Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Who Will Be Our Ace in the Hole?

Dear Friends of President Reagan's Chicago Home:

On Saturday, November 17, 2012, less than three days before Redd Griffin died, he called to update me on developments in the efforts to save the Reagan Chicago home.  I was too busy to talk - it was 5:45 p.m. (EST) and I was getting ready to go out. I told him I would need to call him back. But before we concluded our unusually brief, and what I would soon learn was our last, I asked him, "Redd, what's the bottom line? Who's the point person?"  He gave me a name.

I had planned to call Redd Monday, November 19, but then when he sent me an email with all the Reagan residences that day, I used the opportunity to communicate via email, telling him how important it was to save the Chicago home because President Reagan had lived there at such a formative time. I fully intended to call Redd the next day. The next day was too late. Redd died of a massive heart attack early the morning of Tuesday, November 20.

On Wednesday, November 21, I called this "point person" and we developed a marvelous rapport when I traveled to Chicago on Friday, November 30 to Sunday, December 2 for a previously scheduled Hemingway-focused weekend Redd had invited me to.  But, alas, given the reality of "The Chicago Way," this "point person" has had to stay basically neutral.  I know if he could do more, he would; so I recently sent him the following letter, which I post as a way of presenting our approach to selling the powers-that-be on saving the Reagan Chicago home.

Let's hope someone will step up to the plate soon who will, indeed, be our "ace in the hole" - someone with the clout to convince the powers-that-be that preserving the Reagan home would be a 'win, win' for the University of Chicago and the City. We are certainly doing all we can to make this happen and have a follow-up call tomorrow morning.

God bless! Let's win one more for the Gipper.

And again, for those who are just tuning in, here's background on this national initiative, as well as our corporate purpose statement.

Finally, remember, we can't do this without your support. No donation is too small!

Mary Claire Kendall, President


Dear XXX,

I wanted to give you an update on the Friends of President Reagan’s Chicago Home, which had its inaugural board meeting on Monday, March 4. Our board now consists of... Don Totten, Dan Proft, Nicholas Hahn, Matt Rarey (Secretary) and myself (President).

As you know, we are seeking to preserve Reagan’s home on the Southside—the only Chicago home of the only President born and bred in Illinois.

A key part of our strategy is to help key officials at the University of Chicago, as well as in the City, understand the tremendous upside to saving this home.  The goal is to develop it, in partnership with the university, into a museum and center, thereby completing the Reagan Trail, which starts in Tampico, immediately followed by Chicago. The museum would restore the home to its original 1915 splendor, showing what it was like back then when children such as Dutch Reagan, age 4, would look out their big windows—the equivalent of TV back then—and take in a whole bustling world that brightened their little lives.  The center would celebrate Reagan’s historic presidency and acknowledge his end of life struggle with Alzheimer’s that ironically the Center for Care and Discovery is now seeking a cure for.

Barring a miracle, we can’t possibly achieve our goal of raising $5-10 million by March 29, when the administrative hold on demolishing the building is lifted. These funds would allow us to develop a plan to transform the home as outlined above and put it on the table for the university’s consideration.  We would need an extension of 60-90 days and would like to know if the university is amenable to this.

Given that... Chicago ranked #4 in the Forbes list of most miserable cities to live in, our efforts are very timely. And, while this is no doubt a temporary condition—and I, for one, love Chicago—I can’t think of a better person than Mr. Sunshine and Optimism himself—Ronald Reagan—to help ensure it is more temporary than permanent.

Besides infusing the city with that Reagan magic, the Reagan Museum and Center would produce substantial travel and tourism dollars. If folks travel from around the world and across the fruited plain to visit tiny Tampico and small Dixon, they would surely travel to Chicago. This, of course, means jobs.

And, while everyone says, well the Reagan Boyhood Home in Dixon—along with the Birthplace in Tampicois the place to go if you want to visit a Reagan home, the fact is, as our friend Redd Griffin made clear in this oral history, the whole reason for establishing the Dixon Boyhood Home was none other than economic development.

Now, I understand you are in a delicate position and I’m not asking you to go to bat to save the Chicago home and win one more for the Gipper.  But, what I thought would make sense is to ask you to go to bat to win one more for Chicago by making clear the potency of the Reagan Museum and Center for growth and jobs.  Just like William Butler Ogden, Chicago’s first mayor, who thought he had been victim of the worst swindle when his brother-in-law bought Chicago land in the early 1830s, only to discover the goldmine he was sitting on, it is my hope that the University of Chicago and City will understand, before it’s too late, what a goldmine they are sitting on with the Reagan Chicago home.

Thanks, XXX for anything you might do to gently bring this point home... 

Mary Claire Kendall, President

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