I am a very scheduled person. By necessity.
In order to run a multi-faceted business, volunteer with a number of organizations and have any semblance of a social life, it is necessary to keep a detailed and organized schedule.
My one friend, who is the most unscheduled person I know, constantly chides me by saying, “He’s got every second of every day scheduled. If you want to see him you have to pick an hour a month in advance.”
Even vacations are scheduled. No room to leave anything to chance. It is not the most ideal of situations … but I guess it is the path I have chosen.
However that doesn’t mean, when an opportunity presents itself, I can’t improvise. Case in point: my recent working vacation to the Midwest.
The trip was designed around three main points:
1) Go to the Notre DameMichigan State football game, the 50th anniversary of the historic and controversial 10-10 tie in 1966. It has been called the greatest college football game ever.
2) Take in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field
3) Add five more states to my wife’s quest to visit all 50 states – bringing her total to 41.
Packing all of this into six days, including travel, took a lot of planning. And left little time for extemporaneous activity.
After spending a night in Clinton, Iowa – and enjoying a wonderful dinner outside on the deck of the Candlelight Inn, overlooking the Mississippi River – we were headed to our next stop. The destination was Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Driving through miles of corn fields, we suddenly saw the sign: “Ronald Reagan’s birthplace.”
How many people can say they visited Clinton and Reagan in the same day?
Schedule be damned. It was time for a detour. Judged by his accomplishments while in office, Reagan was the greatest president of my lifetime and a live history session was well-worthwhile.
And I learned an important lesson: Sometimes the unscheduled things in life are the best.
Tampico, Illinois is a tiny break in the seemingly endless corn fields. Population 800 – although we were informed there are probably less than that total still living in the town. The small steel mill closed. The Anchor Hocking glassware factory closed. Jobs are scarce.
In the middle of a one-block row of homes stands a building dedicated to the birth of Ronald Reagan. The event took place on February 6, 1911.
Jack and Nelle Reagan rented an apartment on top of a bakery, later to become the First National Bank. The building was donated to the Tampico Historical Society and was restored to its original status. Next door is a museum and gift shop dedicated to President Reagan.
Inside the shop we were greeted by Ruth Brininger, a typically pleasant and proper Midwesterner who volunteers at the site. She serves as a tour guide, as well as the store clerk. She admitted that the days in Tampico are not very busy.
In this setting, our education in the early life of Reagan began – a fabulous step back in time.
We saw the room in which he was born. We were told it was “a long and difficult birth.” Moments after the birth his father gave him his lifelong nickname, Dutch. We saw the other rooms of the apartment, complete with antique furnishings.
We walked through the bank below, restored authentically with the wooden teller cages and massive vault that had been kept safely in the basement.
We heard the stories about Reagan’s trips back to Tampico. Our tour guide proudly announced that she had met him
a number of times. She also admitted that she was a lifelong Democrat and had not voted for Reagan.
Asked why a Democrat would be a volunteer in a museum dedicated to Reagan, she said simply, “because I liked Ronald Reagan very much.”
We saw a hand-written sign in the shop from John Liebel, a Hungarian-American who felt compelled to proclaim to Reagan, “You are the greatest president the world has ever seen. You had freed our country, Hungary, from leftist freeloading barbarians. Your name alone will strike fear into communism. God bless you and your
family. Sincerely, an American citizen.”
We saw a small library of the many books about Reagan. My wife noticed that the latest book – “Killing Reagan,” which was co-authored by television commentator Bill O’Reilly – was missing. She asked our tour guide if she ever read it. When she replied she had not, my wife promised to send our copy of the book to her – to be read and then added to the library.
We thanked our guide for her hospitality, made some purchases, gave a donation … then ended our 90-minute visit.
After walking out the door, we saw the brass plaque on the doorway beside the stairs that led to the upstairs apartment. Inscribed was a quote from Reagan:
“Whatever else history may say about me when I am gone, I hope
it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.”
Fitting words from the man known as The Great Communicator. My only wish is that those words could be read … over and over … every day … by America’s future leaders.