I so wish I could post pictures of the Reagan Ranch, because I have some on my camera now! But my camera cord is in Washington and I’m here. Oops.
One of the perks of being an NJC intern at the News-Press is that I get to cover events at the Reagan Ranch Center. Usually that makes me a near-invisible observer, so instead of joining the guests in their catered dinners or helping myself to the coffee bar I scribble frantic and barely legible notes in my reporter’s notebook.
But this weekend was the West Coast Leadership Conference, and I only covered 2 of the 8-ish speakers. That meant for the rest of the weekend, I ditched my press pass and was just a plain old NJC intern. Which, in turn, meant I could join the students and donors in their receptions, dinners, and sessions.
Yesterday I was able to join the conference up at the Reagan Ranch itself. Not many people really get to see President Reagan’s beloved ranch, and even one of the YAF-ers said it was his first time up there. (He was visiting from D.C. for the conference.) The ride there, up the Santa Ynez mountains high above Santa Barbara, is amazing in itself. But the ranch is incredible.
One of the best parts about walking around those 680 acres is the feeling of looking at who Reagan really was. I felt like I had caught a glimpse of his soul. Why is it that the best statesmen are so closely connected to working the land? Cincinnatus, a Roman senator who was given complete control of the country for a set period of time in order to save it from invading enemies, defeated the rival tribes in mere months, and voluntarily returned early to his farm. George Washington was a little like a modern-day Cincinnatus; because he was the first president, he actually had the opportunity to become king of the United States. The people offered him that chance. But he turned it down, retiring to farm his land and pass the presidency on to whoever the people would elect next.
It may not be terribly hard to understand, however. Standing at the edge of a pasture overlooking the mountains, the ocean, and thousands of acres of wild country, I could imagine quiet moments of reflection inspiring great ideas in such a place. Far away from the Capitol, where words are diplomatic, theoretical, and seem to have less implicit meaning, I imagine Reagan could think about what things like freedom and Communism actually meant.
The house, too, gives away the secret of such statesmanship. Reagan was a simple man. Brilliant, an avid reader and a deep thinker (his bookshelf is a tip-off), but simple. His ordinary house revealed a man who loved a quiet, ordinary life and wanted to build up what he had with his own two hands. He laid the flooring himself, and fixed the roof himself, despite Secret Service protests.
I loved the tack barn. He rode English- a man after my own heart! He learned to ride in the Cavalry, which is why even on a ranch he rode English while Nancy rode Western. I got to see his saddles and bridles for each different horse. Each had a different bit, which tells me the man knew his horses well. I love that about him.
The conference was fun and inspiring. Marc Thiessen may have been my favorite speaker– I am huge on national defense, and he spoke on our need for a strong national defense and why CIA interrogation methods are so essential to security. He was George W. Bush’s lead speech writer, so he has more first-hand knowledge about security and defense than most people, and I thought he was amazing.
I don’t know if I could say definitively who my favorite was, though. They were all so good. Michael Reagan is brilliant and engaging. David Newton is right on about economic issues. It was fun. I am so glad I got to hang out for the whole thing, and even happier I wasn’t covering most of it. I love being an NJC intern.
Michael Reagan told us this: “If you want to hold Ronald Reagan dear, hold freedom dear, and sell it.”