Remarks at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs in Simi Valley, California


November 21, 1988


Well, Bill, thank you very much. And Reverend Moomaw, thank you. And to the kids in the bands, I'd just like to say if you keep up the way you're going America's going to be sounding very sweet indeed for years to come. And thank you, Chuck. I hope everyone here is suitably honored by your presence. After all, it's not often that you get Moses to lead you in the Pledge of Allegiance. [Laughter] I should know. When I knew him, he didn't even speak English. [Laughter]


But this is truly a wonderful occasion, the culmination of years of hard work and remarkable generosity, and all of which was due to the good grace of the estimable board of trustees of this foundation. To the trustees and also to my dear friend Holmes Tuttle, I thank you for that and for a hundred other things the brief time I have here could not do justice to.


This is, of course, a most humbling moment for me. As my time in Washington draws to its close, I've had occasion to reflect on the astonishing journey I've been privileged to make from the banks of the Rock River and to this glorious site overlooking the mighty Pacific. The journey has not just been my own. It seems I've been guided by a force much larger than myself, a force made up of ideas and beliefs about what this country is and what it could be. The story that'll be told inside the walls that are yet to be built here is the story not only of a Presidency but of a movement -- a determined movement dedicated to the greatness of America and faith in its bedrock traditions; in the essential goodness of its people; in the essential soundness of its institutions; and, yes, faith in our very essence as a nation.


What we know best is this: We owe all we have to our forebears who built our land and our government and gave it to us as a sacred bequest. And today, in this stunning setting, we begin to pay our debt to them and to our own posterity by breaking ground for this library that will bear my name and house the collected ruminations and reflections of the Presidency that has borne my name as well.


I must say that it is not my Presidency, any more than the White House has belonged to me these 8 years. The Presidency of the United States is a trust -- a public trust from the great people of this land, who every 8 years vest that trust in someone who must be humble enough to do their will and firm enough to make sure their will is not thwarted by the twin demons of expediency and fear.


In the same way, I have vested my trust in thousands and thousands of women and men whose ideas of matters ranging from the seating arrangements at informal dinners outside the White House to a strategic defense against nuclear blackmail will form the archives of this administration -- this institution, I should say.


For 8 years, the men and women who have served in the administration have been serving America, and doing so with care and pride and understanding. Their work has made the accomplishments of the last 8 years possible. They've done the job, and I thank them with all my heart.


And what this library will house is the record of the ideas and policies that undergirded our accomplishments. These have, indeed, been years of intellectual ferment. They have featured discussions on the most important matters facing our nation: What kind of government should we have. How much government is too much government. How best to expand the frontiers of freedom around the world. How best to pay our national bills. How best to help those who seem to have lost hope. And how to spread our bounties across the globe. How to achieve our national destiny.


Yes, there'll be much to study here, much to discuss, and much to mull over. This library will allow scholars of the future to cast their own judgment on these years, and I would not presume to predict the result of their researches. But I have to believe that scholars of good will, upon examining the historical record that will be contained herein, will judge our efforts well. But as for us, at present we can only say this: We have done our best, and we pray it has been enough.


I would add just one thing that recently came to me in a letter. A man wrote and found it necessary to say this, and I'm pleased that he did. He said, you can go to live in another land -- you can go to live in France, but you can't become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany, but you can't become a German. You can go to live in Japan or Turkey, and you cannot become Japanese or Turkish. But anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American.


So, thank you all so much for helping in this effort, and may God bless you all. Thank you.


Note: The President spoke at 2:35 p.m. on the library grounds. He was introduced by William French Smith, chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Rev. Donn D. Moomaw, pastor of the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, and actor Charlton Heston. Following the ceremony, the President went to his ranch in Santa Barbara County, CA.