Celebrating Ronald Reagan

With Nancy Reagan at his side, President Obama signed a law establishing the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission in June 2009. As Archivist of the United States, I serve as an ex officio member to “provide advice and information to the Commission.”

Throughout 2011, there are many events planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of President Reagan’s birth. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum will dedicate their redesigned permanent exhibition on February 6, 2011, President Reagan’s birthday. There will also be a birthday celebration on February 18 at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.  Presidential records, including documents, pictures, film, and artifacts, will play a special role at these events.

photograph-of-ronald-reagan1Photograph of President Reagan and Vice President Bush meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev on Governor’s Island, New York, 12/7/1988
(National Archives, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

Throughout this year, there will also be a special exhibit of records and artifacts at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. The items currently on display (featured below) center around the theme of foreign relations and will be part of a rotating exhibit in partnership with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.


Ronald Reagan was a president who had a profound effect on the nation and the world during his eight years in office. He also holds a special place in the history of the National Archives.

In late 1984, he signed legislation that re-established the National Archives as an independent federal agency. A copy of that act, as well as the pen used to sign it, hangs in my office at the National Archives Building. That action, a quarter of a century ago, has allowed us to more aggressively pursue our mission at the National Archives.

Records help tell the story of our country, and part of that story is found in the millions of records and artifacts from the vast collection at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. One of the documents now on display is a portion of Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire Speech” he made on March 8, 1983 to the National Association of Evangelicals.

The handwritten notes and edits on the document show us some of President Reagan’s thought process. I encourage you to look closely at these three pages (in the slideshow above) because there is so much that is intriguing and interesting — aspects that cannot be gleaned from the text of the delivered speech.

portion-of-evil-empire-speechA Portion of Page 14 of Ronald Reagan’s Evil Empire Speech

Two small documents in the exhibit show us President Reagan’s approach to “personal diplomacy.” These were prepared talking points for his private meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze on September 27, 1985.

portion-of-talking-pointsA Portion of Page 1 of Ronald Reagan’s Talking Points

We can see that he sought to strengthen his relationship with Mr. Gorbachev and believed it was best to “work out our problems through frank discussion.”  He states, “We need to talk about each other less in public and to each other more in private.”

These kind of details help us deepen our knowledge of President Reagan’s Presidency. As you attend and participate in Ronald Reagan Centennial events this year, I encourage you to look closely at the records that help tell the story of our country.

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2 Responses to Celebrating Ronald Reagan

  1. Lisa Rickey says:

    This is very exciting! And I love the use of Flickr in this post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Steven Haversack says:

    “We need to talk about each other less in public and to each other more in private.”

    Great advice for everyone!

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