It started with an invitation from my daughter, Dawn, to join her and her husband, Matt, in Los Angeles while they were attending the annual meeting of the College Art Association.
Both are art history professors at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR and the CAA is their national professional group. They would be attending meetings and events and presenting papers but would have some time to share with me.
Finding a couple of ticket options at around $150 each way, and taking the Concord Coach $20 ride to Logan Airport, I headed to Los Angeles a couple of days before our one-week legislative break. It was a good decision to go.
It had been well over a decade since I had tried to maneuver on the freeways and endless streets of Los Angeles. But I was able to pick up a rental car and meet my niece’s husband, Todd Meany, at the airport and we headed to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley. My niece, Jennifer, was waiting for us having driven from their home in San Luis Obispo, CA.
It was a Friday and the library parking lots were full. We parked down the road that leads up to the library. We paid our entry fees of $12 for seniors and regular visitors of $15. A couple of hours later we could agree it was a bargain.
The Reagan Library is located on the top of a mountain in a beautiful setting so reflective of southern California. It is no wonder President Reagan was pleased with the site. And the building, too, is not only large but wonderfully designed. It had to be given that one of Reagan’s Air Force One planes is inside the building and open for visitors to walk through.
Using film, photographs, statutes, documents and text, the library and museum lay out a story of the life and service of the 40th president of the United States. I can report the story is well told.
I was working in Washington during President Reagan’s tenure in the White House. And as I strode through his library and museum, there were many memories that came back to me, for example, where I was when the President was shot in 1981.
The foreign policy accomplishments, to some degree, had escaped me. Certainly I recall the Reagan-Gorbachev summits but the background on the personal friendship between the two men along with their conflicts bring back an era younger generations should learn.
The next day my daughter joined us and off we went to see the Getty Museum. The Getty had plenty of visitors that day but with the beauty of the architecture and the splendid views of the city from the museum plaza it was all manageable.And this remarkable place is free to visit. The only cost was $15 to park the car.
Everyone then rides a rail car to the top of the hill to see a world class collection of art but also to experiment with high tech tools to help learn about the details and significance of some exhibits. It has always been a treat to go to museums an art professor, my daughter, who when asked will help explain the background of a painting, a piece of sculpture or other exhibit.
A couple of days later, with family members having left, I went out to the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. Regular admission was $11.95 but just $8.50 for a senior.
It is smaller than the Reagan Library and Museum, but again, for one who was in Washington during the Nixon era and worked in his 1972 campaign, much of my early working life was brought back to me.
It is a beautiful building located in a suburban neighborhood. A visitor sees the whole story. The family home built by Nixon’s father is on the site of the library and museum, and there are exhibits on Nixon’s elections … successful ones and those lost.
His accomplishments are highlighted with much attention to the historic breakthrough of his 1972 trip to China. And a new exhibit is pretty graphic about Watergate and President Nixon’s role in the cover-up and his fall from power. That exhibit alone is a reminder to politicians of how fragile their role is and the need for integrity in every action taken.
I had previously visited the John Kennedy and Gerald Ford libraries. I know these places are monuments to the former presidents. And they are quite grand. But they keep our nation’s history available and in front of us and that has value. We do better when we know and respect our nation’s history.
Here are a couple of tidbits from my trip. Before dropping off my rental car, I paid $4.29 for a gallon of gas. There were TV news reports of stations charging over $5.
The last two nights I spent in Santa Monica. I bought a few items at a CVS drug store and when checking out I was asked how many bags I needed. I indicated one and 10 cents was added to my bill for the bag. That is the law in Santa Monica; not in the rest of California.
It was a great trip but I am happy to be back home ready to get going again in the legislature.
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