'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 actor in films 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). He was the first divorced person to be elected President.

Table of contents
1 Early life and career
2 Early political career
3 Presidency
4 Legacy and retirement from public life
6 Supreme Court appointments
7 Related articles
8 External links

Early life and career

Child of an alcoholic father, Reagan developed an early gift for storytelling and acting. He was a 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.

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

Early political career

Ronald Reagan began his political life as a liberal Democrat, supporting Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal. He gradually became a staunch social and fiscal conservative. He embarked upon the path that led him to a career in politics during his tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), aligning himself with Senator Joseph McCarthy and cooperating with the House Un-American Activities Committee to "expose Communist influence in Hollywood". His employment by the General Electric company, delivering anti-communist speeches on radio broadcasts and speaking tours, further enhanced his political image in the anti-Soviet climate of 1950's America. By the 1964 election, Reagan was an outspoken supporter of conservative Republican Barry Goldwater. (See Reagan Democrat)

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, just 69 days into his Presidency, 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're all Republicans," [1] and to his wife Nancy he jokingly commented, "Honey, I forgot to duck."

As a politician and as President, 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:
  • building up the military
  • lowering taxes
  • greatly escalating the "war on drugs"
  • ending the high inflation that damaged the economy under his predecessor, Jimmy Carter.
  • firing air traffic controllers when they illegally struck


Part of President Reagan's first term in office focused on reviving an inherited economy with high inflation and unemployment. Reagan's policies, partially based on supply-side economics sought to stimulate the economy with large across-the-board tax cuts. His policies soon became known as "Reaganomics", a nickname used by both his supporters and detractors. These tax cuts combined with heavy military spending increases 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.

On the other hand, this spending was slightly offset by increased tax revenues, and supporters of Reagan attribute this to the successful use of supply-side economics tax policies. Critics of President Reagan argue that despite his frequent pronouncements that he advocated smaller and less intrusive government, federal spending and bureaucracy increased in size during his administration. Not surprisingly, there is disagreement over how much Reagan's policies contributed both to the severe recession that took place in 1982, and the strong economic expansion that began late in his first term and ran throughout his second term.

The Soviet Union and the Cold War

Like most successful American 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.

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. Reagan's policies included strong support of the U.S. military and the doctrine of "peace through strength." One of his more controversial proposals was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a missile defense system, hoping to make the U.S. invulnerable to attack by the Soviet Union. SDI was dubbed "Star Wars" by opponents, implying an impractical science fiction fantasy, and Reagan even drew the derogatory nickname "Ronnie Raygun" from some opponents on the political left.

Critics of SDI 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. Still, many others point to SDI as nail in the coffin of the arms race with the Soviet Union through the successful application the strategy of technology. The mere proposal of SDI was a clear attempt to obsolesce the Soviet nuclear arsenal, creating an immense expense for the Soviets to maintain parity.

Iran-Contra Affair

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, who were engaged in a bloody civil war. Both actions were contrary to acts of Congress. 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. Although considered personally honest by most Americans, President Reagan and his term in office saw several other 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. The failure of these scandals to damage Reagan's reputation led some to dub him the "Teflon President". Interestingly, teflon has been linked by some scientists to Alzheimer's Disease.

"War on Drugs"

Reagan's policies in the "War on Drugs" emphasized imprisonment for drug offenders while cutting 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. Nevertheless, it was an important part of Reagan's policy of being tough on crime. Due to this policy and various cuts in spending for social programs during his Presidency, Reagan was regarded by some critics as indifferent to the needs of poor and minority citizens.


Reagan proved to be a stern leader when on August 5, 1981 he fired 11,359 striking air traffic controllers who ignored his order to return to work.

On July 13, 1985, Reagan underwent surgery to remove cancerous polypss from his colon, causing the first-ever invocation of the Acting President clause of the 25th Amendment. On January 5, 1987, Reagan underwent prostate surgery which caused further worries about his health.

Reagan was widely critized in 1985 for a few incidents in East and West Germany. First, he announced he would not visit a concentration camp in West Germany because there were "very few alive that remember even the war, and certainly none of them who were adults and participating in any way." On April 11, the White House announced that Reagan would be visiting the Bitburg, West Germany military cemetery, to lay a wreath in honor of the Americans and Nazis buried there. There are no U.S. soldiers buried in Bitburg.

Legacy and retirement from public life

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, greater environmental protection and regulation, and abortion; the importance of the Moral Majority and its supporters in his governing coalition; and even his support of missile defense systems 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.

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 informed the nation of his condition himself when on November 5, 1994 a letter he wrote was released announcing he had Alzheimer's disease. He can now no longer speak coherently and has trouble with even the most basic tasks. His health was further destabilized by a fall in 2001, which shattered part of his hip and rendered him virtually immobile.

On February 6, 1998, Washington National Airport in Washington, DC was renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Also, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was christened March 4, 2001, making it one of the very few United States Navy ships to be named for a living person.

In 2003, Reagan turned 92, making him the oldest former president in American history. In November of that year, Reagan and his family were the subject of a controversial television miniseries, The Reagans.


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]

"What does an actor know about politics?", criticising Screen Actors Guild president Ed Asner for his views on foreign policy. "I know all the bad things that happened in that war. I was in uniform for four years myself," defending his visit to the Bitburg Military Cemetery. He spent the duration of World War II making military training videos in Hollywood.

Supreme Court appointments

Related articles

External links

Preceded by:
Jimmy Carter
Presidents of the United States Succeeded by:
George H. W. Bush