It feels a little odd for two Obama Democrats to go into the belly of the beast (Reagan Presidential Library), but it’s the first of four days of predicted rain in southern California. And, let’s be honest, we’ve nothing better to do.
Driving south from Carpinteria on the California coast, we take The 101, then route 23 through Thousand Oaks to the hilltop museum honoring our 40th president. The winding road to the museum and Air Force One is lined with celebratory presidential banners beginning with George Washington and on through Lincoln and Obama, and concluding with the current president.
With admission $26 for seniors, the Reagan Presidential Library buzzes with we spry elderly and school kids. Meandering through the exhibits, we travel through time to Reagan’s childhood, his movie career, his entry into politics, and his presidential years (1981-1989). The tour begins with a four-minute film on Reagan’s upbringing and then an ingenious hologram of him giving a speech revealing his humble, humorous nature.
Throughout the tour, there are docents aplenty to answer our questions and provide additional information. His second wife Nancy is prominently displayed throughout as it truly seems that she and her guy were quite a team.
Hannah asks about his first wife, Jane Wyman. One of the volunteer docents (350 in all, working four hour shifts) tells us there is only one picture of her since she divorced him. We were told that Jane Wyman was not happy with his stardom eclipsing hers or his move into politics. Really? What would Jane say? Who knows?
That said, the self-guided museum tour is a nostalgic journey from the late 1950s through Reagan’s tenure as president in the 1980s. It is certainly spun with a flattering Republican weave of the times. If you were white, upper middle class, and rich, these were pretty good times.
A film clip of his speech at the Berlin Wall in 1987 where he said, Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall is stirring and heartfelt. I leave with the impression that he was one helluva nice guy whose calling card was the personal touch. The museum curators succeeded.
Once through the museum (there might have been a presidential library, but I never saw it), we walk down a corridor to a football field size, three story floor-to-ceiling windowed area to the actual Air Force One that was actually used by seven presidents.
Hannah says, I wouldn’t have missed this experience. Spending a fascinating three hours in the company of a legendary figure, I recommend this hilltop testament to Ronald Reagan.
Additional images from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library