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Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan
Order:40th President
Term of Office:January 20, 1981 - January 20, 1989
Predecessor:Jimmy Carter
Successor:George H. W. Bush
Date of Birth:Monday, February 6, 1911
Place of Birth:Tampico, Illinois
First Lady:Nancy Davis
Political Party:Republican
Vice President:George H. W. Bush

Ronald Wilson Reagan (born February 6, 1911) was the 40th (1981-1989) President of the United States. Reagan was also a noted film actor before entering politics. He is the longest-lived person to have served as President, as well as the oldest elected President (69 years and 349 days).

Child of an alcoholic father, Reagan developed an early gift for storytelling and acting. He was a first-rate radio announcer of Chicago Cubs games, getting only the bare outlines of the game from a ticker and relying on his imagination and storytelling gifts to flesh out the game. Once in 1934, during the ninth inning of a Cubs - St. Louis Cardinals game, the wire went dead. Reagan smoothly improvised a fictional play-by-play until the wire was restored.

Reagan had a successful career in Hollywood as a second-rank leading man, as his face and body were as handsome as his voice. In 1940 he played the role of George "The Gipper" Gipp in the film Knute Rockne All American[?], from which he acquired the nickname the Gipper, which he retained the rest of his life. Reagan himself considered that his best acting work was in Kings Row (1942). Other notable Reagan films include Hellcats of the Navy and the campy Bedtime for Bonzo.

Ronald Reagan began his political life as a supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal. He gradually became a staunch anti-communist. His political career started through the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He gained political stature through radio broadcasts and speaking tours sponsored by the General Electric company. By the 1964 election he was a staunch supporter of conservative Republican Barry Goldwater.

In 1966, he was elected Governor of California. Reagan tried to gain the Republican presidential nomination in 1968, and again in 1976 over the incumbent Gerald Ford but was defeated at the Republican Convention. He succeeded in gaining the Republican nomination in 1980 and went on to be elected President in 1980 and 1984.

On March 30, 1981 while leaving the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC President Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady, a Secret Service agent and a District of Columbia Police Officer were shot by a delusional John Hinckley, Jr.. Shortly before surgery to remove the bullet from his chest (which barely missed his heart) he remarked to his surgeons "I hope you all are Republicans" and to his wife Nancy he jokingly commented "Honey, I forgot to duck".

Like most successful politicians, he had great stage presence, and great instincts for how to come across to people and make them like him. For example, on March 8, 1983 he called the Soviet Union an "Evil Empire" and later in his presidency while speaking in front of the Berlin Wall he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall". Some historians believe that all of those traits would have been meaningless without his perceived enthusiasm for America and strong personal belief in the individual. On January 5, 1987 Reagan underwent prostate surgery which caused worries about his health.

He portrayed himself as being:

  • Anti-communist
  • in favor of tax cuts
  • in favor of smaller non-military government
  • in favor of removing regulations on corporations
  • supportive of business interests, both small and large
  • supportive of some individual liberties
  • tough on crime

He is credited with:

Reagan's policies and successes or failures remain controversial in many areas including:

  • Many of Reagan's supporters credit him with winning the Cold War. Others believe that the collapse of communism in 1989 was a result of internal failures much more than American policy.
  • There is disagreement over how much Reagan's policies contributed both to the severe recession that took place in 1982, and the strong expansion[?] that began late in his first term and ran throughout his second term.
  • The combined tax cuts and military spending increases of his first term led to enormous deficit spending[?] and a dramatic increase in the national debt[?]. The debt increased by approximately 450% between when Reagan took office and when his successor, George H. W. Bush, left office.
  • It is generally agreed that Reagan substantially weakened environmental protection.
  • Reagan's tactics in the "war on drugs" emphasized imprisonment while slashing funding for addiction treatment. This resulted in a dramatic increase in the USA's prison population. Critics charged that the policies did little to actually reduce the availability of drugs or crime on the street while resulting in a great financial and human cost for American society.
  • Reagan supported missile defense, hoping to make the US invulnerable to attack by the Soviet Union. Many of his critics felt that the goal was unattainable in practical terms, and that the attempt would be likely to increase the Arms Race, as well as being extremely expensive.
  • Despite his frequent pronouncements that he advocated smaller and less intrusive government, Federal spending and bureaucracy increased in size during his administration; his increases in military and "drug war" spending were far larger than his cuts in social spending.
  • Reagan's most infamous foreign policy decision was in illegally financing a civil war of the Contra guerrillas against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The civil war claimed over 15,000 lives, according to former CIA agent David MacMichael[?]. Reagan's determination to continue support for the Contras despite opposition in Congress led to the worst scandal of his presidency, the Iran-Contras Affair.
  • Reagan was regarded by some critics as indifferent to the needs of poor and minority citizens.
  • Although considered personally honest by most Americans, there were multiple scandals of bribery, corruption, and influence peddling involving Reagan's aides and subordinates, resulting in some 30 members of his administration spending time in prison.

Reagan was in many ways the founder of the modern Republican Party. His redefinition of fiscal conservatism as being focused on tax cuts without regard to a balanced budget ("Reaganomics"), his opposition to progressive taxation[?], his hostility to environmental protection and abortion, the importance of the Moral Majority and its supporters in his governing coalition, and even his fascination with missile defense have all become trademarks of subsequent Republican leaders, including George W. Bush. Reagan's immediate predecessors such as Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower would not have recognized any of these as part of the Republican platform.

He was the first divorced person to be elected President.

During his administration, there was a major scandal and investigation of his administration's covert support of wars in Iran and Nicaragua in what came to be known as the Iran-Contra Affair. A member of his administration had sold arms to the Iranian government, and given the revenue to the contras in Nicaragua. Reagan's quick call for the appointment of an Independent Counsel to investigate, and cooperation with counsel, kept the scandals from affecting his presidency. It was found that the president was guilty of the scandal only in that his lax control of his own staff resulted in his ignorance of the arms sale.

In 1992, four years after leaving office Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. As the years went on, the disease began to slowly take over the former President's brain and body, forcing him to live his post-presidency in quiet isolation. He can now no longer speak coherently and has trouble with even the most basic tasks. His health was further destabalized by a fall in 2001, which shattered part of his hip and rendered him virtually immobile.

In 2003 Reagan turned 92, making him the oldest former president in American history.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was christened March 4, 2001, making it one of the very few US Navy ships to be named for a living person. (The first was USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70); others include USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)[?], USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 709)[?], USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23)[?], and USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR-300)[?].)

Table of contents


In June 1989, Ronald Reagan said, "Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders. ... The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip." [1] (http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=10300367)

Supreme Court appointments

Related articles

Reagan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6374 Hollywood Blvd.

External links

Preceded by:
[[Jimmy Carter (http://edition.cnn.com/resources/video.almanac/1981/reagan.shot/reagan.lg.mov)]
Presidents of the United States Succeeded by:
George H. W. Bush

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