Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Reagan
40th President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
Vice President George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Jimmy Carter
Succeeded by George H. W. Bush
33rd Governor of California
In office
January 2, 1967 – January 6, 1975
Lieutenant Robert Finch
Edwin Reinecke
John Harmer
Preceded by Pat Brown
Succeeded by Jerry Brown
9th and 13th President of the Screen Actors Guild
In office
1947–1952
Preceded by Robert Montgomery
Succeeded by Walter Pidgeon
In office
1959–1960
Preceded by Howard Keel
Succeeded by George Chandler
Personal details
Born Ronald Wilson Reagan
February 6, 1911(1911-02-06)
Tampico, Illinois, U.S.
Died June 5, 2004(2004-06-05) (aged 93)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California, U.S.
34°15′35.5896″N 118°49′11.301″W / 34.259886°N 118.81980583°W / 34.259886; -118.81980583
Political party Republican (1962–2004)
Other political
affiliations
Democratic (Before 1962)
Spouse(s) Jane Wyman (1940–1949)
Nancy Davis (1952–2004)
Children Maureen Reagan (dead)
Christine Reagan (stillborn)
Michael Reagan (adopted)
Patti Davis
Ron Reagan
Alma mater Eureka College
Religion Disciples of Christ
later Presbyterian
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
United States Army Air Forces
Years of service 1937–45
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain

Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Before becoming president, he was the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to 1975. Reagan served twice as President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947 to 1952 and again from 1959 to 1960.[1] Reagan was also a movie, television and radio actor before he began his career into politics.[2]

Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois.[2] Reagan had a successful career in Hollywood. He appeared in 53 movies.[2] He married actress Jane Wyman in 1940. The couple divorced in 1949.[2] They had three children. Reagan then married Nancy Davis in 1952.[2] They had two children. Their marriage would last until Reagan's death in 2004.[2]

Before winning his president election in 1980, Reagan ran for president two times in 1968 and in 1976. He was the oldest person elected president of the United States at the age of 69.[3] He is known as the "Great Communicator" because he was a good public speaker. Reagan was also known as the "Teflon president" because any criticism or scandals against him never stuck or affected his popularity.[4] Reagan still remains one of the most popular presidents in American history.[1] Reagan is the only president of the United States to have been divorced.[5]

Reagan was originally a Democrat. In 1962 he changed to the Republican party.[6] He is ranked high in presidential opinion polls. Reagan is known to have created a political right.

Reagan died on June 5, 2004 at his Bel Air, Los Angeles home from pneumonia after a ten year battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 93 years old.

Early life[change | change source]

Reagan as a child in Dixon, Illinois, 1922

Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in a small apartment building in Tampico, Illinois to Jack and Nelle Reagan. He was the younger of their two sons. His brother's name was Neil. His mother was a Protestant of English and Scottish descent. His father was a Roman Catholic of Irish descent.

While Reagan was a child, his family moved to different places in Illinois. His family settled in Dixon, a small town in Illinois. They lived in a small house in Dixon. His family was very poor and Reagan did not have much as a child. In high school Reagan enjoyed acting.[1] He loved athletics and became a life guard who saved 77 lives.[7]

After Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932, he became a sports announcer at WHO, a news radio station.[8] He was known for being good at recreating baseball games and making them interesting. At this time all they would get is the scores so it would have been very hard for someone to come up with what happened in the game. He was fired for not telling people who the sponsors were. Reagan was soon quickly re-hired because they could not find anyone as good as him to re-create the baseball games.[8]

Acting career[change | change source]

His first screen credit was the starring role in the 1937 movie Love Is on the Air. He then starred in many movies such as Dark Victory with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. Before the movie Santa Fe Trail with Errol Flynn in 1940, he played the role of George "The Gipper" Gipp in the movie Knute Rockne, All American. From his role in the movie, he got the lifelong nickname "the Gipper".[9] In 1941, experts voted him the fifth most popular star from the younger generation in Hollywood.[10]

Reagan in the Cowboy from Brooklyn trailer, 1938

Reagan's favorite acting role was as a double amputee in 1942's Kings Row.[11] In the movie, he says the line, "Where's the rest of me?". It was later used as the title of his 1965 autobiography. Many movie critics though Kings Row to be his best movie.[12] Even though the movie was popular, it received bad reviews by New York Times critic Bosley Crowther.[13]

Although Reagan called Kings Row the movie that "made me a star",[14] he was unable to keep up on his success. This was because he was ordered to active duty with the U.S. Army at San Francisco two months after the movie's release.[15]

Reagan in a photo for General Electric Theater

During the war, Reagan was separated for almost four years of World War II. He served in the stateside service with the 1st Motion Picture Unit. After the war, Reagan co-starred in such movies such as in, The Voice of the Turtle, John Loves Mary, The Hasty Heart, Bedtime for Bonzo, Cattle Queen of Montana, Tennessee's Partner, and Hellcats of the Navy, in which he worked with his wife, Nancy. Reagan's last movie was a 1964 movie The Killers.[16] Throughout his movie career, his mother, Nelle, often answered much of his fan mail.[17]

Reagan was also a spokesperson. He hosted the General Electric Theater since it was first shown in 1953.[18] He was fired in 1962.[18]

President of the Screen Actors Guild[change | change source]

Reagan was first elected to the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild in 1941.[19] After World War II, he quickly returned to Screen Actors Guild.[19] Reagan became the 3rd vice-president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1946.[19] Reagan was nominated in a special election to become president of the Screen Actors Guild.[19] Reagan was elected in 1947.[19] Reagan was re-elected president in 1959. He served only a year before resigning in 1960.[19]

Secret FBI agent[change | change source]

During the late 1940s, Reagan and his wife, Jane, gave the FBI names of actors whom they believed were communists.[20] Reagan even spoke at a special meeting at Congress on communism in Hollywood as well.[21]

Entrance into politics[change | change source]

Reagan speaking at a campaign ceremony for Goldwater, 1964

Reagan was very active in politics near the end of his acting career. Reagan used to be a Democrat. He strongly supported the New Deal. He admired Franklin D. Roosevelt.[22] Over time, Reagan became a conservative Republican. This was because he felt the federal government had too much power and authority. He made a famous speech speaking out against socialized medicine (government run health care).[23]

Reagan endorsed Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon for the United States presidency.[24] The last time Reagan supported a Democrat was when Helen Gahagan Douglas ran for the United States senate.[25]

During the 1964 presidential election, Reagan supported Republican candidate Barry Goldwater.[26] He made a famous speech called "A Time For Choosing" to support Goldwater.[26] In the speech he spoke against government programs and high taxes. Even though Goldwater did not win the election, Reagan gained popularity from it.[1] From Reagan's speech, the most important and famous part of his "A Time For Choosing" speech were,

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.

After Reagan gave this speech, many businesspeople thought that Reagan could run for Governor of California.[27]

Governor of California[change | change source]

Reagan meets President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House, March 1967

After giving a speech of Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign in 1964, he was persuaded to run for governor. Reagan ran as a Republican against the then governor, Pat Brown.[1] During his first term, Reagan stopped hiring government workers to slow the growth of the state workforce. Reagan also approved tax increases to balance the state budget.[27]

Reagan was elected to a second term in 1970.[28] Governor Reagan worked with the Democratic Party majority in the state legislature to help create a major reform of the welfare system in 1971.[29] The reform helped give money to the poor and increase the pay of the rich. During his term as governor, Reagan served as the President of the Republican Governors Association from 1968 to 1969.[30]

During his term as governor, he played a major role in California's educational system.[27] He raised student loans. This caused a massive protest between Reagan and the college students.[27] Reagan would soon be criticized of his views of the educational system.[27]

Presidency[change | change source]

The Reagans waving from the limousine during the Inaugural Parade, 1981

Reagan ran for president in 1968 (he was not nominated), again in 1976 (he was not nominated again), but his run for president in 1980 was successful.[1] He was nominated by the Republican Party. When he won the election, Reagan beat Democrat Jimmy Carter to become president.[1] Reagan was first sworn in as president on January 20, 1981.

Reagan gives a televised address from the Oval Office, outlining his plan for Tax Reduction Legislation in July 1981

Reagan believed that the government should be small, not big. This means that the government should not interfere in people's lives very much or interfere with what businesses do.[2] He believed in supply-side economics, which was called Reaganomics and Voodoo economics (by people who didn't like it) during his term. He lowered everybody's income taxes by 25% and cut spending in many government departments.

He also lowered inflation from 14% to 4% and he vetoed 78 bills. Reagan's economic plan resulted in a bad economy during the year 1982, but the economy turned around in 1983. The economy was the greatest it was since many years ago. Reagan called it "Morning in America".[31] During his presidency the United States declared a "War on Drugs".[32]

In September 1983, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down by the Soviet Union.[33] It killed one politician and many more Americans. Reagan was angry at the Soviets.[33] Reagan addressed the nation.[33] As a result, Reagan proposed the creation of the GPS.[34]

Reagan was re-elected in a major landslide in 1984. Reagan beat Democrat Walter Mondale, former vice president to Jimmy Carter.[1] Reagan won 49 out of the 50 states.[35] He carried more electoral votes than any other president in American history.[35] Reagan was sworn in as president once again on January 20, 1985.[35]

Reagan became friends with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher.[35] Both of them held meetings about the Soviet Union's threat and how to end the Cold War. Reagan became the first American president to ever address the British Parliament.[36]

Reagan with Mikhail Gorbachev at the Reykjavík Summit, October 1986

In foreign policy, Reagan ended detente (the policy of being friendly to the Soviet Union) by ordering the largest peacetime military buildup in American history. The U.S. government had to borrow a lot of money to pay for it. He had many new weapons built. Soon, the U.S. began to research on a missile defense system which would destroy missiles. It was to prevent a nuclear war from happening.[37] The program was called Strategic Defense Initiative. It was nicked named "Star Wars".[37]

President Reagan receives the Tower Report in the Cabinet Room of the White House, 1987

He directed money to anti-communist movements all over the world that wanted to overthrow their communist government. He ordered multiple military operations including the invasion of Grenada and the Libya bombing.[38]

Reagan's reputation was badly hurt by the political scandal Iran-Contra Affair.[39] It was about the government illegally selling weapons to Iran.[39] It would later use the profit to support a Nicaraguan terrorist group.[39] Reagan told the American people he didn't know anything about the scandal.[39] Soon, he told the American people that it was his fault. After Reagan told the truth, he became more popular.

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the new leader of the Soviet Union (which was in bad shape and soon to collapse). Reagan had many talks with him. Their first meeting together was at the Reykjavík Summit in Iceland. They became good friends.

In 1985, he had colon cancer and skin cancer removed.[40] In 1987, Reagan had surgery to remove nose cancer.[40]

In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded killing everyone onboard. The entire country was shocked. Afterwards, Reagan addressed the nation.[41] Reagan famously said,

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God'.

In 1987, Reagan travelled to Berlin to give a speech at the Berlin Wall.[42] That is where he gave one of his greatest speeches of his presidency.[42] His speech would cause the wall's collapse and the end of the Cold War.[42] Months later, Reagan and Gorbachev singed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which banned nuclear weapons being launched between the United States and the Soviet Union.[43]

Reagan left office with high rankings on January 20, 1989 when his Vice President George H. W. Bush became president.

Assassination attempt[change | change source]

Reagan was nearly killed in an assassination attempt that happened on Monday, March 30, 1981.[44] 69 days after becoming President, he was leaving after a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C..[44] He was shot by John Hinckley.[44] Reagan soon made a fast recovery.[44]

Notable speeches[change | change source]

Tear down this wall[change | change source]

Reagan speaks at the Berlin Wall's Brandenburg Gate, encouraging Gorbachev to "tear down this wall"

Reagan's speech was delivered at the Brandenburg Gate in what was then West Berlin, Germany on June 12, 1987. Reagan challenged Gorbachev, if he was serious about peace, to remove open East Berlin and remove the restrictions on travel. Referring to the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall he said,

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev...Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Audio and text of this speech is available here [1].

Evil empire[change | change source]

Reagan's Evil Empire speech was delivered to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida. It is his first recorded use of the phrase. Speaking about the nuclear arms race he said that the Soviet Union as evil.

In your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.

Audio and text of this speech is available here [2].

Visit to USS Constellation (CV-64)[change | change source]

On 20 August 1981, Reagan was the honorable guest of Captain Dennis Brooks, commanding officer of the USS Constellation (CV-64).[45] President Reagan arrived on the USS Constellation (CV-64) by helicopter. He spoke to the ship's crew, ate lunch with them and watched a United States Navy tactical display at sea.[45]

President Reagan then re-enlisted some US Navy personnel. He then was introduced to Special Agent Craig Goodwin of the Naval Investigative Service (NIS). He was the Special Agent who was assigned aboard the USS Constellation (CV-64).[45] Special Agent Craig Goodwin was later awarded one of the highest civilian medals for his intelligence work, the Meritorious Civilian Service Medal.

After the presidency[change | change source]

Ronald and Nancy Reagan in 1992 in Los Angeles after leaving the presidency.
Former President Ronald Reagan returns to the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H. W. Bush in 1993

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993 by President George H. W. Bush. Soon afterwards the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation created the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award for people who made a big change for freedom.[46] In 1990, Reagan wrote an autobiography titled, An American Life.[35]

Even after when he left office, Reagan had a close friendship with both Thatcher and Gorbachev.[35] They would often visit him at his home.

Alzheimer's disease[change | change source]

In 1994, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.[47][48]

On November 5, 1994, Reagan wrote a public letter about having Alzheimer's disease,[47] writing:

I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease... At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done... I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.[49]

Reactions[change | change source]

After announcing his disease, many people sent supporting letters to his California home.[50] There was also an opinion based on unfinished evidence that continued how long Reagan had showed symptoms of mental decline.[51]

White House Correspondent Memoirs[change | change source]

The Reagans (center) in Richard Nixon's funeral, 1994
The Reagans with a model of USS Ronald Reagan, May 1996. At left is CEO Bill Fricks and Newport News Shipbuilding Chairman.

In her memoirs, former CBS White House correspondent Lesley Stahl remembers about her final meeting with the president in 1986,

Reagan didn't seem to know who I was. ... Oh, my, he's gonzo, I thought. I have to go out on the lawn tonight and tell my countrymen that the president of the United States is a doddering space cadet.[52]

But then, at the end, he regained his alertness. As she described it,

I had come that close to reporting that Reagan was senile.[52]

Progression[change | change source]

As the years went on, the disease slowly destroyed Reagan's mental capacity.[53] He was only able to recognize a few people, including his wife, Nancy.[53] He remained active during his last years. He took walks through parks near his home and on beaches, played golf regularly, and until 1999 he often went to his office in nearby Century City.[53]

Reagan suffered a fall at his Bel Air home on January 13, 2001. The fall resulted in a broken hip.[54] The fracture was repaired the following day. Reagan, 89 years old, returned home later that week, although he faced difficult physical therapy at home. On February 6, 2001, Reagan reached the age of 90, becoming the third former president to do so (the other two being John Adams and Herbert Hoover, with Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush later reaching 90).[55]

Reagan's public appearances became much less frequent with the progression of the disease. His family then decided that he would live in quiet semi-isolation with his wife Nancy. Nancy Reagan told CNN's Larry King in 2001 that very few visitors were allowed to see her husband because she felt that "Ronnie would want people to remember him as he was."[56] In that same year, Reagan's daughter, Maureen Reagan, died from melanoma at the age of 60.[57]

Following her husband's diagnosis and death, Mrs. Reagan became a stem-cell research advocate. She urged Congress and President George W. Bush to support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. President Bush opposed the idea. In 2009, she praised President Barack Obama for lifting restrictions on such research.[58] Mrs. Reagan has said that she believes that it could lead to a cure for Alzheimer's.[59]

Death and funeral[change | change source]

Reagan's casket lying in state in the United States Capitol Rotunda on June 10, 2004

On June 5, 2004, Reagan died at the age of 93 of pneumonia, a complication from Alzheimer's disease, in his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California.[3]

Gorbachev (left), Mulroney (center), and Thatcher (right) attending Reagan's funeral

Reagan was granted a state funeral. It was held at the Washington National Cathedral.[60] President George W. Bush and former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton went to the funeral.[61] First Lady Laura Bush and former first ladies Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, and Barbara Bush also went.[61]

Former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson did not go to the funeral because of poor health. Reverend Billy Graham, who was Reagan's first choice to lead the funeral, couldn't go because he was recovering from surgery.[62] Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor also went to the funeral and delivered a passage from the Bible.[62]

Foreign leaders also attended Reagan's funeral, Mikhail Gorbachev, Prime Minister of United Kingdom Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and interim presidents Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Ghazi al-Yawer of Iraq.[61] Former Prime Minister of United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and both presidents Bush gave eulogies.[61]

He is the second president to live longer after Gerald Ford, who lived longer at 45 days.[61] Reagan's state funeral was the first in the United States since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973.[61] Reagan was later buried at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.[61]

Honors[change | change source]

Reagan's Presidential portrait, 1992
A monument of Reagan in Warsaw, Poland

On June 3, 2009, Nancy Reagan unveiled a statue of her late husband in the United States Capitol rotunda. The statue represents the state of California in the National Statuary Hall Collection. Following Reagan's death, both major American political parties agreed to place a statue of Reagan instead of that of Thomas Starr King.[63] The day before, President Obama signed the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act into law. It created a commission to plan activities to mark the upcoming centenary of Reagan's 100 birthday.[64]

Independence Day 2011 saw the unveiling of another statue to Reagan. This time, it was in the British capital of London. It is located outside of the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square. The unveiling was supposed to be attended by Reagan's wife Nancy, but she did not attend. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took her place and read a statement on her behalf. President Reagan's friend and British Prime Minister during Reagan's presidency, Baroness Thatcher, was also unable to attend due to frail health.[65]

Every February 6 is known as Ronald Reagan Day in 21 states across the United States.[66]

A statue of Reagan was unveiled in November 2011 in Warsaw, Poland with President of Poland Lech Wałęsa in attendance.[67]

Legacy[change | change source]

Reagan, by public opinion, is one of the most popular American presidents. His legacy is strongly admired among many conservatives and Republicans. The legacy of his economic policies is still divided between people who believe that the government should be smaller and those who believe the government should take a more active role in regulating the economy. While some of his foreign policies were controversial, many thank Reagan for peacefully ending the Cold War.[68] In July 2014, a historical ranking told Americans that Reagan was the best American president since World War II.[69]

In 2007, the edited version of his diary was published entitle The Reagan Diaries. It became the New York Times Best Seller.[70]

References[change | change source]

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