Next Monday is President’s Day. Most Americans think of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln since both of their birthdays fall in February. Did you know that President Reagan also celebrated his birthday in February? His birthday just passed on February 6th, and he would have been 103 years old. President Reagan is one of my favorite presidents of modern time, and it most probably has to do with the fact that he is the first president that I have vivid memories of since his presidential term overlapped during my junior and senior high school years. I distinctly remember being in Miss Ginn’s 7th-grade history class when John Hinckley shot President Reagan I also remember watching President Reagan on the nightly news in January of my senior year giving a short speech the day the U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded and in 1987 when he gave his now famous Berlin Wall speech. When I was a teenager, I only knew about Ronald Reagan through the media and from overheard conversations of the adults around me. As an adult, I am now amazed by the life he led. Some people remember him for his fiscal policies known as “Reaganomics,” that produced the longest peacetime period of sustained economic strength in a century. Others will remember him as the American president who helped make it possible for Mikhail Gorbachev to begin the process of restructuring the Soviet society which leads to the dissolution of the state marking an end to the Cold War. I remember him for his compelling moral vision that I learned about by reading The Reagan Diaries and by visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum this past summer.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum is on a mountaintop in Simi Valley, California. The extraordinary life of Ronald Reagan spans over 24 galleries that chart Reagan’s rise from a local hero and college standout to becoming a Hollywood star and then governor of California and ultimately the President of the United States. Like most presidential museums, there were many artifacts, historical documents and dozens of interactive displays.
My son enjoyed “acting” in a movie with Ronald Reagan and delivering the presidential inauguration speech.
I enjoyed seeing the full-scale reproduction of the Oval Office as it appeared during Reagan’s presidency which included a jar of jelly beans on the desk.
Another highlight was taking a tour outside and walking around the manicured grounds which was a replication of the White House Rose Garden.
Also outside was one of the first major pieces of the Berlin Wall to be brought out of Germany. On the west side of the wall it was full of colors and the on the east side it was stark in severe.
While outside on the mountaintop we paid our respects at President Reagan’s Memorial site.
Once back inside we explored one of the main features of the museum, the “Flying White House.” We were able to climb aboard Air Force One who carried President Reagan more than 660,000 miles to 26 countries and 46 states. Also in the pavilion was a Marine One helicopter along with a Presidential Motorcade. I was brought back to the 80′s when I stood before some of the cars.
I had a great time learning more about Ronald Reagan by visiting his Presidential Library and Museum and was happy to share the experience with my son since it seems that he has yet to learn about American History that has overlapped during the time of my life. President Reagan described Presidential Libraries as “classrooms of Democracy” belonging to the American people. At the end of the day, I believe it is each and every American’s responsibility to learn and understand how each of the 44 presidents shaped our country into how we know it today. Upon leaving the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, we walked by the memorial site one more time and read the engraved quote by President Reagan above his resting place. ”I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph and there are a purpose and worth to each in every life.” I told my son I share the same sentiment and to always remember those words from our 40th president as he grows and seeks hope in the future.