Today my mom and I took the time to travel to Simi Valley and visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. It wasn’t such a bad drive out the 118 and had been something we wanted to do for awhile. My dad was out playing a round of golf and so we decided to make it happen.
While I was not around during his two terms in office (1981-1989), he is considered to be a heroic figure in the Republican party as well as conservative moment. He is most well-known for his speech to General Secretary Gorbachev:
“If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
President Reagan has a mixed legacy, with some supporters emphasizing his efforts that created a more efficient and prosperous economy and a peaceful end to the Cold War. Then, there are those who criticize the effects of his economic policies such as large budget deficits that increased US national debt. When all is said and done, Reagan was an inspirational leader, an excellent public speaker, one unique individual.
The entire museum is set in a chronological pattern of Reagan’s life and time as president. It leads visitors through Reagan’s time in Hollywood, his time as California’s governor, and the various other moments that led to his time in the White House. Did you know that he had a daily journal that he wrote in? He must have needed quite a few journals to support eight years as President. I guess in a way, we each are participating in such an activity, sharing our daily lives in a blog-version. Sure, I don’t think he participated in “What I Ate Wednesday,” but it takes a certain amount of dedication to sit down and journal (or blog) each day.
We decided to purchase the tickets that contained a guided tour, which on average takes visitors about three hours to complete. Most of the information was written on plaques, but it was also fun to have a audio version.
I think it is fascinating to browse the artifacts that are hosted by any historical museum. My favorite was the book of inspirational quotes. Over time, Reagan would come across quotes, which he would hand-write on an individual note card and slip into a separate notebook to potentially include in a speech later on.
The museum also took us through the First Lady’s role in the White House and I have to hand it to Mrs. Reagan, she not only was quite the hostess, but a wonderful role model and leader as well. There was a great interactive piece that allowed visitors to catch a glimpse of the hundreds of different dinners that were hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Reagan and even included a number of dinner menus (full-course mind you). Did you know that the First Lady would spend a great deal of time planning with the staff, as well as testing each of the dishes that would be served to such honored guests?
One of my favorite stories about the President was that while upon Air Force One, if it was your birthday, a chocolate cake would be served in your honor and President Reagan himself would make an appearance to sing and wish the lucky individual a happy birthday. Now, this is a tradition that had never been done before and has never been picked up since. I believe it is the small acts of kindness and small gestures such as celebrating a birthday that help the great individuals stand out from just the average ones.
In terms of food, you have a couple of options. There is a snack shop called “The Ronald Reagan,” a re-creation of an Irish pub, located about two-thirds of the way through the museum. Besides some pre-made salads, sandwiches, fruit, drinks, and fudge, there isn’t much. My mom and I ended up splitting one of the over-priced salads, but weren’t really satisfied. There is also a restaurant, called Reagan’s Country Cafe, which seems to have more of a fresher selection of menu items and is also open to the public, without having to enter the museum. This supposedly has an excellent view of the valley out to the Pacific Ocean. Overall, I’d recommend packing a sack lunch (and/or snacks) or planning your trip around non-meal times.
At the end of the Reagan tour, there was a traveling exhibition on Walt Disney and of course, Disney the company. We were a little burned out (it had been over 3 hours…) and we had visited the Walt Disney Museum up in San Francisco, so we decided to hit the road. I highly recommend taking a trip out to Simi Valley, even if it is in the middle of nowhere. 🙂
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”