I live in Southern California and have twice visited The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs this month!
The beautiful, hilltop facility near Simi Valley is the final resting place of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, and his wife Nancy Reagan. With the opening of the 90,000-square-foot Air Force One Pavilion in October 2005, the Reagan Library reclaimed the title as the largest (approximately 160,000 square feet) of all the presidential libraries, in terms of physical size.
My wife and I currently have an annual membership to the foundation which supports the library and museum, which is due to expire at the end of this year. Since she especially enjoys the annual display of Christmas trees featured at the facility, we decided to visit on her birthday, earlier this month. Twenty-six trees are featured, each elaborately decorated to represent the climate and culture of the more than two dozen countries the Reagans visited, during his eight years in office.
We noted that the museum is currently featuring a special large-scale, hands-on exhibition, which we felt would be especially interesting to our 11-year-old grandson. So, this week, he and I ventured again to the Ventura County venue.
Titled Interactive! The Exhibition, the high-quality presentation examines “how popular culture in movies, books, TV, and the arts has influenced modern technology and changed the ways we live, work, move, connect and play.” My inquisitive fifth-grader enjoyed hands-on learning about “virtual reality, interactive robots, the driverless car, multiple gaming stations, remote control drones, 3D printing stations” and more!
But, the quintessential aspect of the Reagan Library is Ronald W. Reagan, himself. From the western-themed statuary to the White House stationery, Reagan’s persona and paraphernalia—including the ubiquitous jars of jelly beans—silently speak to each visitor. His classic quotations of biblical values and conservative conscience are found embossed on the walls and in the vibrant videos, as one thoughtfully wonders through the many exhibit areas of the museum and manicured landscapes.
Visiting the well-appointed facility at this Christmas season reminded me of the character and qualities of this man, of whose life one would do well to emulate. His wise and articulate speeches, over many decades, revealed a depth of personal character, chivalry, civility, convictions, and Christian commitment. He was unapologetically pro-life, pro-family, and pro-religious freedoms.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation recently sent out a Christmas greeting, with this excerpt from President Reagan’s humbly profound message to the nation, on December 24, 1981.
On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ with prayer, feasting, and great merriment. But, most of all, we experience it in our hearts.
For more than just a day, Christmas is a state of mind. It is found throughout the year, whenever faith overcomes doubt, hope conquers despair, and love overcomes hate. It is present when men of any creed bring love and understanding to the hearts of their fellow man.
This Christmas season, I’m remembering (and missing) the words and ways of President Ronald Reagan.