Thursday, April 7, 2011

California thursday - Ronald Reagan's Presidental Library

By: Stephanie Burkhart

Just a couple of weeks ago, I took my 8-year-old son, Andrew, to the Reagan Presidential library. I have to admit it was a real treat – not only to have presidential library in my backyard, but the Reagan library. He was president when I was coming of age. He inspired America to believe in itself again. He was president when I joined the Army and I was proud to serve for him.

Reagan's library is located in Simi Valley, CA. Construction began in 1998 and it was dedicated on 4 NOV 1991. (I was married on 14 NOV!) Interesting historical note: Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush were present when the library was dedicated.

The Reagan library has some cool exhibits including Reagan's early years in Dixon, IL, his career in film, and his time as California's governor in the 1960's.

What struck me, especially with the governor's exhibit, was that Reagan faced the same challenges that California faces now. California was in debt and facing an energy crisis. By the time he left office, California had made some hard decisions and was on the road to recovery.

What resonated with me, however, was the Cold War displays. There is a piece of the Berlin Wall on the grounds. I had been to Berlin and even have pieces of the wall myself. I saw the wall before it fell. I had a front row seat to the end of the Cold War in Nov 1989 as I was stationed in Germany when East Germans stormed the wall. I can still hear Reagan's voice. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
The most impressive exhibit is Air Force One, the Boeing 707 aircraft which carried Reagan and many other presidents around the world. It was retired in 2011 and transported to the library in pieces. The exhibit began showing in 2005.

Currently, Air Force One rests on pedestals 25 feet above the ground and you can walk through the plane, acquiring a feel for presidential travel.

The Reagan library is still an active place. In 2008, it hosted the GOP presidential debates. President Reagan was laid to rest on the grounds against a view that embodies the love and affinity he felt for California and the west.

Does anyone want to share their thoughts and impression of the Reagan years?


  1. Hey, Steph. Sounds like a great place to visit. I'm going to have to add it to my "must see" list. Alongside Washington and Lincoln, Reagan is one of my favorite presidents. IMOP he was a great man.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Sherry James

  2. What a beautiful picture of President Reagan. I loved his smile and cheerful mood. I will have to visit his library. Wow, you really have a piece of the Berlin Wall? How cool.

  3. Sounds like a place I would love to visit.

  4. Thanks for sharing your visit to the Reagan Library - so very interesting to me. I was always a fan of Ronald Reagan.

  5. STEPH--this brought back memories. I didn't care for Ronald Reagan back then, and didn't see what all the fuss was about. Maybe I still remembered his old movies, and what a really bad actor he was. The "trickle-down economy" sounded really wrong. Nancy never excited me, either.
    In later years, I learned even more about him and began to really appreciate the man and his vision. We were vacationing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming when he died, and we watched the funeral procession in our motel room. Very moving.
    Now? My admiration for him has grown immensely. I began my early years as a liberal (Jack Kennedy was the first president I voted for--I had just turned 21)...until I saw the error of my ways. Now I realize he truly was the "Great Communicator" and had sound business practices and ideas. Too bad we don't have him around today.
    Thanks, Steph. I enjoyed this. Celia

  6. Unfortunately, the thing I remember the most is his funeral. I couldn't stop watching it, and my heart ached for Nancy.

  7. Sherry,
    What I loved about Reagan was that he made America believe in itself again and it was a wonderful feeling. He's missed.

    Mona, I have a ton of chucks from the Berlin Wall, I picked off myself. Ill have to take a pic w/my favorite piece.

    Sarah & Diane, if you're ever out this way, let me know and we'll make a day of it. You'll love this place.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. He was the first president I really remember, and I remember that I liked him - a lot. He was a great communicator. What impressed me was seeing his exhibit on governor. California faces the same problems now that they did then when he took over. I never did take to Nancy, but I did love her "just say no" to drugs. The message was simple and made an impression with me.

    His funneral was very touching.

  8. Steph,

    Like you, I was at a very impressionable age when Reagan was president. I don't think I realized at the time how, when there were other presidential messes and budgets that we were able to compare and reflect.

    On top of that, I always got a good, honest vibe from him. Thanks for sharing your trip to the museum with us!


  9. somehow a line got left out of the above. What I was trying to say was - At the time we didn't realize how great a president he was because everything worked for the better. It was only later, when things didn't work well, that I noticed how many strides forward we'd made with Reagan.

    Sorry for the double post!

  10. No worries, Maggie. I'm glad you came back and sorted that out a little - I agree. We made a lot of strides forward with Reagan. We were lucky to have him when we did.