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Wade Heath Spend time getting to know Reagan and Nixon

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Wade Heath

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:12 am, Thu Aug 25, 2011.

Born in the late 1980s, I only remember former President Ronald Reagan as someone in my history book who called on Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” Even more irrelevant in my life was former President Richard Nixon. I only knew of him because of the paragraph or two demonizing him in my history book for the Watergate scandal.

A few weeks ago, I decided I wanted to get to know these two a little better, since I only knew what I had been taught in K-12 school and college — which wasn’t much on either of them.

So I headed out one Tuesday morning to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. It was there that I got to know the man who brought an end to the Vietnam War, came from humble beginnings, put a man on the moon and reestablished a working relationship with China.

The quaint museum had so much literature in it that I stood for hours, reading in detail about who this man really was before Watergate destroyed his legacy. A revelation for me was how committed to world peace Nixon was. He spent a great majority of his time as president — and even before as vice president under Dwight Eisenhower — traveling to war-torn, terrorized countries seeking to calm the storm.

At one point in the museum, there are the infamous TV debates between Nixon and Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy; infamous because they were taught to me as a reason why Nixon lost that election. He looked nervous and uncomfortable during the crossfire, I was told.

To be totally honest, Nixon didn’t look any more uneasy than JFK did. I was remiss to find a point where the American people would have felt like Nixon was failing so horribly. But maybe I missed something.

The museum also touted Nixon’s high school yearbook, which featured a blurb from a boyhood friend of his, proclaiming how one day he knew he’d see Richard become president. How’s that for foreshadowing?

Also on the property is an exact replica of the White House’s East Room, in which many events are held. Sitting in the middle of this empty room when I discovered it was an executive branch podium. I geeked out a bit and jumped behind it, fielding questions from invisible reporters until the friend I was visiting with walked in.

The museum portion of the complex dumps you into their new Watergate section at the end and does a great job presenting just the facts, silently inviting you to make up your own mind as to what happened.

The very next day I traveled northwest to Simi Valley and visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. If you feel like you’re driving to the middle of nowhere, then you’re on the right track. The Reagan facility is up on a hill overlooking the valley, peaceful and serene.

You start out, much like the Nixon museum, getting to know a newborn Ronnie Reagan. You follow his life through sports, media and finally his career in Hollywood. Not too long after that you’re introduced to California Gov. Ronald Reagan, where I was surprised to see the Lodi News-Sentinel credited at the end of a film of the then-governor.

You learn about Reagan’s wife, Nancy, kids and his road to the White House. You walk through the chilling reliving of the assassination attempt on his life and are confronted quite boldly with the threat of communism resurging around the globe and the faces of the leaders behind it all.

The entire country minus Minnesota came together to keep The Gipper in office during his reelection. You’d think that type of unity would have been forever synonymous with the Reagan name; however, it was the first time I had ever learned about it.

Cutting taxes, stimulating an awful economy, providing dozens of “All you need is you” speeches and cheering the country on like a great coach from the sidelines, America began to recover. The Berlin wall, the Challenger explosion, ending the Cold War and the Oval Office Replica were all showcased.

Then you enter a room filled with reports of his death just before being seated in front of a screen. The screen comes to life with one of the most inspirational movies about being an American I’ve ever seen.

As the rest of the teary-eyed visitors and I exited the building to his memorial outside we were confronted with this quote above his grave: “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.”

Even though you end the Nixon museum walking through his childhood home out back, it still doesn’t have the heartfelt impact the Reagan museum does. Both men did great and controversial things while in office.

But while I left Nixon feeling he had been misunderstood on a few things, I still didn’t trust him. When I left Reagan, I felt as though the USA had lost its best friend, a guy who understood and appreciated what we could be if he helped clear the path.

I’d invite you to visit these two historic places and share your perspective on the men I feel the history books only gently touch on.

Two days well spent.

Columnist Wade Heath, of Lodi, is editor of NationalTalkLive.com. He can be contacted at wade.lodi@gmail.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 7:15 am on Wed, Aug 31, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Steve... perfect post... from the LNS resident clown.

  • Steve Schmidt posted at 7:17 pm on Tue, Aug 30, 2011.

    Steve Schmidt Posts: 2672

    Jerry Kimono wrote: "The hypocrisy on this forum is amazing."

    Yes Jerry, but the same could be said of any forum you grace with your presence.

  • daniel hutchins posted at 10:21 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    daniel hutchins Posts: 1342

    Wade, Reagan brought us the Bushes. In Reagan's campaign for his first term, Reagan denounced secret societies, but in the Republican convention, Reagan selected George H.W. Bush, a Skull and Bones member.

  • daniel hutchins posted at 10:17 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    daniel hutchins Posts: 1342

    Wade, If you think Reagan brought down the wall, you have got to be kidding, right?

    Russians were laughing throughout Moscow when the american people bought that story.

  • daniel hutchins posted at 10:16 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    daniel hutchins Posts: 1342

    Wade, Nice that you can visit two libraries and make a story.

    Nixon fell on the sword in Watergate.

    Truth is that two of the the Watergate burglars were involved in the JFK assassination.

    Watergate burglars testified under oath that the primary objective was to "take" some pictures. The verb "take" has two meanings. They were either going to "shoot" pictures, or they were going to steal pictures. The latter was true. The Democrats had damaging pictures which implicated the 3-tramps at the JFK assassination, and two of those 3-tramps were in the Watergate hotel to steal them.

    Remember that Nixon was partnered with Kissinger. Not a very good reference. Rockefellers, ditto.

    This information probably won't be found in the Nixon library.

    Kissinger bargained with MIA's in Vietnam like poker chips. After America had so ruthlessly destroyed Vietnam, it was appropriate that America would negotiate with 2000 living slaves.

    Kissinger is an American "hero" indeed.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 10:11 pm on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    The hypocrisy on this forum is amazing.

  • Charles Nelson posted at 8:20 am on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    Charles Nelson Posts: 259

    LBJ didn't end the war in Viet Nam, despite public outcry to do so, because he didn't want to be the first US president to lose a war. How many young Americans died in order to save his ego?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 6:25 am on Fri, Aug 26, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Brandt... checked out that web site. If it is your opinion that this web site
    offer substance and critical thinking, I think you would be a prime candidate for
    the left to brain wash. I am not surprised as the left does not care about facts.

    May I ask, do you think a communist government is a better way to govern or was Reagan right in attempting to bring awareness as to its dehumanizing characteristics? Below are some interesting quotes...evidently, Reagan had good company in his fear of communism.

    "Communism has never come to power in a country that was not disrupted by war or corruption, or both."
    –John Fitzgerald Kennedy
    "There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin."
    –John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Speech in Berlin; see also the Ich bin ein Berliner Speech

    From the days of Spartacus, Karl Marx, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and Emma Goldman, this world conspiracy has been steadily growing. This conspiracy played a definite recognizable role in the tragedy of the French revolution. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the 19th Century. And now at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their head and have become the undisputed masters of that enormous empire."
    "A communist is like a crocodile – when it opens its mouth you cannot tell whether it is trying to smile or preparing to eat you up."
    "The substance of the eminent Socialist gentlemen's speech is that making a profit is a sin. It is my belief that the real sin is taking a loss!"
    –Winston Churchill

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:22 pm on Thu, Aug 25, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    If only Obama had the etthics, wisdom and intelligence of Reagan ... USA would be better off.

  • Brandt Hardin posted at 4:27 pm on Thu, Aug 25, 2011.

    dregstudios Posts: 3

    Reagan has a legacy so distorted by the Conservative idolization of him that we may never have a clear picture of the real man behind the television. Did he rid the world of commie scum? Check out my portrait of The Gipper in commemoration of his 100th birthday at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/02/happy-100th-gipper.html

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 1:04 pm on Thu, Aug 25, 2011.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Sounds like two major propaganda machines.

    Nixon brought and end to the war in Vietnam? More like the American people forcing his hand.

    An evil, desperate man with overwhelming narcissism.

  • Eric Barrow posted at 11:25 am on Thu, Aug 25, 2011.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1604

    Wade it was John F Kennedy that petitioned congress to put a man on the moon. Nixon was in office less than a year when men first went to the moon. If Nixon's library is claiming credit that would be in character for Nixon.


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