FTR, I think that all presidential libraries are worth a visit no matter your politics. It is important to see the way that they saw the world during their tenure as president. As well as where they were from and how they eventually became president.
Of course I believe that Ronald Reagan was the best president of my lifetime. And it had been five years since the last visit I took at the Reagan Library.
Wisely, the powers that be have updated the touring area of the library. With the addition of the Air Force One plane that Mr. Reagan flew during his presidency, they updated and moved some of the displays around.
One thing that I highly recommend is to pay the extra $7 dollars for the audio/video guide cam. It is Mr. and Mrs. Reagan telling some of the events near and dear to them. But it is an iPod and you can take photos and videos of the visit. Once done, you take the iPod back to the visitor center and then you will get an e-mail of the photos of video within a day. We got ours by midnight last night.
What made the Lincoln exhibit was that it was full of historical artifacts, but blended some of the settings for the wildly successful Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln. What I realized is how Mr. Spielberg and those that worked under him took great care to be as accurate as possible in what sets looked like. But what was more amazing is the fact that, sadly, Abraham Lincoln would probably never be elected president in this modern age.
Let's face it, Mr. Lincoln was no looker. He was tall, six feet, four inches, lanky and a brooding looking fellow. That beard that is now iconic would be seen as making him look old. The fact that he was in the right on keeping the United States just that, united states, would probably not be seen in the best light. And emancipating the slaves? Well that was a huge cause of the War Between the States, also known as the Civil War. And there were those other ideas like Homesteading, allowing the railroads to build a link from the East coast to the West coast, having economic policies that would allow more people to rise up to a middle class, that would not be seen as good to many people.
But maybe it is projecting too much of 1860s America to 2013 America. It really is hard to take a leader of that time and figure out how he would be today.
Not the case with Mr. Reagan.
In the library is an interactive area in which there is a video of Mr. Reagan's breakout speech for then Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Barry M. Goldwater called A Time For Choosing. Here is The Speech, as it became known, from You Tube:
The irony of watching The Speech and seeing the interactive is how some of the issues, especially the size of government and the debilitating effects of the then burgeoning Welfare State, is no different from the debate that we are having today. One could replace the battle between the West and the Communist East with the West and Radical Islam and get to the same strongly similar analysis Mr. Reagan provided 49 years ago in 1964.
The Speech is was eventually catapulted Mr. Reagan to eventually become the governor of California and eventually President of the United States.
I think that there is one striking similarity between Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Reagan.
Both men spoke what seemed to be unpopular truths at their times and yet history has proven them to be right.
That is what makes going to presidential libraries so interesting. To see what things were like when those people were at the apex of their political power. To see all about the world in their time. Not just the politics but the popular culture, what was on the minds of the people then compared to today.
I would recommend taking in the Reagan Library and especially the Lincoln exhibit over the summer.