Reagan Presidential Library - Treasure Trove of U.S. History, plus Historically Significant Traveling Exhibits
July 4, 2023, Simi Valley, CA: The occasion for my visit was to attend the unveiling of the beautiful Sally Ride statue at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. More about that in a minute. First, a bit of background on the scene.
From the time you drive up Presidential Drive to the main entrance, the setting for the Library is impressive, and beautiful. Vistas abound as you walk up to the buildings houssing the permanent and traveling exhibits. On this day, the 247th birthday of our nation, there was a special festive atmosphere. Children and grownups alike sported red white and blue outfits, and spangly silver as well as red white and blue stars on their faces.
A band did a lively rendition of a Johnny Cash song, and various characters from our country's past were on hand to greet visitors and talk history.
There were also games for both kids and grownups, and the exhibits. Before the unveiling, we had time to visit one of the permanent exhibits, the Air Force One Pavilion, what friends have called "The Wow Room." That's the one where you can see and board Air Force One, tail number 27000, the plane used as "The Flying Office" by seven U.S. Presidents in all from 1973 to 2001: Presidents Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush. Astonishing how small it seems inside, compared to what one would expect. But what a sight, standing under its appropriately huge wings. Inside a building!
Also in the Wow Room: one of President Reagan's presidential limousines and Secret Service suburbans (later referred to as "The Beast(s),") part of the permanent exhibit on presidential motorcades. Plaques you can zoom in to read tell us that the Secret Service began driving presidents in 1945, previously following presidents' limousines in separate vehicles. Also that to insure presidents' safety, beginning in the 1960s the Beasts were flown to countries the presidents were visiting for official business.
At the time we visited, there was a major traveling exhibit about the Holocaust: Auschwitz, not long ago and not far away, to which large numbers of schools have been sending students for educational purposes. The exhibit contains 700 horrifying artifacts, objects from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum as well as more than 20 institutions and museums all over the world, and tells the story of "perpetrators as well as victims who lived inside." The exhibit is to close August 13. If you wish to see it, you can buy tickets at the link above in this paragraph.
Dr. Sally Ride Inspiration for Women -- of all ages
And finally, we were able to watch the full ceremony unveiling the beautiful statue of Dr. Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut, and the person President Reagan selected to solve the mystery of what led to the Challenger disaster. In the film you'll see the lively sister of Sally Ride, Bear Ride, alongside the painting of that most inspiring woman who told young girls they should "Reach for the stars!" Dr. Bear Ride is continuing this invaluable message for girls and women around the globe through her foundation ridefoundation.org. Her speech at the event told the story of how the matriarch of the family inspired both Sally and herself to be whatever they wanted to be.
Thanks to filmmaker Steven C. Barber for inviting me to attend. He was the "Energizer Bunny" as Dr. Bear Ride put it, who organized the project of creating and producing both the lovely statue and its home at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Thanks also to David Trulio, president and chief executive officer of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute for hosting this event, and providing important exhibits to the public.
From Chester L. Richards
Hello, and happy to see you here! A little about what's behind these stories: Having retired from the world of aerospace engineering, I now spend time reading, inventing, listening to music, taking photographs and sharing them with friends. And writing stories. Often about people I've met as I've traveled to exotic places, learned about music, surfing, white water rafting, optics, photography. Every story is true. I hope you enjoy them.