Mathews: Up there, in the hilltop library 2023

Californians should rush to places Donald Trump and the Chinese government want to boycott.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, targeted by autocrats from Mar-a-Lago to the Middle Kingdom in April, is open now.

On his Truth Social account, President Trump said he might avoid presidential debates at the Reagan library because Washington Post publisher Frederick Ryan Jr., a Reagan ally, chairs the facility’s board.

After U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Bakersfield Republican, met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, whom China does not recognize, the library was sanctioned by China. China will not collaborate or acknowledge the library due to sanctions.

Blasts at the library generated news, but even if Trump, Xi Jinping, and their followers stay away, the library would be unharmed. It’s rightfully the National Archives’ most popular presidential library.

Ironically, the assaults highlight a tremendous success. In an era when politics defines and consumes almost everything, the Reagan library has managed a nearly impossible feat: maintaining its devotion to a major conservative political figure while also becoming a highly accessible and attractive center that serves people of all political stripes.

My love for the land is proof. I hated Reagan’s politics as a kid in Southern California and wouldn’t vote for him today. If I could, I’d remove the US presidency’s quasi-dictatorial power.

Because of Reagan’s library’s value to California, I can’t get enough.

Its beauty is the main draw. It resembles Reagan’s “shining city on the hill” on a Ventura County mountainside. Simi Valley’s views—mountains to the east, the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles to the south, the Central Coast to the north, and the ocean to the west—are worth the trip. Sunsets may not be nicer elsewhere.

This presidential library offers permanent exhibitions, relics, and videos from its favorite president, including Air Force One. The library has held four presidential debates, speeches, and book presentations for Republican candidates.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin spoke, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a key dealmaker on bipartisan congressional legislation, will speak at the library in heavily Democratic California.

It has major draws. The Reagan National Defense Forum, which draws speakers from across the political spectrum and businesses, is held at the library. Every year, the defense secretary gives the keynote.

The Reagan library sponsors important non-political special exhibits each year. Powerful display. Auschwitz: Recently. “Not far away” gives a vivid feeling of concentration camp life and has been drawing enormous crowds. The library has provided substantial and unique programming for the exhibit, typically linking Holocaust survivors with young adults and schoolchildren.

The Reagan library wisely attracts non-Republicans and non-politicians.

The FBI, Egypt’s Lost Cities, the Vatican, Titanic, Abraham Lincoln, Pompeii, and baseball have been the subjects of lighter, artifact-filled displays.

I’ve attended major Ventura County meetings at the Reagan library, where organizations and firms like Amgen and local chambers of commerce rent space. High school proms are popular at the library due of its beautiful surroundings.

The Reagan library is a site you can take your kids and mom, even while ideologues call for boycotts. The Christmas tree display is joyful. Sunset dances with Beatles and Fleetwood Mac tribute bands, Eagle Scout recognition dinners, Mother’s Day breakfasts, and Central Coast wine tastings have occurred.

As a political writer and history scholar, I’ve visited 14 of the 15 presidential libraries (maybe I’ll visit the Eisenhower library in Abilene, Kansas). The Reagan library offers the most.

I attend to perform archive research (the staff is fast and the rooms are nice) or meet someone in Ventura County (everyone knows where it is). I traverse the 300-acre grounds and see the Reagan monument. “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and there is purpose and worth to each and every life,” Reagan wrote.

We’re too jaded about this cruel world to accept that. The spirit and inviting library are admirable.

Leave a Reply