California

Presidential Pathways: Ronald Reagan Library

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was originally planned to be built at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., but plans were scrapped in 1987.  A year later construction began on the free-standing site in Simi Valley, which was not far from the home in Bel Air that Ronald and Nancy Regan had purchased after his departure from the presidency.  On Nov. 4, 1991, the facility was dedicated with five U.S. presidents (Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush) attending the ceremony.  At the time of its completion the building was the largest presidential library in the country at 153,000 square-feet.  It was surpassed in size when the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum opened in 2004, but reclaimed the title as largest presidential library when the Air Force One Pavilion opened in October 2005.

Prior to entering politics, Ronald Reagan worked as an actor.  He was perhaps best known as host of “General Electric Theater,” which ran from 1953 to 1962.

The “GE Theater” exhibits records Reagan’s career as an actor.

Following the cancellation of “General Electric Theater” in 1962, Reagan became active in Republican politics and gave a speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention in support of Barry Goldwater.  In 1966, he ran for governor of California and defeated two-term incumbent Democratic Governor Pat Brown.

The “Governor Years” exhibit records Reagan’s tenure as governor of California from 1967-75.

Reagan failed to secure the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976, but won handily in 1980 and defeated incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter in the general election.

First Lady Nancy Reagan had a noticeable impact on her husband and was very active in her own right.  She campaigned against drug use with the phrase, “Just Say No.”

A map displays the numerous places First Lady Nancy Reagan visited as part of the “First Lady” exhibit.

From a historical perspective, political scientists and historian debate the legacy of Reagan’s domestic policies.  However, most researchers applaud his foreign policy.

The most unique exhibit at the Reagan Library is the “Air Force One Pavilion,” which contains the Boeing 707 he used during his presidency.

The “Air Force One Pavilion” is the only full-scale exhibit at any presidential library to include the president’s plane.

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