Travel with the Family to Presidential Libraries
Presidents Day is this month, so it’s only fitting to honor our great leaders in a meaningful way. Why not plan a trip to one or more of the United States Presidential Libraries for spring break, during the summer or any time of the year?
From sea to shining sea, a nationwide network of 13 libraries administered by the Office of Presidential Libraries (part of the National Archives and Records Administration or NARA), serves up a whole world of important historic information, for each library holds significant personal papers and detailed documents associated with each of these past leaders. With the first official library opening in 1939, every president since Herbert Hoover has had a library dedicated to him.
A Plethora of Presidential Libraries
Let patriotism be your guide as you and your family map out which of the Presidential Libraries to visit first, for each of these library/museums concentrates exclusively on a select president and is often located in or near a large urban area, a college campus or a site of historical significance. Luckily for Oklahomans, a large handful of Presidential Libraries are within driving distance and would merely require allocating a few days to make it happen. There’s the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas; the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas; the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri; the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas; and the Johnson Library in Austin, Texas.
Last November, on election day, in fact, I toured our 41st President, George H.W. Bush’s, Library on the grounds of Texas A&M in College Station, and it immediately became one of the highlights of my travels in recent years. Sure, I like the beach, the spa, the mountains and foreign lands, but getting up close and personal with the impressive details surrounding one of our nation’s leaders reinforced my faith in and patriotism toward our nation’s greatness and my need to share this with my kids.
As a proud American citizen, I felt privileged to have access to documents and letters and lay my eyes on so many photos pertaining to President Bush’s days as a small child, his years at Andover Prep and Yale University, his WWII experiences, his roles as a business leader, a U.S. ambassador and head of the CIA and, of course, the most significant role of all, President of the United States of America. The national and international impact during his tenure was sprinkled within the beautifully designed walls of the library. I was particularly and emotionally moved by the large section of the Berlin Wall on display, never knowing I could see this up close and personal without heading to Germany (or perhaps a museum in Washington, D.C.). And, it was a tremendous thrill to sit at the mock desk in the Oval Office replica as real Russian dignitaries watched from afar. (They were in from Russia, conducting research for the Gorbachev’s library, currently in development.)
Presidential Library Pizzazz for Kids
As is the case at all the Presidential Libraries, to make the experience kid-friendly, there is a children’s interactive program, making learning fun. Kids can conduct “memorabilia hunts,” filling out quiz sheets and identifying various historic displays, be it the tricked-out limousine (or “The Bullet”) that protected President Bush while he traveled about or a life-sized bomber plane that mirrors the one he flew as a fighter pilot during WWII.
In 2011 the National Archives started a new visitor program, “Passport to Presidential Libraries,” which is a fun, interactive opportunity for children. When visitors obtain a passport as a keepsake, they receive a commemorative stamp in their booklet. Then, each time they visit a Presidential Library moving forward, they receive a subsequent stamp and once they’ve visited every library, they receive a surprise gift. The passport includes memorable presidential quotes, photos and information specific to each library visited. It also includes helpful and fascinating information related to each Presidential Library, including presidential quotes, photographs of documents and artifacts and specific information about the unique experience a visitor will have at each location.
The Time Is Now
A dear friend recently said something that has stuck with me as I continue to raise my children. She said, “Remember, the days are long but the years are short.“ This sits so true with me. Seizing opportunities to teach our children about our heritage and the importance of patriotism might be made easier, more enjoyable and more robust by paying patriotic visits to Presidential Libraries, which so poignantly display history of our brave leaders who helped shape our society through the years.
U.S. Presidential Libraries* At a Glance
Hoover Library: West Branch, IA
Roosevelt Library: Hyde Park, NY
Truman Library: Independence, MO
Eisenhower Library: Abilene, KS
Kennedy Library: Boston, MA
Johnson Library: Austin, TX
Nixon Library: National Archives at College Park College Park, MD
Ford Library: Ann Arbor, MI
Carter Library: Atlanta, GA
Reagan Library: Simi Valley, CA
George H. W. Bush Library: College Station, TX
Clinton Library: Little Rock, AR
George W. Bush Library: (under construction) Lewisville, TX
*under National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)