Thanks to the kindness of the Young America’s Foundation, YBF was able to visit the Ronald Reagan Ranch outside of Santa Barbara in California. Ronald and Nancy Reagan used it as an oasis of calm far away from the politics of Washington D.C. during his time in office.
It was once said by former First Lady Nancy Reagan, to truly know Ronald Reagan the man, you must go to the Ranch. The peaceful, tranquil surroundings are truly awe inspiring. Wild horses roam the grounds untroubled in a place he called Rancho Del Cielo, the ‘Ranch in the Sky.’
Ronald Reagan himself described it like this:
“From the first day we saw it, Rancho Del Cielo cast a spell over us. No place before or since has ever given Nancy and me the joy and serenity it does.”
Set in 600 acres of land, the centrepiece is the house itself, a humble abode restored to its original state. During his time there, Reagan personally built most of the Ranch himself, including the fence made out of old telephone polls that surrounds the house.
Reagan loved the Ranch so much he often invited world leaders and friends to visit him there. In 1993 Margaret Thatcher finally got the chance to visit Ronald and Nancy’s beloved presidential retreat. Their special relationship allowed them to achieve much during their time in power on both sides of the Atlantic. Lady Thatcher said a final goodbye with a heartfelt, emotional eulogy at his funeral in 2004. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh also visited in 1983. Despite the winding road and treacherous weather, the Queen insisted on making the journey.
Ronald Reagan was a man of simple pleasures, so his ranch is a reflection of this. There is a small TV set in the lounge where the Reagans watched their favourite shows, Jeopardy and Murder She Wrote. Apart from this, there are few trappings of the modern world, giving the Ranch a feeling of timelessness.
Away from the house is the Secret Service Command Post, where the security of Ronald and Nancy was monitored and maintained. The layout of the ranch provided a unique challenge for the Secret Service, due to its location and size. Agents were spread around the ranch at all times to ensure there were no intruders.
As the press was generally banned from attending the ranch, journalists used a hill nearby to take photos of the president with telephoto lenses. On one occasion Reagan pretended to have a heart attack outside the front door as a practical joke on the press. The Ranch was also the place where he chose to sign the Economic Recovery Tax Act, cutting taxes across the board and stimulating growth throughout America.
Further to the West of the ranch, we visited the location of the helipad from Reagan’s presidency. After he left office, he asked for it to be removed and the field was restored to its original state.
The Ronald Reagan Centre in Santa Barbara provides a context for the ranch, explaining its history and significance in the life of Reagan. It also contains diverse artwork and mementoes as well as a high tech media centre containing films and speeches relating to the ranch.
YAF saved the ranch in 1998 thanks to the generosity of their donors. It was then purchased and lovingly restored. YAF made the decision to protect the property rather than turn it into a museum. Instead of millions of tourists visiting with no ideological connection, it is reserved for people who share the same values as Ronald Reagan. Free markets, free people, limited government and a strong national defence. In its current form it can serve to inspire conservative leaders of the future, as it did the YBF delegation when we visited.