Tear Down This Wall: Visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

The GEO wanted to see the temporary Leonardo DaVinci exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library so we took a road trip down to Simi Valley this summer.  Ronald Reagan is the first president I can really remember from my childhood (his term ran from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989) so I was pretty excited for my visit. As I walked through the exhibits, I realized I had forgotten how much had happened during the term of his presidency.  Going down memory lane left me feeling old, given that these events that occurred in my lifetime are now considered history. 

One of the first rooms on display is a recreation of the Oval Office as it was during Reagan’s presidency. Too bad they don’t let visitors walk through as it was a little difficult to get a good look at all the details from the viewing area.

The exhibit on John Hinkley’s assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981 was eerie.  As a kid, I remember how scary it was to watch the event unfold on television as well as it being a major shock being privy to such real life violence. The video showing the shooting in a loop was haunting. It’s incredibly saddening that as a country we have not made any progress in the last 30 years to stop this kind of violence.  Gun violence has only increased and is a common occurrence now.

I always wondered what it was like onboard the Flying White House so the highlight for me was walking through Air Force One which served seven presidents between 1973 and 2001.  The plane flew President Reagan over 660,000 miles, including 26 foreign countries and 46 U.S. states.  The most interesting thing was seeing how far technology has come.  How many people younger than me would recognize a rotary phone?  

Both Air Force One and Marine One were, to my amazement, housed within the building.  There is an interesting series of photos showing how the plane was brought to the construction site (in pieces and then reassembled) and then the library was eventually built up around the plane.  

What I remember most from Reagan’s presidency was his work towards ending the Cold War and the dramatic speech he made about tearing down the Berlin Wall the infamous symbol of the Cold War. I grew up in a time where I was always worried about being collateral damage in the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union so knowing that it had finally come to an end was a big comfort.  “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”  Naturally, there was an exhibit about the Berlin Wall to demonstrate how instrumental  Reagan was in the wall being torn down.  

There is a replica of the White House South Lawn outside the library.  Here you will find a piece of the actual Berlin wall standing in commemoration of the momentous occasion.  The burial sites for both Ronald and Nancy can be found nearby.

GC3GZFW (Reagan Library Scenery) is a nice sized geocache placed at a vista point overlooking Simi Valley.  Too bad it was a June gloom kind of day so the view should have been better but it was still a great spot to sit and take some time to reflect on all that I saw.