I knew absolutely nothing about the 70’s and 80’s when I stepped into the Ronald Reagan library. In my U.S. History class, our teacher focused on the wars rather than the other elements of history. Our teacher also had to rush through this period of time when he realized that we were nearing the AP test and needed to be prepared. So I imagine I read about Reagan and others, but I didn’t understand him or what he did until I visited the library.
I find it interesting that the Presidential libraries are even named libraries. There are no books that you can check out for free-all books had to be purchased-and the information is presented like a museum. There were videos and films documenting different periods of Reagan’s life, and audio clips from his time. There were displays with clothing and gadgets of the period, and an airplane and helicopter (yes, a real one!).
Museums are one of my favorite places to visit. I find them to be a way more interesting way to learn history than a book. So, when I visited the Ronald Reagan Library, I took in the information like a sponge. I wanted to watch every film, read every sign, listen to every step of the audio tour, and pick up every “phone” with clips from the period. My family and I arrived early in the morning, and we left right before it closed and still didn’t get through all the information. However, there were three things that stood out to me that apply to any artist or reader of this blog.
Ronald Reagan loved reading.
“Once I found a fictional hero I liked, I would consume everything that I could about him.”
Reading helps us experience things we could never experience in our narrow lives. We can learn about the times of Communist Russia, World War II, and/or escape into the worlds of imagination. Reagan loved reading adventure stories as a boy, and instead of being wasted time, those adventures inspired him in his principles and values. Nonfiction texts or fictionalized versions of history can teach us about a time period we didn’t understand in the history book, but fiction can teach us how to live. Reagan’s consumption of books is how I feel about books-as soon as I find one I like, I want to consume all the ones I can by that author or about that hero. I love books because they’re so easy to immerse yourself inside and come out feeling you’ve learned something. I think the same would apply to Reagan.
Ronald Reagan loved the arts.
“The arts and humanities have always been something of great personal importance to Nancy and to me. Nations are more often than not remembered for their art and thought.”
Ronald Reagan, as president, would often bring artistic guests to the White House. He had artists that were either painters or singers or dancers. There were several art pieces inside the Presidential Library that were given to Reagan or that he had in his White House. All the art that he enjoyed just reminded me of the importance of the arts. Reagan is right that art is a better remembrance than wars for a nation, but he was also right when he said that art moves us (another quote I saw on a wall). I often feel chills with a good piece of music or absolute awe while gazing upon a magnificent piece of art. I, as an artist, have a responsibility to continue creating for God’s glory and to reflect him in the beauty of art.
Writing is just as important as reading.
Reagan wrote hundreds of letters and knew how to create a scene with his words in speeches. Yet, his words are not the ones that inspired me to write myself. They inspired me in other ways, including the ones aforementioned. No, the words, or I should say, the book that inspired me were these two books by people who spoke out against Soviet Russia.
These people were brave enough to write against a country that could take away their lives. Now, I have not read these books, but I wanted to read them. They remind me of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was instrumental in drawing sympathy against slavery. Books like these have the power to corrupt or encourage, and I find that inspiring for me as a writer. Even if my books aren’t as powerful, they contain the ability to influence, and I want to make sure I am using that power for the glory of God.
Recently, I read Joni, a book by Joni Eareckson about how she came to be a quadriplegic and how her life went on to inspire thousands (review coming soon). In her book, she notes that she signed all her paintings PTL or Praise the Lord. I think Reagan strove to do that with his life, even if you didn’t like him as a president. He sought to honor God and is now remembered for what he could do that was honorable. I only pray that I will be able to do the same with my life.