If you have seen Disneyland one time too many and are looking for a different experience in Orange County, I highly recommend the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. Yorba Linda is 40 miles (64 km) southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
I am always interested in the lives of famous people, if not the infamous ones. What does it take to rise above the anonymity of the rest of us? How does a mere mortal get him or herself into the spotlight? How do you get to be president of the leading western country? To me, Richard Nixon was just an ordinary guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, if he had chosen to be an auto mechanic—even if working on Ferraris and Lamborghinis—he would have been just that, an auto mechanic. So he had to make some right choices to be at the right place at the right time. His career path was more than mere luck. Maybe it’s as simple as some people being destined for fame and fortune and some not.
Politically I am not in the Nixon camp and I have no problem saying that at the time I relished every minute of the Watergate affair. But after walking through his life at the museum, I have to admit I have gained a huge respect for the man. He accomplished a lot in his lifetime and I now recognize his intelligence, insight and foresight.
It is rather paradoxical that California is always thought of being so liberal and yet we produced two of the most right-wing presidents of modern times.
The Nixon Library is spacious and nicely laid out. I enjoyed the short film about his life that put everything in context. The gift shop had some interesting mementos for sale. I had to buy the refrigerator magnet of Nixon and the King (Elvis) shaking hands. Very cool.
During his administration Apollo 11 landed on the moon, American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and relations with the Soviet Union and China were greatly improved. Nixon was the only president to resign from office (although, according to the account presented at the museum, only as it was the right thing to do because of the deeds of others that he knew nothing about).
The gardens are lovely with headstones indicating the gravesites of the president and his wife Pat. Richard Nixon’s gravestone reads: “The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker.” Pat Nixon’s reads: “Even when people can’t speak your language, they can tell if you have love in your heart.”
The presidential helicopter is on view. Climbing on board my friend commented on how spacious the interior was—bigger than some small planes I have flown on. (I still can’t figure out how these clumsy-looking flying elephants can stay airborne!) Inside the library we had previously seen Nixon’s official presidential limousine.
Another treat was walking through Nixon’s small family home where he was born. The house was built by his father from a catalog kit just a year earlier. Most of the furnishings, including the piano that Nixon learned to play on, are the originals.
On the way home we drove up Imperial Highway all the way to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) stopping at the Brea Mall (in Brea, no less) for an early dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. I love their salads but was disappointed to see that the décor was exactly the same as that of their restaurant in Sherman Oaks. Does this mean that whatever Cheesecake Factory I go to it will be the same interior design? Bleeaahhhh to that idea!
As I was happily chowing down on the chicken and lettuce I was counting my blessings that I was able to enjoy another gorgeous southern California day in February made even better by a fascinating experience at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
(Photos copyright roslyn m wilkins)