The red, brightly-colored plaque on the wall bore these words: “I am not a politician. I am an ordinary citizen with a deep-seated belief that much of what troubles us has been brought about by politicians.” This quote, spoken by a man who is considered by many to be one of the greatest presidents in American history, was read by students from Providence Christian College as they threaded their way through the Reagan Library and Museum on September 17, 2011.
Located in Simi Valley, CA, the Reagan Library is dedicated to preserving artifacts and other pieces of history that shed light on the life and presidency of Ronald Reagan. During this recent Avodah excursion, many students learned new facts about their past president, while recalling knowledge concerning his life that they already possessed. In presenting a chronological account of Reagan’s life, the museum sought to tell a story through content, artistry, and the arrangement of artifacts.
Undoubtedly, the two displays that were among the most fascinating in the museum was a piece of the Berlin Wall and the retired Air Force One that was employed all the way from President Nixon to the first few years of the George W. Bush administration. By walking through the jet, visitors could observe it almost exactly as it would have appeared during the time of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
Another riveting section of the museum was the life-size reconstruction of the Oval Office. Through careful construction, this exhibit was built to show the office where President Reagan worked during his years in the White House. Although many objects in the room were replicas, several belonged to the Reagan Administration, an ironic example being the white couches, which were themselves mere replicas, while the small pillows they displayed came from the Oval Office.
If President Reagan should be considered one of America’s greatest leaders, one can travel through the museum with that knowledge, but if one values a different opinion, it is still profitable to learn about the history of this man who has profoundly influenced our nation and the world. The ideals in his life are best captured by these words from President Reagan which describe his never-ending love of our country and all that has built it into a great nation: “I have always wondered at this American marvel, the great energy of the human soul that drives people to better themselves and improve the fortunes of their families and communities.” This marvel is one that will always be preserved in the content and artistic form of the Reagan Library and Museum.