Saturday, December 31, 2011

We Do One for the Gipper

December 29,  2011

Today’s big event was our visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, an awesome 100,000 square foot temple where the Party faithful come to worship the Great Communicator (known in prior incarnations as the great Gipper and the Great Governor).  The library’s lofty site—100 mountaintop acres with spectacular panoramic views--represents the “shining city on the hill” that the President so often invoked. 

Our President’s temple has many rooms – 24 to be exact – and each gallery has a burnished golden tablet expressing gratitude and praising the works of the wealthy and influential friends whose generous contributions made this flashy place possible. Boone Pickens funded the world’s most beautiful airplane hangar and relocated Irish Pub, where Airforce One is now parked and accepting visitors.  Merv Griffen funded the reproduction of the White House Rose Garden out back.  

We hardly know what to say about the place.  We were struck by how much the country’s travails at the start of his presidency paralleled our current state of affairs – an economy in the dumps, people disillusioned with government, troubles in the middle east.   The story according to Reagan is that he solved all these problems, plus single-handedly conquered Communism and made the world safe for democracy.  Boy, could we use another dose of Reagan now!  

Some of our favorite parts of the visit:  a very good lunch out on the terrace overlooking rolling rural hillsides dotted with orchards, and the ocean in the distance; a portrait of Reagan made from 10,000 jelly beans (very much out of keeping with the decorum of the rest of the museum); a walk through Air Force One;  an exhibit of some of the extremely ornate belt buckles the President was given as gifts (he got 372 in total);  

a case full of 3x5 cards covered with aphorisms, adages , and anecdotes that Reagan wrote in very tiny writing and filed away for future reference (his writing was so tiny we couldn’t read much, but the sheer volume was impressive).  Standing behind the presidential podium looking at the teleprompters, Reagan's optimism must have really inspired Dick, because he had a very strange visiion that if only he had Reagan's hairline he could have been President!

More than any other presidential library we have visited, this one portrayed everything about the President, from his boyhood to his passing, in the most highly positive light.  It isn’t hard to see why people like President Reagan—he was a nice handsome person with a positive and upbeat demeanor, a great sense of humor and a big friendly smile.  And, a lot of things did get better during his administration, although perhaps not solely due to his efforts.  

In these troubling political times, when the Republican Party is struggling to find a viable--if not likeable--candidate for President, Reagan is very much on the minds of our populace.  When we arrived half an hour after the museum opened the parking lot was 90% full, and when we left mid-afternoon visitors’ parked cars lined both sides of the street for over a mile down the hill leading to the museum.  Many were the pilgrims visiting the shrine to Reagan this holiday season.  

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