President Reagan on Monday helped break ground for the library that will house his White House papers, saying he hoped historians and scholars would "judge our efforts well."
"This is a most humbling moment for me," said Reagan, who will relinquish the presidency to George Bush in 60 days. "The story that will be told inside the walls that are yet to be built here is the story not only of a presidency but of a movement."The president and his wife Nancy flew from Washington to Southern California to take part in the ceremonies for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The 153,000-square-foot, Spanish-style facility will be built on a 100-acre site about 45 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
The Reagans gave final approval to the site last summer, after the president viewed the sweeping, hilly area from a helicopter following a ground inspection by the first lady.
The selection of the Simi Valley site, about 70 miles southeast of the Reagans' ranch in Santa Barbara County, came after planners of the Reagan library were thwarted in an attempt to build it at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
Appearing at the ceremony at the outset of a six-day Thanksgiving vacation at his ranch in the Santa Ynez Mountains, Reagan talked reflectively of his eight years as president.
"The journey has not been just my own," he said in prepared remarks. "It seems I have been guided by a force much larger than myself, a force made up of ideas and beliefs about what this country is and what it could be."
Reagan takes credit for a resurgence of conservatism in America, and much of the 1988 campaign rhetoric during the Republican primary season was about what man could best carry on the "Reagan revolution."
This sea-change was based on a fiscal policy at home aimed at stimulating economic growth through tax cuts and deregulation of business, and a resurgence of U.S. international influence brought about principally by a major military buildup, projections of American power in the Third World and warming, if unsteady, relations with the Soviet Union.
"What this library will house is the record of ideas and policies that have undergirded our accomplishments," Reagan said. "There will be much to study here, much to discuss, much to mull over."
"This library will allow scholars of the future to cast their own judgments on these years, and I would not presume to predict the result of their researches," he said. "But I have to believe that scholars of good will, upon examining the historical record that will be contained herein, will judge our efforts well."
"But as for us, at present we can only say this: We have done our best and we pray that it has been enough."
The land for the library was donated by a Los Angeles development company, Blakeley-Schwartz.
The building will include underground storage, a museum and research materials depicting the administration and historical events during the Reagan years.