If you ever are in Palm Springs—Rancho Mirage to be exact—you must visit Sunnylands. The name might not grab you, but you will marvel at everything else about it. Especially if you have an interest in history, care about our country, admire a courageous idea and/or respect a great philanthropist. Throw in a heavy dose of political leaders and Hollywood celebrities for fun.
You may have heard of Walter and Leonore Annenberg. They amassed a fortune from his business leadership in journalism and pioneering role in television. The couple went on to be extraordinary philanthropists, designating more than $3 billion in grants and gifts to major research universities, hospitals, medical centers, public schools, and cultural and civic organizations.
To get away from the east coast winters, Walter built Sunnylands. What started as a vacation residence in the California desert became so much more. Friendships with political leaders and Hollywood celebrities made the home a center for gatherings, meetings and social events. Sunnylands was Ronald Reagan’s “Western White House.” Frank Sinatra married Barbara in front of the fireplace.
In 2001, Walter and Lenore Annenberg established The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands to “address serious issues facing the nation and the world community.” They envisioned Sunnylands as a place where intimate and solution-driven meetings could take place as they had while the couple was alive. Today, Sunnylands is a 200-acre estate and historic residence that provides a place of tranquility and hospitality where national and international leaders from a range of fields–beginning with the President of the United States–may convene to “promote world peace and facilitate international agreement.”
Few ideas have inspired me more than the vision of Walter and Leonore Annenberg. I sure wish I could have shaken their hands and expressed my gratitude to them. Sunnylands is open to the public.