PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: THE RONALD REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY & MUSEUM
Welcome to the fourth installment in this series about Presidential destinations. Since I’m a Texan you might THINK I would have been to presidential destinations in Texas, like the LBJ Library and Ranch or the Bush Library, than destinations in other states, but you’d be wrong. I lived on the Central Coast of California for six years and almost everyone I knew came to visit. When they came, they wanted to see two things: Hearst Castle and the Reagan Library. While I lived there, I was going to the Museum so often I was afraid they’d think I was casing the joint.
Given the frequency of my visits, you might think I’d never want to cross the threshold of the Ronald Reagan Presidental Museum again, but you’d be wrong about that, too. For one thing, since my last visit, they’ve built a brand new wing to house an Air Force One Jet you can actually tour. I’d love to visit that.
Perhaps, more importantly, the Reagan years were good years. The Vietnam War was behind us and something like 9/11 was unthinkable. Yes, The Cold War,Vietnam, Watergate and the Hostage Situation in Iran left the country in a pretty big mess, but Reaganomics lifted us out of the mire. Detente was in the air and life was good. There’s a joyous, almost carefree atmosphere to the Reagan Library that makes it more enjoyable than some others I’ve visited.
Reagan’s life story was The American Dream. A small town boy plays football in college, becomes a radio announcer and then graces the silver screen with top starlets like Barbara Stanwyck, Doris Day and Bette Davis. That he later became the president of the Screen Actors Guild and Governor of California was just icing on the cake.
The Reagan story has all the benefits of a good movie: A handsome leading man, an exciting plot and a great romance. In fact, I’ve probably listed those in the wrong order.
Mrs. Ronald Reagan
If there is one thing you know when you’re through visiting the Reagan Library and Museum, it’s that he was married to Nancy. Just for fun, I often referred to it as the Nancy Reagan Memorial Museum. The exhibits do cover Reagan’s life before he met Nancy, but it was a black and white silent movie until she came along. Then suddenly it becomes a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical in 3D with Technicolor and Dolby. As pervasive as Nancy’s influence is on the museum, it’s not the most memorable thing.
The Grounds of the Library & Museum
When you’ve toured the museum you are invited outside. There you will find a piece of the Berlin Wall, a testament to his contributions toward the wall’s demise. Further down the walk, you will find his grave. But what you will love is what he loved, the view.
The Museum shares the same kind of scenery as his beloved Rancho del Cielo. Just as LBJ had his Texas White House, Reagan had the Western White House there at Rancho del Cielo. It is easy for me to imagine that Reagan dreamed up his big ideas looking into this horizon. There is no doubt that he loved the ranch and seeing the landscape surrounding the museum anyone can see why.
And Don’t Forget the Gift Shop
One more highlight. The Gift Shop is great. Just as most of the libraries boast an Oval Office, they also have gift shops. But at Reagan’s Library I could rarely pass by without finding something which begged me to take it home with me.
Once it was a book of Reagan quotes, another time a red, white and blue Christmas ornament and yet another time it was a First Lady Cookie Cookbook. I admired Reagan, but whoever buys for their gift shop deserves accolades and whoever created the displays should have gotten a raise, because I really didn’t like him as much as all my Reagan paraphernalia would suggest.
Have you been to Reagan’s Library? Have you been since the Air Force One was there to see? Have you seen other presidential libraries? How does Reagan’s stack up against the others in your opinion?