Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911- June 5, 2004)
Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States. He is the face of new conservatism and most people liked him because he strengthened our military to make the United States more powerful and influential around the world. He fought Communism and Marxism that was spreading around the globe. During the Reagan Administration, he cut federal domestic spending which made it possible to cut taxes and make the economy prosper. Ronald Reagan was a father, husband, actor, radio announcer, Governor, and President. He was clearly very ambitious. To conservatives, he is remembered as one of the best Presidents in history.
Ronald Wilson Reagan was born to Nelle and John Reagan on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois. Ronald Reagan’s dad was a shoe salesman. He had an older brother, Neil Reagan, who was born in 1908. They were poor, residing in an apartment that lacked indoor plumbing, running water and was located on the town’s main street. Reagan’s father called him “Dutch” as a baby saying that he looked like a “fat little Dutchman”. They moved to Dixon, another nearby town, where Reagan graduated high school and was student body president. During summer vacations, he worked as a lifeguard saving many people from drowning. Then he went to Eureka College to study economics and sociology. He played sports such as football. He ran track and was captain of the swim team. He was also in the school plays.
After graduation, Ronald Reagan became a radio sports announcer. In 1937, he got a Hollywood contract and was in fifty-three films over the next two decades. Reagan did the screen test for Warner Bros. and this is how he got the contract. In that same year, he made his film debut in “Love is in the Air” playing a radio news host which is funny, because that was what he was. One of his most successful acting roles was of Notre Dame football star George Gipp in the 1940 biographical film “Knute Rockne All American”. His famous line from this movie was “Win one for the Gipper.” Another notable role was in 1942, the movie was called “Kings Row”. Reagan’s character is an accident victim who wakes up to discover his legs have been amputated and cries out “Where is the rest of me?” This is the title of Reagan’s 1965 autobiography.
Ronald Reagan was married twice. He was the first president to have been divorced. His first wife’s name was Jane Wyman who was the co-star in the film “Brother Rat” with Reagan. This is how they met. She was an actress. They had two biological children Maureen and Christine, and one adopted son, Michael. Christine only lived for a day. They got divorced in 1948 because of arguments about Reagan’s political ambition. They both had different political views. She was a Republican and, at that time,he was a Democrat. She filed for the divorce and it was finalized in 1949. They were still friends until his death, though.
His second wife and First Lady, when he became President, was Nancy Davis. She was a Broadway actress and together they had two children whose names were Patricia and Ronald Jr. It seems like they had a good, strong marriage and a very special relationship. They never stopped loving each other.
From 1947 to 1952 and from 1959 to 1960, Reagan served as President of the Screen Actors Guild. This is where he met his future First Lady, Nancy. The Screen Actors Guild was like a labor union for actors. When Ronald Reagan was younger, he was a member of the Democratic Party and was your typical Hollywood Democrat. He campaigned for democratic candidates and one of his political heros was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who believed in a lot of government intervention. He started switching his political view after disputes over communism increased in the film industry. When he had his weekly drama series “The General Electric Theater”, he broke out against too much government control, wasteful spending, and things that would later become central themes of his political career. He toured the country and became the new face for conservatism. This is really when he got started in politics. His views grew more conservative overtime and in the early 1960s he became a Republican.
In 1966, Ronald Reagan started eating jelly beans to help him stop from pipe-smoking, and he did stop successfully pipe-smoking. He also became Governor of California in 1966 and was re-elected in 1970. Even while he was Governor, he got shipments of jelly beans to his office.
Ronald Reagan won the Republican presidential nomination in 1980. His running mate was George Bush, former Texas Congressman and United Nations Ambassador and future President. He became Reagan’s Vice President for both terms. Reagan ran against the incumbent, Democrat, Jimmy Carter. Reagan won by a landslide four hundred eighty-nine electoral votes to Carter’s forty-nine electoral votes, which is unheard of because Jimmy Carter was the current President. Ronald Reagan was elected because voters were worried about inflation and Americans being held in Iran.
He was the oldest President to be elected at sixty-nine years of age in 1980. When Ronald Reagan was sworn into office January 20, 1981, in his inaugural address, Reagan famously said of America’s economy “This present crisis government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.” Also, at Reagan’s inauguration, three tons of jelly belly beans were delivered and consumed. After the Carter years, which had been more plain, Reagan and Nancy brought in the glamour of Hollywood into Washington, DC with designer fashion, redecorating the White House,etc.
Sixty-nine days into his term, an assassination attempt was made but Reagan quickly recovered and became even more popular because of this tragic event which he survived from. The attempt was made on March 30, 1981 by John Hinckley Jr. John Hinckley Jr., a man with a history of psychiatric problems, shot the President outside a hotel in Washington, DC. Although this is not the end of the story for Ronald Reagan, in this attempt his lung was pierced. The bullet just missed his heart and he was bleeding internally so it was a serious injury. Within several weeks of the shooting, Reagan was back at work. In 1981, Reagan made history by appointing Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman to be a United States Supreme Court Justice.
Reagan worked effectively with Congress to help the economy and strengthen the military. In 1983, Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a plan to develop space-based weapons to protect America from attacks by Soviet nuclear missiles. Reagan cut taxes and made budget cuts causing large deficits. This made him an even more popular President. Reagan was re-elected in 1984 by an even larger margin than his first term. In the 1984 election Reagan only lost one state, Minnesota.
In 1986, Reagan overhauled income tax. He eliminated deductions and exempted people of low income. He also simplified the tax brackets and caused there to be less tax shelters. An outstanding achievement for Reagan and his administration was “Reaganomics” which was a series of supply based economic policies. He really helped the economy. He created sixteen million jobs, cut taxes, regulations, and domestic spending. This caused a federal deficit which is always good for a nation and this economic boom lasted two decades. He was proud to be an American and optimistic about our country. He also signed the Immigration Reform and Control act in 1986, which made it illegal to knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
Now, talking about Ronald Reagan’s foreign-policy and his main point was to make sure that he strengthened the United States’ military. He seemed to focus more on this than on domestic affairs. He added a lot of troops. While the United States had the strongest military on the planet, it is easier to be at peace. He increased the production of B1 bombers, which Jimmy Carter had canceled and started the production of more missiles and used NATO to our advantage.
Reagan’s thoughts on foreign-policy was to achieve “peace through strength” President Reagan increased the defense budget by thirty-five percent. He also tried to improve relations with the Soviet Union and negotiated a treaty that would eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Ronald Reagan declared war against international terrorism and sent American bombers against Libya after it was found out that they were involved in a terror attack. He ordered naval escorts in the Persian Gulf and maintained a free flow of oil during the Iran and Iraq war. Reagan kept to the Reagan doctrine by supporting anti-communist rebel powers in Africa, Central America and Asia.
In Ronald Reagan’s administration, the Cold War was ended. But first the war was escalated by starting an arms race against the Soviet Union but he stood firm against the Soviets. He called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire” and challenged the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” meaning the Berlin Wall. Reagan and Gorbachev talked and this culminated in the INF treaty. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. This was an agreement to remove all medium to short range missiles from the country’s arsenals which caused both the United States and the USSR’s nuclear arsenals to shrink. The Treaty was signed on December 8, 1987. Reagan began his presidency at the beginning of the decline of the Soviet Union. In just ten months after his term ended, the Berlin wall fell and Germany was reunified.
Other things Ronald Reagan did in foreign-policy was the bombing of Libya after Libya attacked a nightclub in West Berlin where a US servicemen was a victim. But Libya was bad news all the way. Libya’s leader openly supported violent Palestinian and Syrian groups. It was very anti-Israel and did not align with United States foreign-policy. They were also trying to become a nuclear power. They were a threat that was eliminated.
He also fought communist regimes around the world and helped find rebel insurgents. This was the cause for scandal though, which was the Iran-Contra affair. This was a political scandal in Reagan’s second term. Senior Administrative officials secretly sold arms to Iran to fund the Contras, a rebel group in Nicaragua. At the sametime, they were negotiating for the release of U.S. hostages. This was prohibited by Congress.
The First Lady, Nancy Davis Reagan, passionately advocated for decreasing drug and alcohol abuse in young people and she loved being a wife and mother and enjoyed helping people and making appearances at nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and helping people even before her husband was President. Nancy Davis Reagan supported her husband well. Her main campaign was the “Just Say No” campaign. Her husband also believed in this cause by declaring the War on Drugs during his presidency
After leaving the The White House in January, 1989, Ronald Reagan and his wife moved back to California where they lived in Los Angeles. In 1991, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum opened in Simi Valley, California. One of the things displayed at Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Library in California is a 6,000 pound graffiti covered section of the Berlin Wall gifted to him by the People of Berlin. There is also a portrait of Ronald Reagan made of 10,000 jelly belly beans.
In November 1994, Reagan revealed a handwritten letter to the American people that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly a decade later at age 93, he died of pneumonia complicated by Alzheimer’s disease on June 5, 2004, at his Los Angeles home. At the time of his death he was the longest living President. Reagan was given a State funeral in Washington, DC and later buried on the grounds of his Presidential Library.
Doing all this research I learned a lot about his life and impact on modern American society and more specifically, conservativism. He championed traditional and family values while still including people with other views. This is why he won with such large margins. He grew the economy and made it prosper. Also, he really worked on foreign policy and strengthened the armed forces to make America a world superpower to help the rest of the globe. At the end of the administration, was the longest recorded peacetime and prosperity for the United States. There was no depressions and the economy was well.
Black, Allida. Whitehouse.gov: Nancy Davis Reagan.
Freidel, Frank. Sidey, Hugh. Whitehouse.gov: Ronald Reagan.
History.com staff. History.com: Ronald Reagan.
Human Events: Top 10 Reagan Achievements.