nancy and Ronald is also an inspirational love story in itself, they live by example and they have my admiration.

    • Herman IV profile image

      Herman IV 

      6 years ago

      Very much enjoyed this lens on a great president. I've been to the George H. W. Bush library at Texas A&M and would love to go to the Reagan Library. I also enjoyed the number of clips you showed here of Reagan's life and speeches.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      congratulations on being on the front page of Squidoo with this great lens.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      6 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @anonymous: The Air Force One Pavilion blew me away. You can't image what it's like until you see it in person. It'snot just the planes and the vehicles -- it's the spaciousness and the view. You almost feel the outdoors coming in. I hope you get the chance to see it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      Great job on this lens! I hope to visit the Reagan library someday. I'd love to see the Air Force One pavilion. Thanks for sharing this lens with us.

    • BarbRad profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      @happynutritionist: Claudia,We were staying in a motel about five minutes away from the library again this weekend, and I finally had a chance to go back and get some better pictures on the grounds again this morning. I also looked around the gift shop. I didn't have enough time to go inside the library again because we still had to drive home. The grounds were so crowded that it was hard to get pictures without other photographers in them. The grounds are lovely, and it's only today I noticed the picture area near the parking lot. In a few years I suppose the magnificent view will be gone because the cyprus grove will grow up and block it.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 

      7 years ago

      This is an beautiful lens, I wish I was close enough to visit the library. You have done such a nice job it has been like a mini-visit, and reading the words of Reagan that you highlighted touch my heart, I miss him and his integrity...no man is perfect...but he was exceptional in many ways.

    • LissaKlar LM profile image

      LissaKlar LM 

      7 years ago

      That would be cool to see that library. The air force one and Presidential Motorcade pictures were impressive. Nice lens!

    • profile image

      moonlitta 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for putting this together:)

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 

      7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      The Ronald Reagan library would be very interesting to see but I really don't want to get to know more about him.

    • profile image

      GrowWear 

      7 years ago

      Very nice share. Ronald Reagan was a very likable man. And blessed with Nancy. Blessed with each other.

    • profile image

      WorldVisionary 

      7 years ago

      Nicely done! I enjoyed your lens.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      7 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Very interesting. Blessed

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