What follows is the monologue from today’s Roderic Deane Show:
The Reagan Library is a short drive north of LA. From where I was staying near Marina Del Rey, it was only about 50 miles or so to Simi Valley, the home of the library. Since I decided to visit on a Friday, the traffic was tolerable, despite the fact that it was Labor Day weekend.
As you move out of the Los Angeles area, you realize how arid that part of California truly is…and hilly! Coming from the Dallas area, the terrain was breathtaking. The highway meandered up, down and around the various hills. One thing that really struck me was how brown it was. Very little green could be seen for great distances and you quickly came to appreciate how important irrigation is to this part of California. Only the valleys have green areas, the hillsides and hilltops are virtually devoid of green vegetation. It helps you understand how much of a threat they live under with regard to wildfires. There’s certainly a lot of volatile tinder to burn!
Simi Valley is a relatively small town and surrounded by those dry hills and mountains, called the Simi Hills and the Santa Susana Mountain range. The town is pretty much defined by its main drag, a very new-looking, wide, four-lane asphalt road. Our first mission was to stop and get something to eat. My travel partner was a friend from LA, where I bunked while in California. We both agreed that Subway was the ticket and low and behold, we found a Subway on the main drag. The commercial area looks pretty new and the shopping center with the Subway was no exception. The big-box stores were all represented and it looked like all the shopping areas were new and provided plenty of conveniences to support the 120,000+ residents of the town.
After the Subway stop, we headed back out of town from the direction we came to get to the library. From the main drag, you take a new, meandering paved road up and around the side of a hill to enter the library grounds. It seems like they leveled off the top of the hill to build the library, which is a sprawling compound with breathtaking vistas of the surrounding valley and distant mountains and hills. The parking lot was stair-stepped up the side of the hill, but it was a very short walk and relatively short steps down from the uppermost tier of parking to the main sidewalk which takes you to the front entryway. The entrance to the library seems to face southeast and the circular driveway in front is the last measure of land before it drops off to the valley below.
The best word I can use to describe the architecture is classy. Build with a Spanish-style, tiled roof motif, the main entry reminded me of a huge veranda, with a fountain in the middle. The executive offices were on your left, the main entry straight ahead and the to your right. The entryway brought you into a windowed reception area with floor to ceiling glass in front and in back. The back area was a large, open space, meticulously groomed with short-cut grass and a circular sidewalk that extended to the rear of the ground, overlooking the valley below. Again, breathtaking, but I digress!
The personnel in the reception area were extremely welcoming and kind. We were greeted by an attractive woman who asked us if we were interested in becoming members of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. To paraphrase a famous line from a movie, she had me at hello and I said “absolutely!” With my response, she led us around the line for tickets to the backside of the reception area and I signed up for a one-year “Friend” membership for a paltry $65. That fee gave us access to the Reagan Library and all other Presidential libraries for one year, which is great! I plan on visiting the George W. Bush Library in Dallas later after the initial crowds of summer dissipate.
After completing my registration, which extends to my entire family (my travel partner qualified, by the way), she asked us if we wanted to visit the Reagan Library first or see the special Lincoln Exhibit. We opted for the Lincoln Exhibit and she directed us out the back door and east along the rear patio to the Gift Shop and Bookstore, which is undoubtedly where Mark Levin will be signing books. Of course, I couldn’t get through the bookstore without buying something, which ended up being a notebook that I could scribble my thoughts in as we ventured through the Lincoln Exhibit and Reagan Library. I’d go back for additional souvenirs later!
The Lincoln Exhibit was outstanding! The exhibit took you through several rooms that chronicled Lincoln’s beginnings to his assassination, culminating with an amazing, oversized recreation of Lincoln’s head. More on that in a bit.
Walking through the exhibit was like being transported back into time. Countless artifacts attested to the real existence of the man in ways that mere descriptions cannot convey. Handwritten letters, old photographs, personal items and the recreation of significant settings left you in awe. Just a couple of things amongst the myriad of items that really struck me was one of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats displayed in a glass case in the middle of one room of the exhibit. Looking for the right word, I’d have to use “surreal”.
Venturing out of one room to the next, you passed an large, elevated wide-screen TV which was showing clips of Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln’. Just beyond was a complete recreation of Lincoln’s office, which was meticulously recreated in the movie. I’m going to post a picture of that on the blog. Make sure and check it out!
Beyond the Lincoln office was a recreation of a field hospital from the Civil War, replete with actual surgical tools and other, authentic items from the era. I was struck by the complete lack of modern, sanitary conditions present in today’s hospitals. Chilling!
From there, we entered yet another room dedicated to Lincoln’s assassination. There was a recreation of the room and bed that he died in. In a glass case near the exhibit was the actual pillow his head laid on when he died. It was eerie to see Lincoln’s blood stains still present on the pillow!
Beyond that room, we reached the end of the exhibit where they displayed the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen relating to Lincoln. There was on oversized recreation of Lincoln’s head, meticulously recreated with real-looking materials that sent chills up your spine! I was mesmerized by it. From the detail of his hair and beard, to the glistening of his eyes, I have never been more transfixed by anything in my life. I’ll post a picture on my website, rodericdeane.com, but it doesn’t do it justice. You have to be standing next to it to fully appreciate it.
We took a brief break back in the gift shop slash bookstore and I picked up my souvenirs. The gal behind the checkout counter was sweet as could be, young, blond and gorgeous! What a great job for a young person! I wanted to buy a ton of stuff just to be able to talk to her more during checkout, but refrained from it. Damn!
The Reagan Library was like a walk back through memory lane. I graduated from college 4 years before Reagan was elected President, so I could remember every aspect of what I saw, with some surprises thrown in. Of course, the walk-through started with Reagan’s childhood and extended to his burial at this very site. More about that later.
My fellow visitor was born about 2 years before Reagan left office. His parents are virtual neighbors of mine in Texas and I’ve known them for about 5 years. He’s pursuing a photography career in LA and I promised him I would visit when he moved there 4 months ago. I’ve yet to report back to his mom and dad, but that’s going to happen soon. What a tremendous thing to be able to pursue your dream as a 27 year-old. That was about how old I was when Reagan entered office.
The Reagan Library isn’t as much a library as it is a museum, which I assume is the basic idea behind all Presidential libraries. There were so many memorable aspects that I can’t begin to recount them for you. There were a couple of things that really stood out to me, however.
While the Lincoln Exhibit ended with his assassination, the Reagan Presidency began with his attempted assassination. At the time, I remember how the press downplayed the extent of his wounds, but the truth of the matter is that Reagan came precariously close to dying. There was video recreation of his time in the Emergency Room, where he quipped to the attending physicians that he hoped they weren’t Democrats. They assured him they were all Republican that day! When Nancy joined him in the E.R., he told her sorry, “I forgot to duck!” What a great, great man!
The final part of the library was a room dedicated to his death and funeral. As I watched a video of his funeral from 2004, I was overwhelmed with emotion, remembering watching it on TV and sobbing, with tears streaming down my face. I’ve never known a politician that evoked that kind of emotion in me. Ronald Reagan was a man that not only made you feel good about the country, he made you feel good about yourself. Losing him was like losing a father that cheers you on in everything you do. It struck that kind of nerve!
After walking through the Reagan Library, there was one more thing we needed to do. I was apprehensive about it, for some reason, but determined nonetheless. His grave-site is on the grounds and I thought about the feeling of what it would be like to visit.
It’s a very simple memorial and by virtue of its location, very quiet. There were a number of people there, but all spoke in hushed tones, out of reverence for the man. It was another emotional moment for me. I would never be closer to the man I’ve come to regard as the greatest President of my lifetime. I couldn’t help but gaze at his memorial stone and the beautiful backdrop to his grave-site without starting to choke up. I noticed a number of people wiping away tears as they stood there viewing the site. No words were spoken and none needed to be. We all felt the same thing.
I’ll post pictures on my website, rodericdeane.com, but they can’t possibly convey the impact the library has on you. I didn’t get into a lot of detail about the library on purpose. You have to go there to fully appreciate it and the man who it commemorates. My feeble descriptions cannot possibly do it justice.
Here is the view from Ronald Reagan’s grave-site:
Major hat tip to Jason Ryan for showing me how to take inside pictures without flash, a no-no at the Reagan Library! Jason Ryan Photography
You can buy Mark Levin’s new book, “The Liberty Amendments”, by clicking HERE.