WEST BRANCH, Iowa -- Former President Ronald Reagan Saturday rededicated the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, saying he probably should have voted to re-elect the nation's 31st president in 1932.
The $6.5 million renovation of the library dedicated to the only president born in Iowa is aimed at prompting people to reassess their perception of the man.
In prepared remarks, Reagan said he didn't vote for Hoover in 1932 because Franklin D. Roosevelt was his hero. But the former president has since changed his view of the policies that FDR implemented to lift the nation out of a depression.
'The life jacket thrown to one generation can become the straightjacket of the next,' said Reagan.
Reagan appeared at a Republican fund-raiser in Cedar Rapids Friday night. He told the audience at the Five Seasons Hotel that America again stands at a crossroads and the time has come to turn attention to domestic challenges.
The Hoover museum is unlike other presidential libraries. Instead of glorifying Hoover, it tells the story of an orphaned Iowan who had triumphs and made some big mistakes.
Museum Director Richard Norton Smith said Hoover served the public for 50 years, 'of which four years in the White House is almost a footnote. And yet it tends to crowd out the rest of the 50 years.'
Smith said Hoover's greatest accomplishment was feeding millions of starving children during two world wars.
'One thing Midwesterners are very good at it is feeding people,' Smith said. 'And this is someone who fed more people than anyone who ever lived. That is something we want people to take with them.'
Alan Teller of Abrams, Teller, Madsen Inc. of Chicago, designed many of the new exhibits at the museum. Teller said he wants people to learn several lessons at the facility.
'History is complex. Herbert Hoover was a remarkable man with a message for us today,' he said. 'We should never compromise our individuality and we should never ignore our neighbor.
'Hoover saw the dangers in the New Deal. He was afraid that if the government became too involved, it would destroy individual initiative and lead to a welfare state, and in many ways that has happened,' Teller said.
There is a section devoted to the Great Depression at the Hoover Museum. Teller said a huge mural of Wall Street was constructed with large wooden planks propping it up. The visible planks signify the shaky foundation that the stock market was operating on in the 1920s.
Teller designed a unique exhibit to end the tour of the museum. Visitors get to vote electronically on Hoover's accomplishments. If they register a favorable vote, a video display screen shows them whereHoover erred. If they register a negative vote, a video screen shows Hoover's achievements.
'Here the light cast by Herbert Hoover still shines,' Reagan said. 'And by that light we can all find our way home.'