Metro Los Angeles is home to two Presidential Libraries: the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
I was in Simi Valley early last year and got a free sign-in to the Reagan Presidential Library. Sure, why not?
First stop just outside of the entrance is a section of the Berlin Wall. The Pacific Ocean is off in the distance.
I believe it was Ronald Reagan who once remarked, "most walls are used to keep people out. The Berlin Wall was designed to keep people in." It's hard to imagine the Reagan Library without a section of the Berlin Wall.
A piece of the 96 mile wall seems like a fitting start to the Library. An even larger section of the Wall can be found in Los Angeles along Wilshire Blvd (here's a link to a previous post).
Let's head back inside.
The Library was PACKED. Chalk it up to lots of out of town visitors during the Christmas Break, or the special displays they had from the Titanic (which was a special ticket and I opted not to pay to see) - the Library was crazy crowded. Certainly an older crowd, that would have remembered - and probably voted for - Reagan.
The Library starts with photos from Reagan's childhood and growing up years in Dixon, Illinois. Reagan moved to California to pursue a career in acting in 1937. He eventually, served as the President of the Screen Actor's Guild, host of General Electric Theater, and Governor of California from 1966-1974. A life long Democrat, he switched political parties in 1962.
Hands on, interactive displays.
Air Force One. Regardless of your political affiliation, this was impressive.
I opted to wait in line, go inside. Pretty cool.
A display outside on the Secret Service, the agency entrusted with protecting the President (as well as former Presidents, and their families).
Ending the Cold War (or hastening the end of the Cold War) was Reagan's greatest legacy. While Reagan was not solely responsable for ending the Cold War with the USSR, even his detractors generally credit his foreign policies resulting in it ended sooner. How much a difference he individually made is the subject of endless discussion.
Even growing up in this era, I didn't fully understand that West Berlin was located 100 miles from the rest of West Germany, located on four sides by Communist dominated East Germany. Meaning that the 96 mile Berlin Wall was designed to keep the East Germans from "escaping" to the city of West Berlin, what was considered an island of freedom.
The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, and finally torn down in 1989 at the collapse of the Soviet Union, two years after Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech.
Photos of Eastern Europeans resisting the Soviet domination of their respective countries.
The two men ultimately responsable for the end of the Cold War: US President Ronald Regan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
Polish Solidarity leader Lech Valenza and President Reagan posting in front of the section of the Berlin Wall at this Reagan Presidential Library.
There's a lot more to see. I felt like I got a great "highlights" version, time to exit through the obligatory gift shop.
Having lived through this era, it's easy to only have nostalgic view of the 1980's. That everything then was better than today. I think that's just human nature. Were there things that were better 35 years ago? Of course, yes. Were there things that weren't? Again, yes.
King Solomon wrote: "Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions." (Ecclesiastes 7:10).
Elsewhere, the Hebrew Scriptures refer to the tribe of Issachar as a group of individuals "who understood the times and knew what Israel should do." (I Chronicles 12:32).
Understanding the times comes from knowing the past, engaging with the present, and looking to the future. How in the world did men and women in the past deal with the challenges and opportunities they faced in their era? What can we learn that will help us as we work through the challenges and opportunities in our era? While looking back, it's equally important to engage with the current era, with the current generation. To think what will the next 35 years - and beyond - look like? And what kind of legacy are we leaving?
A final view leaving in the early afternoon. The museum was insanely crowded when I showed up in the morning. By the afternoon, it wasn't bad.
I could not believe how popular the museum was. I guess Reagan was a popular president.
The museum's parking lot was no doubt filled even before the museum even opened. I parked by car at the bottom of the hill, and then got a ride to the top by my sister-in-law, who was a museum member and kindly signed me in.
The 1980's meet the 1980's -- there was a DeLorean parked about a half a mile from the entrance. DeLorean's were manufactured from 1981-1983, during Reagan's first term in office, and gain noterietay through the "Back to the Future" film series. Fitting car for the era. Even more fun if it was parked out front of the museum.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is located approximately 50 miles north west of downtown Los Angeles in Simi Valley. Here's a link to the Library's website.
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