REAGAN LIBRARY & AIR FORCE ONE
On September 6, 2011, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation will be hosting the Reagan Centennial GOP Candidates Debate at the Reagan Foundation Library and Museum, where undoubtedly all the Republican candidates will invoke the conservative smaller government ideals and fond memory of the nation’s 40th President. And just as surely, images of the Air Force One Presidential jet and longing for a return of “Morning In America” will draw a whole new generation of visitors on a pilgrimage to the museum of presidential history northwest of Los Angeles.
great Americans of history, founding fathers and great presidents of
the past get enshrined in symbols and in physical sites. Abraham Lincoln,
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have architectural shines in the
capitol city, faces of later presidents are carved on Mt Rushmore. We
carve great stone monuments much anymore. The modern shrine for a president
is the Presidential Library. There are two in California (the
Nixon Library is further south in Yorba Linda near Disneyland). The
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Museum and Air Force One Exhibit
fits that role for Ronald Wilson Reagan. I’ll have to admit for
full disclosure that Ronald Reagan is not my personal hero. But on a
recent visit to the institution among the grassy hills of Southern California,
I had to buy some Ronald Reagan Presidential Seal souvenir golf balls,
and a logo golf towel as a gift for my brother - who sees things a bit
differently than do I. The bronze laconic statue of a relaxed Ronald
Reagan in his western garb from his retirement days on the ranch outside
the door of his library is perhaps more California casual than the columned
marble solemnity of Lincoln‘s, but the journey inside is equally
The museum at the library has been recently renovated in 2011 in time for the centennial of his birth in 1911, and an impressive experience, worth a visit for those of any political stripe, though perhaps more emotionally fulfilling for those more attuned to the Reagan ideal. The museum begins with a photo opportunity for the family to gather around life-sized statues of Ronald and Nancy. Then, a self-guided journey through the life story of Ronald Reagan, from his youth and college football days, his acting career, to President of the Screen Actors Guild, Governor of California and President of the United States. Eighteen new galleries pay tribute to his accomplishments and his philosophy. Interactive exhibits allow the visitor to act in a movie scene with Ronald Reagan, read his handwritten diary, turning the pages on a digital screen, stand at the podium behind the Teleprompters and deliver the inaugural address. Ronald Reagan’s sonorous follows through every hall, with speeches from phases of his political life and his lifelong love affair with Nancy. The exhibit turns somber in the attempted assassination, surprisingly early in his term and ends with his days on the Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara. Nancy is ever present, including a collection of her gowns and dresses.
The Oval Office Replica
Central to the museum is the replica of Ronald Reagan’s Oval Office, furnished as he occupied it. There’s actually a bit of Democratic presidential memorabilia in the Reagan Library exhibits as well, like a subversive reminder that after all, U.S. Presidents don’t get all their own stuff. The great desk in the Oval Office, known as the Resolute Desk, made from the oak timbers of the H.M.S. Resolute, a captured British ship returned to England and given as a present by Queen Victoria, was used by every President, Democratic and Republican, since Rutherford B. Hayes, (except for Johnson, Nixon and Ford). It is the desk seen in the photo of little Jon-Jon Kennedy playing underneath. The Oval Office recreation around it is all Reagan, the western art, bronzed saddles, and jar of Jelly Bellies. It is rather like standing in the presence, reverentially quiet and muted, as if waiting for the great man to return to office.
Air Force One
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