Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 1:12 pm | Fair 59º


Judy Crowell: Stroll Through History at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

The 'shining city on a hill' follows his life's journey, from boyhood to his final resting place, with his love for Nancy at the heart of it all

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum.]

George Washington and a parade of lamp-lit banners of all 44 presidents greeted us as we turned onto the steep, winding, windswept Driveway of the Presidents leading up to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. I found myself testing my knowledge of past presidents and falling very short along the way.

Located halfway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, this 100-acre site perched on a mountaintop represents Reagan's “shining city on a hill” and, fittingly, is his final resting place. With 360-degree sweeping views, it is one of the most spectacular settings in California.

The library, originally opened in 1991 and the largest of the 12 federally operated presidential libraries, underwent a magnificent two-year renovation, reopening on what would have been Reagan’s 100th birthday — Feb. 6, 2011.

You’ll be welcomed aboard Air Force One, a Boeing 707 serving seven U.S. presidents, residing now in a breathtaking glass pavilion, also home to a Marine One helicopter and the Gipper’s presidential motorcade.

Enter a full-scale reproduction of the Oval Office, complete with jelly beans. Browse through President Reagan’s diary, a handwritten treasure affording rare insights into not only our nation’s history but into his mind and heart — a heart so openly belonging to his country and his Nancy. Their love story is chronicled in lovely video exhibits, actual love letters and a stunning collection of his first lady’s gowns, including the famous Reagan Red column gown worn in her official White House portrait.

Early days growing up in Dixon, Ill., show us the boy. Fascinating film from the movies, his tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild, his role as General Electric spokesman and his terms as governor of California show us his journey on the way to becoming “The Great Communicator.”

Plan to enjoy lunch and panoramic views at Reagan's Country Café. Or have a snack and brew at the Ronald Reagan Pub, modeled after the original O’Farrell’s Pub in Ballyporeen, Ireland, visited by the Reagans in 1984. Once outside, if you can tear yourself from the ethereal hillside scenery, you’ll stroll through a replica of the White House Rose Garden, marvel over the large slab of the Berlin Wall and all the historical implications contained within and find yourself at the final resting place of President Reagan.

Interred on the highest point of the mountaintop, his feet facing the Pacific to better gaze at his beloved ocean, the 40th president of the United States awaits his Nancy and history’s final judgment of his stewardship.

I will never forget my visit to this very special place. Nor will I forget his words of some 30 years ago. How befitting they are today: “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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