I’ve recently been writing about President Ronald Reagan. As I lamented to Ray that we need someone like Ronald Reagan again, Ray said that he has to believe that there is someone in America. He said that person doesn’t have to try to be Ronald Reagan, but to be a positive, forward-looking leader like Reagan was.
As part of my research, I have been looking through the photographs I took when Ray and I visited his presidential library. Because I was so deeply moved, I want to share a week of lessons from Ronald Reagan. But before I share my photos, I want to tell you the story of how the library came to be.
During Franklin Roosevelt’s second term as president, he asked historians for advice about preserving historical documents and objects from his presidency. Roosevelt knew that objects and documents from previous presidents had at times been lost, destroyed, allowed to decay, or even sold for profit. Roosevelt decided to raise money to build the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. When completed, his presidential library was given to the National Archives so that it could belong to the American people. Every president who has served since Roosevelt has followed his example. President Herbert Hoover, who preceeded FDR, was alive while the Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower libraries were being built. Hoover dedicated the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in 1962.
President Reagan liked mountaintops. The Reagans’ ranch, called Rancho del Cielo (meaning “Heaven’s Ranch” or “Sky Ranch”), was in the mountains. When time came to build his library, Reagan chose a 100-acre mountaintop between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, California, as the site of the $57 million complex. To the west is a view of the Pacific Ocean; to the east are hills once used to film Westerns during Reagan’s years as a movie star. Ronald and Nancy Reagan broke ground for the library two months before he left the presidency.
On November 4, 1991, five presidents gathered in one place for the first time in American history. Present for the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum were those pictured below. Lady Bird Johnson, widow of Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Gerald and Betty Ford, Richard and Pat Nixon, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush.
Our first lesson to learn from President Reagan is one that all eleven of those current and former presidents and first ladies taught us that day—a lesson of unity, forgiveness, respect, and of putting the good of all Americans above the interests of a few.
During his long political career, President Reagan had campaigned against each of the other four presidents who honored him on that November day. He had sought the Republican nomination against Nixon in 1968, Ford in 1976, and Bush in 1980. After becoming the Republican candidate in 1980, he had defeated President Carter. In Carter’s remarks that November 4, he praised his former rival, saying, “Under President Ronald Reagan, the nation stayed strong and resolute and made possible the end of the Cold War.”
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;
only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh,
but serve one another through love.
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
But if you bite and devour one another,
take care that you are not consumed by one another.