The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was dedicated in November, 1991, with 5 living, ex-U.S. Presidents in attendance–George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. The Library in Simi Valley was built entirely with private donations, including the land. Reagan had left The Presidency 2 years previously.
Reagan’s Oval Office is exactly reproduced down to his jelly bean jar and western art inside The Library near the end of Part 1 that closes with a First Lady display. My favorite Nancy quote: “If you ever start feeling sorry for yourself, try visiting hospitals.”
Besides the Oval Office, another Part 1 display was getting lots of attention by asking questions about state dinner etiquette. The one I didn’t get right was: when do you sip champagne during a toast if you’re the honored guest? When that happens now, I’ll know exactly what to do.
We spent a lot of time in Air Force One Pavilion before entering Part 2. In “Flights of Freedom” I found the Reagan quote I had been looking for. While standing at the Brandenburg Gate, he challenged the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to tear down the Berlin Wall. Amazing historical fact: Gorbachev did, at least symbolically.
One of the more interesting Pavilion displays was about the Secret Service. I didn’t know that Abraham Lincoln established it to deal with the problem of counterfeit currency during the Civil War. In fact, it was his last official act as President because that evening he was assassinated. Teddy Roosevelt was the 1st Secret Service protected President.
Part 2 of the 24 Galleries detailing Reagan’s life began with “Rebuilding America” and reported on the recession he inherited. His Economic Scorecard: between 1981 and 1989 inflation dropped from 12.4% to 4.6% and unemployment fell from 7.4 to 5.2. After I had the chance to crawl under the Berlin Wall, I entered Crisis Corridor which noisily reviewed the U.S.’s 1980’s enemies–Assad, Castro, etc.
Things calmed down when I reached Reagan’s Post Presidency. Among the displays were some handsome saddles he received as gifts, one from Gorbachev, and a generous sample of the 372 belt buckles presented to him.
Before I exited to the Museum Store I watched the final film, an emotion rouser called American Spirit.
Unfortunately, Ruth, Ed, Diane, & I were at RRPL&M before a new exhibit debuted in the Mary Jane Wick Special Exhibits Gallery. All about Abraham Lincoln, it explores his life at the time of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Among the personal items on display between June 1, 2013 and September 30, 2013 is Lincoln’s stovepipe hat.
While President, Ronald Reagan had Secret Service protection but was shot. “Honey, I forgot to duck,” he famously said when he saw Nancy afterwards. While President, he recorded his often mundane, sometimes touching thoughts in a personal diary. After speaking to the British Parliament he noted, “Somehow the Star Spangled Banner when you hear it in another country brings a tear to the eye.” Been there, done that.