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Reagan: the Library and Legacy

CaliforniaNancy Powell1 Comment

Go back with me for just a minute...

Between August and December 1991, the fifteen individual republics of the Soviet Union seceded from the Union. On December 25th, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union and declared his office extinct. He turned over his powers to Russian president Boris Yeltsin, formally ending not only the Soviet Union, but also the Cold War.

A few thousand miles away, in Fort Worth, Texas, Nancy was majoring in international politics at TCU. As it happened, her political science course in the fall semester of 1991 was Soviet politics. It was hard to tell who was more excited for class several times a week, the students or the engaging, brilliant professor, Dr. Ralph Carter, as the class had to throw the text book aside and discuss the current events in the constantly breaking news cycles.  Dr. Carter filled in the backstory and tied them to the headlines.  Things were changing week by week, and the excitement about living out history while getting to study it step by step was an opportunity not taken for granted by those in that classroom.  The air felt alive. Some days were breathtaking. In that pre-internet world it was not often you got to witness something that you knew, even in real time, was changing the world. But that was one of those times.

While many factors, people, and events led to those historic months, there is no denying the influence of President Ronald Reagan and his personal diplomacy with Gorbachev, even while boldly standing in front of the Berlin Wall a few short years before and famously demanding, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  These two men and what they did to change the world are forever linked not only in the history books, but also in my memories. (Actually, I have three men linked for that time because I owe so much of how I love my major to Dr. Carter's handling of those days.)

So, as our Grand Adventure today took us to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and we saw several wonderful exhibits, perhaps you'll understand if I have a favorite.

 They had courage to change the world.

They had courage to change the world.

 The Berlin wall had been constructed in 1961 to stop the flow of people to the "West."  This true, physical barrier symbolized the intangible, but also very real, divide between the two major political philosophies that dominated the geopolitical landscape for three decades.

The Berlin wall had been constructed in 1961 to stop the flow of people to the "West."  This true, physical barrier symbolized the intangible, but also very real, divide between the two major political philosophies that dominated the geopolitical landscape for three decades.

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization... Come here.  To this gate.

Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

And down it came.

 What a different setting for the pieces of gate that remain today!

What a different setting for the pieces of gate that remain today!

Of course there are many other interesting and historical items to see at the Library.

 We so enjoyed teaching Petunia many things from the Reagan years.

We so enjoyed teaching Petunia many things from the Reagan years.

Leadership that called out our better selves.

Petunia particularly enjoyed a few moments.

One of them was speaking to her constituents (and seeing how a teleprompter works.)

Another favorite was getting to "ride" with the President, as she shares his love of horses.

Here is the reproduction of what Reagan's Oval Office looked like, particulary in his second term as it was updated some. When Petunia saw it, she said, "I thought the Oval Office was blue and gold!" because that is how she had seen it at President George W. Bush's Library.  She thought it was cool to learn they all got to decorate it how they wanted.

For a large percentage of the population, isn't Reagan's handling of the Challenger tragedy etched in our minds?  How he said just the right words and comforted a mourning nation endeared him further to many.

One of the most amazing highlights of the Library is the chance to board and walk through Air Force One!  This is the plane that served seven presidents as Air Force One from Nixon to 'W'.

Not only Air Force One, but also Marine One. We could walk through that one, too, but it didn't take as long. 

The state of the art, custom-designed limo for the President. Times have changed, however, and it doesn't look nearly as impressive as today's cooler cars. Petunia even said, "That's a limo?"  Ha!!

 

All the historical exhibits, the films, the pictures...the whole Library was a nostalgic remembering of a true statesman.

"And whatever else history says about me when I'm gone, I hope that it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts."

 Made of jellybeans, of course.

Made of jellybeans, of course.

Mark and Nancy joined thousands and thousands of others in Washington, DC in 2004 to pay our respects when the riderless horse and the rest of Reagan's funeral procession made it's way across the city. A visit to the Library twelve years later came close to recapturing those feelings of gratitude and admiration.  

As you step outside toward the memorial that now honors the life of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, it strikes you that this is a most fitting place, indeed.

We were blessed to have you lead us, Mr. President.

New adventures with old friends: the Surfing edition

Beach, California, New AdventuresNancy PowellComment

This Grand Adventure has taken us to the West Coast and into our 30th state--California!  California is a state we love to visit as there is so much natural beauty and so many fun things to do and learn.

After a few days making our way across to the coast, we arrived at the home of Hilary and Chris and their four precious kiddos.  Hilary and Nancy were roommates for a year back in the early Washington DC days, so our friendship is coming up on its 20th anniversary. I can hardly believe I just typed that number. Someone hold me.

Back in the "olden days", Hilary, Nancy and Mark all spent a lot of time together constantly exploring and going out to find new things to do in and around our nation's capital.

So it wasn't too surprising that HIlary suggested that Petunia might like to try something new during our current visit.

 They took us to this state beach near their house. We had to drink in the scene.

They took us to this state beach near their house. We had to drink in the scene.

A gorgeous beach is a good place to start in my book. Any day.

 Surfboard-toting, beach-going minivans are cool.

Surfboard-toting, beach-going minivans are cool.

Hilary's oldest two kiddos have been surfing for a while and Hilary thought Petunia might like to try it. At first, she stuck to the boogie board, which was definitely an upgrade from any boogie board she'd used before.  The weather was nice and warm for those of us sitting and watching, but the kids donned wetsuits so that they could stay and play in the water a longer time.

 Making their way down to the beach was the first obstacle of the day.

Making their way down to the beach was the first obstacle of the day.

This sweet girl loves the beach, sun, sand and water activities--all of it!  She was excited for getting out to play in those waves!

There were big enough waves for the best boogie boarding she had ever gotten to do. Look at that enjoyment!

 This face!

This face!

After a while, Petunia decided she was ready to give real surfing a try. Her sweet friend  gave Petunia a pre-water lesson.

 Love these sweet girls!

Love these sweet girls!

 Walking her through the steps.

Walking her through the steps.

Eventually, you just have to get out there and try!

Get a look at her facial expressions in these next couple pics!

Surfing is hard. She wiped out and had to try over and over.

And then, for one very brief moment, there was this...

 Victory!

Victory!

Her time standing up on the board didn't last long, but I am so proud that she stuck with it until she got to see how it felt.  Earlier in the day, she thought she might keep to the boogie board because she knew she could do it and it would be fun.  Surfing would be challenging and risky.  

But she did it...and she loved it.  When she saw that pic of her standing on the board, her jaw dropped open.  I wish we could all see pictures of ourselves succeeding where we have been sure of failure before. There is no failure until you quit trying.

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."  -Thomas A. Edison
 

Way to go, girls!

I think it's okay if this girl was just a little proud of her accomplishment! She had all the key elements for trying something new and difficult: 1. A willingness to try  2. A friend to show her the way  3. A determination to not give up

One of the reasons for our Grand Adventure was education through travel, and I tend to believe these kind of life lessons count.  Maybe double.