Rising majestically on a hill in Simi Valley California the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum stands as a monument to the American ideas of individual liberty, economic opportunity, global democracy, and national pride. These are in fact the principles that Ronald Reagan embraced for our country, and charged the Presidential Foundation established in his name to share with all of those who visit the Library.
Permanent galleries display artifacts, photographs and historical documents from Ronald Reagan’s childhood, college years, and through the start of his public career in radio, television and in the movies.
Interactive exhibits include audio and video presentations and hands-on touch-screen displays. In the White House gallery, visitors can explore various china patterns used for state dinners throughout several administrations. Reproduction place settings of some of these patterns are available in the Museum Store.
A favorite stop on the tour is the full-scale replica of the White House Oval Office, as it was during the Reagan administration. Complete with western art and a jar of jelly beans, guests can experience what it might have been like to visit President Reagan in the Oval Office.
A sobering exhibit highlights the assignation attempt made on the President’s life in 1981. The display includes his suit which was cut away at the hospital and the chest x-ray showing how close the bullet came to this heart. In his diary, Reagan reflected, “Whatever happens now, I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.”
One of the most popular galleries is the Air Force One pavilion. A Secret Service mural adorns the wall opposite the floor-to-ceiling window of the hanger-like enclosure.
Back into the main building, the tour continues on to economic policy issues of the Reagan administration. An interactive touch-screen exhibit highlights the principles of limited government. President Reagan was quite concerned that higher taxes and overregulation stifled economic growth saying, “Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.”
The Threat Theater offers a chilling video presentation about the rise and spread of communism. It is a fascinating description of dictators, despots, and terrorists who all share a common aspiration of world domination. When many of today’s youth naively embrace socialism and communism as hip and cool, I found this quote from Lenin especially sobering.
Additional displays depict America’s strength as a world power, and focus on Reagan’s foreign policy. A life-size bronze sculpture shows the President and Mr. Gorbachov. Peace through strength was a popular motto and this concept was underscored in many of the President’s speeches.
“As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever.” Ronald Reagan
Other artifacts in the Library preserve memorable events of national interest-the space shuttle Challenger accident, the Iran-Contra situation, and a beam from the World Trade Center that honors firefighters who gave their lives to save others.
Visitors to the Library can pay their respects to the former President who is buried a short distance from the back terrace. Also near the terrace is an actual piece of the Berlin Wall, and the view from here is breathtaking.
The Library is truly a stunning collection of historical artifacts and documents. But more importantly, it is the legacy of one man’s approach to government and to life in general. President Reagan embraced the same high ideas which founded our great nation; honesty, integrity, liberty, self-determination, hard work, and faith in God. In his vision of America, President Reagan saw our nation “as a shining city on a hill” where all peoples of the world would benefit from our nation’s strength, resourcefulness, and generosity. He embodied the spirit of our Founding Fathers and gave Americans hope during a time of economic turmoil, rising unemployment, skyrocketing gas prices, and the threats of communism and terrorism-not unlike our world today. Perhaps our nation could benefit from revisiting our past just a bit, and allow Ronald Reagan to inspire us once again.
“Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.” Ronald Reagan
On the journey toward Home,