Being an Illinois girl, I have followed President Ronald Reagan’s trail to all the Illinois stops and recently I was able to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley California. With the recent loss of Nancy Reagan it was kind of an end of an era. A picture of Nancy Reagan in a beautiful red dress was at the opening of the museum and the eloquence of the former first lady was caught in this beautiful photograph.
Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois in a two-story building known as the Graham Building. He was born in an apartment on the second floor. Years ago I was able to visit this neat sight and see that President Reagan came from humble beginnings. Information about the birthplace can be found on Facebook under the Ronald Reagan Birthplace.
With my husband a big Reagan fan we have enjoyed the chance to follow the Reagan trail as well to his boyhood home in Dixon Illinois which is also open to tour. The 40th President and his family lived in this home in Dixon during the early 1920s (http://reaganhome.org/?page_id=15). The home is with fully restored with furnishings of the period. The site also provides insight into his family life and his brother Neil.
Besides the boyhood home there is also the Northwest Territory Center, (http://nthc.org/) the former school where Reagan attended 6th and 7th grade. The building houses many displays and exhibits about the area, but it also touches on Reagan’s life as well. If in Dixon I recommend stopping at both places.
I have also had the chance to tour at Eureka College which Ronald Reagan attended before heading to California to become a movie star. At Eureka, he was a college student and football hero. The college has a museum housed in the Donald B. Cerf Center. The website,http://www.eureka.edu/reagan/museum/ states, “… the Reagan Museum at Eureka College features a collection of over 2,000 items from President Reagan’s student days at Eureka, his movie and television career, his eight years as Governor of California, his campaign for presidency, and his two terms in office. At the request of Mr. Reagan, the first items in the collection came to the College in 1975. It is now the largest collection of Reagan memorabilia outside of the Reagan library in California.”
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is perched on a mountain in central California was like a follow-up to the adult portion of his life. My visit to the library and museum was a whirlwind, I was part of the North American Travel Journalists conference that visited both the museum and the amazing Vatican exhibit on display. The museum highlight for my friend Linda Spanberger that attended the conference as well was boarding Reagan’s Air Force One which served as the “Flying White House”. Since Linda is an international flight attendant this hit home for her.
The museum offered insight into Ronald and Nancy Reagans lives and includes the National Treasures Gallery, the replica rose garden and the replica of the Oval Office set up like when Reagan was president. The museum opened in 1991 and the views alone are enough to bring you to the museum with the Ocean in the distance and the mountain scenery. The museum and library is set on a 100 acre site and offers more than 100,000 square feet in 24 different galleries. While the piece of the Berlin Wall and the history is memorable, the most touching things to me were the sculptures of the Reagans and the memorial gravesite.
Whatever your politics, whether Ronald Reagan was your choice for President or not, his enthusiasm and title as “The Great Communicator” is truly conveyed at the library. The story of his assassination attempt is very moving and the sense of how protective Nancy Reagan was of him and how the two clung together through thick and thin comes across at this wonderful library. Reagan’s quotes are quite moving and on the brochure they have the one I think I loved the best was part of his farewell address. “Once you begin a great movement, there is no telling where it will end. We meant to change the nation, and instead we changed the world.”
Log onto the website www.reaganlibrary.org or call 805-522-2977 for more information about a visit.