“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.”
—Ronald Wilson Reagan
February 6, 1911 - June 5, 2004
The Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, California was dedicated by five American presidents on November 4, 1991. This facility is much more than a 'library' in the conventional sense. This bronzed Presidential Seal, for example, designates a peaceful knoll where the burial site is situated for the President and First Lady.
Several hundred researchers visit Simi Valley each year to take advantage of the Library's extensive archival holdings. There are nearly 50 million pages of documentation. There are more than 1.5 million photographs. There are large amounts of film and video tape available here. Since Opening Day over 800,000 Americans have toured the Library & Museum.
You are invited to begin your visit to the world famous Ronald W. Reagan Library & Museum by touring the online exhibit, here at the Library Lobby. This famous Library & Museum has many exhibits. Click here for quick information on Library hours, driving directions, maps and guides, or take the quick tour below.
Reagan Library Quick Tour
Gallery of Presidents
The John P. McGovern, M.D. Gallery of the Presidents displays portraits and biographies of all the men who have served as our nation's chief executive. The featured artifact is a rare 1823 engraving of the Declaration of Independence, one of only thirty known to exist.
A spirited multi-screen media production provides highlights of Ronald Wilson Reagan's life from his childhood through the opening of the Library and Museum that bears his name. Video clips and the President's personal recollections intro-duce the exhibits featured in the Museum
Early Years Gallery
Trace Ronald Reagan in the time before he entered politics. "Dutch" Reagan's youth growing up in Dixon, Illinois, his college days, and a lively career in radio broadcasting and then in Hollywood come alive through artifacts, images, and audiovisual presentations. Follow Reagan's active duty during World War II in the U.S. Air Forces with the First Motion Picture Unit, his return to the entertainment industry at the end of the war and his marriage to Nancy Davis.
After delivering a nationally televised speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater's bid for the White House, Ronald Reagan's stirring message that the nation had a "rendezvous with destiny" paved the way for his own political career. In 1966 the former actor became governor of California for two terms. Featured in the gallery is a 1965 Ford Mustang convertible used in his first gubernatorial campaign.
First Term Gallery
On January 20, 1981, Ronald Reagan became the fortieth president of the United States. Among the highlights are a dramatic video on the assassination attempt that nearly claimed his life, heads of state gifts and the actual White House Situation Room table where President Reagan faced difficult decisions as Commander-in-Chief.
Spirit of America Gallery
Here an impressive array of gifts, large and small, represent America's fifty states. The fortieth anniversary of D-Day, the Los Angeles Olympics, the 1984 campaign, the oath of office for the second term in January 1985, and a monumental fifty foot long photo mural of Washington, DC at dusk under-score Ronald Reagan's role in restoring the American spirit, and celebrates the citizens who gave him his landslide victory in 1984.
Air Force One Pavilion
President Reagan's dream was that one day Air Force One would be shared with the American people. That dream has finally come true. We are honored by the trust the United States Air Force has placed in us to share this National Treasure. The new Air Force One Pavilion celebrates President Reagan's vision and tells the story of his important achievements during his presidential years.
Pavilion Theater Experience
View a short orientation film prior to entering the Air Force One Pavilion to learn how President Reagan used this majestic aircraft to travel 661,708 miles, promoting freedom and democracy for all mankind.
Flights of Freedom Gallery
Criss-crossing the United States and flying to twenty-six nations in Europe, Asia, and the Americas during eight years in the White House, Ronald Reagan logged an impressive number of air miles as he met with world leaders and dignitaries using what he called face-to-face diplomacy. Striking maps, photos, flags, and a hands-on "tilt maze" for younger visitors offer insight into the many journeys President Reagan made as the United States' chief diplomat.
Step back in time when a manifestation of the Iron Curtain separated freedom from oppression. A resolute U.S. Army MP walks his post at Checkpoint Charlie with the Stars and Stripes behind him as an East German border guard stands menacingly in front of a giant Soviet flag. Poignant pictures help tell the story of the evil empire and of the Berlin Wall that Ronald Reagan sought to bring down.
Cold War Gallery
For nearly a half century a dangerous face-off threatened unimaginable devastation when an intensive arms race, known as the Cold War, began. These perilous decades are brought to life through a vivid video production, models of military hardware and Strategic Defense Initiative technology, graphics, and artifacts that recall a time when the world stood on the brink of nuclear annihilation.
Onboard Air Force One
Walk through the Air Force One that served seven U.S. presidents and flew over one million miles during its 28 years of service. View each cabin, detailed as it was during President Reagan's administration, and get a behind-the-scenes look into America's Flying White House.
Flying White House Mural
Renowned aviation artist and historian Stan Stoke's one-ofa-kind mural chronicles presidential flight and tells the story of the planes that have carried U.S. presidents aloft for more than six decades.
View up close the specially built presidential limousine with its stately flags and seals. Protected by the United States Secret Service and local law enforcement, the motorcade features vintage vehicles.
Marine One Helicopter
Since the time of President Dwight Eisenhower, helicopters piloted by "Flying Leathernecks" Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) has flown the Commander-in-Chief to many destinations. View up close this President Johnson-era Marine One and learn how this aircraft assists the President in his daily life.
Synonymous with the presidency, this exact replica of the Oval Office appears as it existed during Ronald Reagan's administration. Hear his warm, personal insights about serving in the Oval Office during a presidency that changed the world.
Camp David/The Ranch
View displays of the pomp and circumstance of the White House and the daily life in the private quarters. Exhibits about the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, and Rancho del Cielo in the beautiful mountains above Santa Barbara offer glimpses of Ronald and Nancy Reagan's private moments away from the hectic pace of Washington.
The Nancy Reagan Gallery
For more than a half century Nancy Reagan stood by the side of her husband. Photographs of her family and early child-hood in Illinois through a Hollywood career and eventually to the days of Ronald Reagan's presidency tell the wonderful story of this gracious First Lady.
From a deactivated BGM-109 Gryphon Missile to a dramatic mural of the USS Ronald Reagan, this gallery celebrates the lasting legacy of President Reagan's accomplishments during his eight years in office.
Following his passing on June 5, 2004, President Ronald Reagan was laid to rest at the Reagan Library on June 11, 2004. The Memorial Site inscription reads:
"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."
Berlin Wall and South Lawn
View this actual piece of the Berlin Wall, which was presented to Ronald Reagan on April 12, 1990 at the Reagan Library. The Wall serves as a gateway to the reproduction of the White House South Lawn that provides the visitor with dramatic vistas out to the Pacific Ocean.
White House Rose Garden
Stroll through the Library's three-fourths scale replica of the White House Rose Garden, adjacent to the Air Force One Pavilion colonnade. Enjoy the magnificent view of the rolling mountainside while experiencing the beauty and fragrance of roses in the outdoor air.
Celebrating President Reagan's "Peace through Strength" initiative, the F-14 "Tomcat" serves as a dramatic bridge between the Pavilion and the Presidential Learning Center and will forever remind us of the importance of a strong military.
Your Involvement Matters
Throughout his life, Ronald Reagan believed passionately in the power and responsibility of each person to determine the course of their lives, their communities and their nations. To him, it seemed only right that if people cared for something, they, and not the bureaucracy, should support it. For this reason, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation is not financially supported by the federal government but through donations from private individuals.
“This is the backbone of our country: Americans helping themselves, and each other. Reaching out and finding solutions — solutions that governments and huge institutions can't find.” —Ronald Reagan January 23, 1992
It is this sense of progress through popular support that flourishes today at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, where our efforts are sustained by the people, for the people.
Your annual gifts enable the Reagan Library to nurture and promote the ideals that President Reagan championed throughout his presidency. With your support, his leadership will continue to inspire countless generations who participate in our educational programming and inspirational museum experience.
The Reagan Library is the largest of all the Presidential Libraries, with archival holdings of nearly 55 million pages of government records, over 1.5 million photographs and approximately 769,500 feet of motion picture film. A team of archivists processes and preserves the collection. Records and artifacts, on a selected basis are made available to assist researchers in their work. To learn how to access the collection, contact an archivist at the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library at (800) 410-8354.
Ronald Reagan's Farewell Address to the Nation
January 11, 1989
This was President Reagan's formal goodbye to the nation after the completion of two terms in office.
This is the 34th time I'll speak to you from the Oval Office and the last. We've been together eight years now, and soon it'll be time for me to go. But before I do, I wanted to share some thoughts, some of which I've been saving for a long time.
It's been the honor of my life to be your president. So many of you have written the past few weeks to say thanks, but I could say as much to you. Nancy and I are grateful for the opportunity you gave us to serve.
One of the things about the presidency is that you're always somewhat apart. You spend a lot of time going by too fast in a car someone else is driving, and seeing the people through tinted glass--the parents holding up a child, and the wave you saw too late and couldn't return. And so many times I wanted to stop and reach out from behind the glass, and connect. Well, maybe I can do a little of that tonight.
People ask how I feel about leaving. And the fact is, "parting is such sweet sorrow." The sweet part is California, and the ranch and freedom. The sorrow--the goodbyes, of course, and leaving this beautiful place.
You know, down the hall and up the stairs from this office is the part of the White House where the president and his family live. There are a few favorite windows I have up there that I like to stand and look out of early in the morning. The view is over the grounds here to the Washington Monument, and then the Mall and the Jefferson Memorial. But on mornings when the humidity is low, you can see past the Jefferson to the river, the Potomac, and the Virginia shore. Someone said that's the view Lincoln had when he saw the smoke rising from the Battle of Bull Run. I see more prosaic things: the grass on the banks, the morning traffic as people make their way to work, now and then a sailboat on the river.
I've been thinking a bit at that window. I've been reflecting on what the past eight years have meant and mean. And the image that comes to mind like a refrain is a nautical one--a small story about a big ship, and a refugee and a sailor. It was back in the early '80s, at the height of the boat people. And the sailor was hard at work on the carrier Midway, which was patrolling the South China Sea. The sailor, like most American servicemen, was young, smart, and fiercely observant. The crew spied on the horizon a leaky little boat. And crammed inside were refugees from Indochina hoping to get to America. The Midway sent a small launch to bring them to the ship and safety. As the refugees made their way through the choppy seas, one spied the sailor on deck and stood up and called out to him. He yelled, "Hello, American sailor. Hello, freedom man."
A small moment with a big meaning, a moment the sailor, who wrote it in a letter, couldn't get out of his mind. And when I saw it, neither could I. Because that's what it was to be an American in the 1980s. We stood, again, for freedom. I know we always have, but in the past few years the world again, and in a way, we ourselves rediscovered it.
It's been quite a journey this decade, and we held together through some stormy seas. And at the end, together, we are reaching our destination.
The fact is, from Grenada to the Washington and Moscow summits, from the recession of '81 to '82, to the expansion that began in late '82 and continues to this day, we've made a difference. The way I see it, there were two great triumphs, two things that I'm proudest of. One is the economic recovery, in which the people of America created--and filled--19 million new jobs. The other is the recovery of our morale. America is respected again in the world and looked to for leadership.
Something that happened to me a few years ago reflects some of this. It was back in 1981, and I was attending my first big economic summit, which was held that year in Canada. The meeting place rotates among the member countries. The opening meeting was a formal dinner for the heads of government of the seven industrialized nations. Now, I sat there like the new kid in school and listened, and it was all Francois this and Helmut that. They dropped titles and spoke to one another on a first-name basis. Well, at one point I sort of leaned in and said, "My name's Ron." Well, in that same year, we began the actions we felt would ignite an economic comeback--cut taxes and regulation, started to cut spending. And soon the recovery began.
Two years later another economic summit, with pretty much the same cast. At the big opening meeting we all got together, and all of a sudden, just for a moment, I saw that everyone was just sitting there looking at me. And one of them broke the silence. "Tell us about the American miracle," he said.
Well, back in 1980, when I was running for president, it was all so different. Some pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe. Our views on foreign affairs would cause war. Our plans for the economy would cause inflation to soar and bring about economic collapse. I even remember one highly respected economist saying, back in 1982, that "the engines of economic growth have shut down here, and they're likely to stay that way for years to come." Well, he and the other opinion leaders were wrong. The fact is, what they called "radical" was really "right." What they called "dangerous" was just "desperately needed."
And in all of that time I won a nickname, "The Great Communicator." But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation--from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries. They called it the Reagan revolution. Well, I'll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense.
Common sense told us that when you put a big tax on something, the people will produce less of it. So, we cut the people's tax rates, and the people produced more than ever before. The economy bloomed like a plant that had been cut back and could now grow quicker and stronger. Our economic program brought about the longest peacetime expansion in our history: real family income up, the poverty rate down, entrepreneurship booming, and an explosion in research and new technology. We're exporting more than ever because American industry became more competitive and at the same time, we summoned the national will to knock down protectionist walls abroad instead of erecting them at home. Common sense also told us that to preserve the peace, we'd have to become strong again after years of weakness and confusion. So, we rebuilt our defenses, and this New Year we toasted the new peacefulness around the globe. Not only have the superpowers actually begun to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons--and hope for even more progress is bright--but the regional conflicts that rack the globe are also beginning to cease. The Persian Gulf is no longer a war zone. The Soviets are leaving Afghanistan. The Vietnamese are preparing to pull out of Cambodia, and an American-mediated accord will soon send 50,000 Cuban troops home from Angola.
The lesson of all this was, of course, that because we're a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will always be ours. And something else we learned: Once you begin a great movement, there's no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.
Countries across the globe are turning to free markets and free speech and turning away from ideologies of the past. For them, the great rediscovery of the 1980s has been that, lo and behold, the moral way of government is the practical way of government: Democracy, the profoundly good, is also the profoundly productive.
When you've got to the point when you can celebrate the anniversaries of your 39th birthday, you can sit back sometimes, review your life, and see it flowing before you. For me there was a fork in the river, and it was right in the middle of my life. I never meant to go into politics. It wasn't my intention when I was young. But I was raised to believe you had to pay your way for the blessings bestowed on you. I was happy with my career in the entertainment world, but I ultimately went into politics because I wanted to protect something precious.
Ours was the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words: "We the people." "We the people" tell the government what to do, it doesn't tell us. "We the people" are the driver, the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world's constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which "We the people" tell the government what it is allowed to do. "We the people" are free. This belief has been the underlying basis for everything I've tried to do these past eight years.
But back in the 1960s, when I began, it seemed to me that we'd begun reversing the order of things--that through more and more rules and regulations and confiscatory taxes, the government was taking more of our money, more of our options, and more of our freedom. I went into politics in part to put up my hand and say, "Stop." I was a citizen politician, and it seemed the right thing for a citizen to do.
I think we have stopped a lot of what needed stopping. And I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.
Nothing is less free than pure communism, and yet we have, the past few years, forged a satisfying new closeness with the Soviet Union. I've been asked if this isn't a gamble, and my answer is no because we're basing our actions not on words but deeds. The detente of the 1970s was based not on actions but promises. They'd promise to treat their own people and the people of the world better. But the gulag was still the gulag, and the state was still expansionist, and they still waged proxy wars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Well, this time, so far, it's different. President Gorbachev has brought about some internal democratic reforms and begun the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He has also freed prisoners whose names I've given him every time we've met.
But life has a way of reminding you of big things through small incidents. Once, during the heady days of the Moscow summit, Nancy and I decided to break off from the entourage one afternoon to visit the shops on Arbat Street--that's a little street just off Moscow's main shopping area. Even though our visit was a surprise, every Russian there immediately recognized us and called out our names and reached for our hands. We were just about swept away by the warmth. You could almost feel the possibilities in all that joy. But within seconds, a KGB detail pushed their way toward us and began pushing and shoving the people in the crowd. It was an interesting moment. It reminded me that while the man on the street in the Soviet Union yearns for peace, the government is Communist. And those who run it are Communists, and that means we and they view such issues as freedom and human rights very differently.
We must keep up our guard, but we must also continue to work together to lessen and eliminate tension and mistrust. My view is that President Gorbachev is different from previous Soviet leaders. I think he knows some of the things wrong with his society and is trying to fix them. We wish him well. And we'll continue to work to make sure that the Soviet Union that eventually emerges from this process is a less threatening one. What it all boils down to is this. I want the new closeness to continue. And it will, as long as we make it clear that we will continue to act in a certain way as long as they continue to act in a helpful manner. If and when they don't, at first pull your punches. If they persist, pull the plug. It's still trust but verify. It's still play, but cut the cards. It's still watch closely. And don't be afraid to see what you see.
I've been asked if I have any regrets. Well, I do. The deficit is one. I've been talking a great deal about that lately, but tonight isn't for arguments. And I'm going to hold my tongue. But an observation: I've had my share of victories in the Congress, but what few people noticed is that I never won anything you didn't win for me. They never saw my troops, they never saw Reagan's regiments, the American people. You won every battle with every call you made and letter you wrote demanding action. Well, action is still needed. If we're to finish the job, Reagan's regiments will have to become the Bush brigades. Soon he'll be the chief, and he'll need you every bit as much as I did. Finally, there is a great tradition of warnings in presidential farewells, and I've got one that's been on my mind for some time. But oddly enough it starts with one of the things I'm proudest of in the past eight years: the resurgence of national pride that I called the new patriotism. This national feeling is good, but it won't count for much, and it won't last unless it's grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.
An informed patriotism is what we want. And are we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? Those of us who are over 35 or so years of age grew up in a different America. We were taught, very directly, what it means to be an American. And we absorbed, almost in the air, a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. If you didn't get these things from your family, you got them from the neighborhood, from the father down the street who fought in Korea or the family who lost someone at Anzio. Or you could get a sense of patriotism from school. And if all else failed, you could get a sense of patriotism from popular culture. The movies celebrated democratic values and implicitly reinforced the idea that America was special. TV was like that, too, through the mid-'60s
But now, we're about to enter the '90s, and some things have changed. Younger parents aren't sure that an unambivalent appreciation of America is the right thing to teach modern children. And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven't reinstitutionalized it. We've got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom--freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It's fragile; it needs protection.
So, we've got to teach history based not on what's in fashion but what's important: Why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant. You know, four years ago on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, I read a letter from a young woman writing of her late father, who'd fought on Omaha Beach. Her name was Lisa Zanatta Henn, and she said, "We will always remember, we will never forget what the boys of Normandy did." Well, let's help her keep her word. If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are. I'm warning of an eradication of the American memory that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit. Let's start with some basics: more attention to American history and a greater emphasis on civic ritual. And let me offer lesson No. 1 about America: All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. And children, if your parents haven't been teaching you what it means to be an American, let 'em know and nail 'em on it. That would be a very American thing to do.
And that's about all I have to say tonight. Except for one thng. The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the "shining city upon a hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.
I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.
And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.
We've done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger. We made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.
And so, good-bye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
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