Sherrylee and I just returned Saturday from a two-week road trip vacation—which is why this blog station has been silent for a while! For the first week we were in Kansas, Iowa, and Minnesota looking up dead relatives . . . if you know what I mean.
I must admit that I find it great fun to dig around in court records and libraries, even the walk through cemeteries, looking for clues to how my great- and great-great- grandparents lived, why they moved from one place to another, how they met their spouses and lived their lives. It’s certainly more fun and entertaining that watching fake people’s lives on the soaps! I guess this is my own version of reality TV!!
The second week of our trip we drove across Minnesota and South Dakota to Mt. Rushmore—a beautiful drive this time of year and an impressive monument. While Sherrylee searched the antique stores of Rapid City for treasures, I drove over to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, a place I’ve been attracted to since seeing Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
OK, I will also confess that driving back to Rapid City from Devil’s Tower, I stopped in both Sundance, Wyoming, where the Sundance Kid took his nickname because he had been jailed there, as well as Deadwood, SD, where Wild Bill Hickok held aces and eights for the last time. I don’t find it very inspiring that people leave half-empty whiskey bottles and old playing cards on his grave.
From South Dakota, we started home, but first had a very important stop in Abilene, Kansas. Here’s the story:
Shortly after President Reagan died in June 2004, Sherrylee and I visited his library and museum in Simi Valley, California. Our visit was especially meaningful because our memories of his funeral there were still quite vivid, but we were amazed at how well done and interesting the museum itself was—and that was even before they had the retired Air Force One on display there.
Some friends of our try to visit all the classic roller coasters in the U.S..Others travel to and tour baseball stadiums. Some of our dearest friends set a goal of seeing all 34 Vermeer paintings—I don’t know if they include the disputed paintings or not—but I think they have or will soon complete this fancy.
Sherrylee and I decided we wanted to see all of the presidential libraries/museums. There were only twelve at the time, but now there are thirteen official presidential libraries.
Franklin D. Roosevelt established the first presidential library in 1939 as a repository for his papers. In addition, he donated part of his Hyde Park, NY, estate to house them. Harry Truman decided he wanted to do the same thing and so a pattern developed that was codified by Congress, first in 1955 in the Presidential Libraries Act, then even more firmly established in 1978 and 1986. The result is a wonderful set of museums, strung like pearls across the United States, literally from coast to coast, operated and maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration. Here is the list and location:
|Herbert Hoover Library||West Branch, Iowa|
|Franklin D. Roosevelt Library||Hyde Park, New York|
|Harry S. Truman Library||Independence, Missouri|
|Dwight D. Eisenhower Library||Abilene, Kansas|
|John F. Kennedy Library||Boston, Massachusetts|
|Lyndon B. Johnson Library||Austin, Texas|
|Richard M. Nixon Library||Yorba Linda, California|
|Gerald R. Ford Library||Ann Arbor/Grand Rapids, Michigan|
|Jimmy Carter Library||Atlanta, Georgia|
|Ronald Reagan Library||Simi Valley, California|
|George H. W. Bush Library||College Station, Texas|
|William J. Clinton Library||Little Rock, Arkansas|
|George W. Bush Library||Dallas, Texas|
Now you know the reason for our important stop in Abilene, Kansas. Our visit to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library means I have visited all of the libraries. Sherrylee still lacks two, and I’m sure we will eventually see those two together.
The presidential libraries are like heaven will be! The full story of every president’s life is revealed.
- I bet you do not know what an extraordinary generous man Herbert Hoover was, a man who spent much of his life and personal fortune helping the hungry and homeless.
- I bet you didn’t know that George H. W. Bush was raised as a man of deep faith, and that he served as an elder in his church.
- I bet you don’t know that Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, was raised by a pacifist mother, and that he hated war! He said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”
I say the libraries are like heaven because the stories of these men’s lives are told to show what led them to greatness and to show the good that they have done with the lives they were given. When essential to their story, their failures are admitted—Watergate, Bay of Pigs, Great Depression, etc.—but when you get to the end of the museum, you always feel like you have been in the presence of someone who cared deeply about his country and his fellow citizens and who was wholly committed to upholding his oath as president.
After commanding millions of soldiers in war and sitting in the most powerful seat in the world for eight years, Dwight D. Eisenhower was buried in a regulation army casket in a chapel in Abilene, Kansas. That simple casket is the fate of all of us—great or small.
Presidential libraries might be like Heaven on Judgment Day. Because of the justice of God, our lives will be openly displayed, but because of He is full of mercy and grace, most prominently displayed will be how God has worked the days of our lives together for good along with those good works He prepared for us to do. Our sinfulness is acknowledged, but overshadowed by the love and light of Jesus, so that He will be glorified when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”