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Presidential Libraries



     Rodney Beard, professor emeritus of public health at Stanford and active in matters of pollution control, writes:
     Distinguishing between fact and fiction is indeed difficult. We have different memories of events. I am glad to see that you appreciate Mr. Hoover's many good qualities, which I never doubted. I must dispute your remarks about R. Reagan and the proposal of a library named for him to contain his papers.
     However, the decision was reached by the President and the Trustees. There were many of the faculty who objected to the terms of the proposal, which included a private apartment for the ex-president and extensive conference facilities which were potentially independent of university control. The location, west of Junipero Serra, above the Campus Drive intersection, was also objectionable, especially in view of the plan for extensive automobile parking and the ensuing increase in traffic. This was not solely a matter of Reagan being reviled by the faculty.
     As to "the true Reagan", I had an experience with him: While Governor, he presided over a conference about lead poisoning attributed to lead in gasoline. I admired his openness, fairness, and his ultimate summation of the discussions, which led to the conclusion that the practice should be stopped. However, his concluding remarks never were published, and he took no action to implement his conclusions. I felt that his governmental decisions were controlled by special interests.


     My comment: I agree entirely with Rodney on the matter of special interests, which are preventing electoral reform. However, the objection to the Reagan Library came from the faculty. Since Glenn Campbell, director of Hoover, was the promoter of the plan, I lived through the whole business. The administration was quite prepared to accept the plan, but gave up under faculty pressure. While Rodney's objections are valid, it was also good old party politics, with the donkey kicking hard.
     This brings up the whole question of presidential libraries. Will the Clinton Library feature the famous cigar and other tasty accessories? Will it invite Monica to tell her story? I wait with bated breath. Independence from Stanford's control was not really a valid issue except in this context. Many organizations located on Stanford lands, such as the Center or Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, are independent.
     My solution was to invite all presidents, donkeys and elephants, to set up their libraries at Stanford in an area known as "Presidential Libraries", but as usual my words of wisdom were drowned by the general noise.

Ronald Hilton - 10/20/99


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