TAMPICO — Mayors from the birthplaces of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher exchanged gifts and pledged themselves to a sister-city relationship to promote historical tourism in a brief ceremony Friday morning on the curbside entrance to the Reagan Birthplace Museum.
Graham Jeal, mayor of Grantham, England, presented to Tampico a handcrafted wood plaque made from wood from a tree planted by Benjamin Franklin in Lincolnshire, England.
In exchange, Tampico Mayor Kristine Hill had a matched pair of plaques engraved with portraits of Reagan and Thatcher that would be displayed in the birthplace museum and the Grantham Museum.
It was Joan Johnson, curator of the Reagan Birthplace Museum, who summed up the relationship Reagan, as U.S. president, and Thatcher, as United Kingdom prime minister, had as world leaders in the 1980s.
“Both leaders came from humble beginnings and accomplished a great deal in their times, working together,” Johnson said. “There was trust and friendship between the two leaders as they used their country’s strengths and resources to maintain the values of human freedom.”
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Grantham, England Mayor Graham Jeal speaks in front of the birthplace of Ronald Reagan in Tampico during a visit Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Grantham is the birthplace of former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The two towns announced a sister city relationship on Friday. (Alex T. Paschal - firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reagan was born in Tampico on Feb. 6, 1911. Thatcher, with the maiden name Roberts, was born in Grantham on Oct. 13, 1925. Her father would later serve as Grantham mayor in 1945-46.
Sean Sandrock, one of the Tampico museum’s organizers of the effort to establish the exchange, said he and Johnson hope to visit Grantham soon and solidify the relationship. There are plans to trade exhibits. There is also an effort underway between the principals of the Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico Community Unit Schools and headmasters of schools in Grantham to begin some pen pal exchanges.
More than a hundred fourth- and fifth-graders from the district’s elementary school in Tampico were on hand for the ceremony, huddled in the shade in their heavy coats.
“I liked it. It was cool,” said Will Atkinson, a 10-year-old. Several other students expressed a similar sentiment.
Erica Egan, a teacher from the school said the town’s link to history and how Reagan spent his formative years is part of the curriculum. The students have visited the museum before. She hoped the lesson today taken from the lives of Reagan and Thatcher is simply, “If you’re from a small town, anything is possible.”
Tampico is much the size it was in the 1920s, just under 800 people. Grantham — which also lays claim to Isaac Newton, the diesel engine and tennis Olympian Charles P. Dixon — has a population greater than 40,000.
Jeal, who is trustee of Grantham Museum, said of Reagan and Thatcher, who defined conservative leadership in that era, that they “bestrode the world in the 1980s and shaped international relations.”
Jeal was asked that in the context of recent events, has there been a passing of that era?
“I think that’s true of Mrs. Thatcher, though of Mr. Reagan, I’m not so sure. But certainly of Mrs. Thatcher, she’s moving from being a controversial political figure into being a historical figure, and who there’s an added deference when somebody becomes a historical figure. And I think we’re seeing that as well in some of these ties, and documentaries and commentaries that we’re seeing on both leaders from that era.”