"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 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.
- Ronald Reagan, March 4, 1987
On an early October morning in 1909, President William Howard Taft became the first President to walk into the Oval Office, located in the center of the south side of the West Wing. In 1934, during the Franklin Roosevelt administration, the Oval Office was moved to its current location within the West Wing – in the southeast corner, overlooking the Rose Garden.
Each president decorates the Oval Office to suit his tastes. President Reagan, inspired by the West, added earthy colors, western art including a collection of bronze saddles, and, of course, a jar of jelly bellies for his desk! While at the Reagan Library, you will be able to view this full-scale replica of the Oval Office, decorated as it was during President Reagan’s presidency.
As you peer into the room known as the president’s formal workspace, you’ll notice the desk. Made from the timbers of the H.M.S. Resolute, an abandoned British ship discovered by an American vessel and returned to the Queen of England as a token of friendship and goodwill, it was commissioned by Queen Victoria and presented to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. Now known as the Resolute Desk, it has been used by every president since Hayes, with the exception of Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford. But if you look closely, you’ll notice that the wooden base appears altered. This is because President Reagan added the 2” base to the desk to accommodate his 6’2” frame and keep the desk drawers from hitting his knees!
President Reagan’s inspirational can-do spirit was made clear by the two plaques he kept on his desk: “It can be done” and “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”