One of the most influential and perhaps well loved of Republicans, Ronald Wilson Reagan was the Fortieth President of the United States of America from 1981 to 1989. His illustrious career covered not only the spotlight of the international political scene but also that of the silver screen during his early years (Cannon 201). Remembered, among many things, for his Reaganomics, President Ronald Reagan was as bold on screen as he was with his policies. During his second term as President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan was responsible for the ending of the Cold War (Canon 201).
This brief discourse shall attempt to shed more life into the life of this great man. It shall discuss his early life and the early stages of his life in show business. It will be followed by a discussion into the political career of President Ronald Reagan, highlighting the major political events and issues that he confronted throughout his career. There will also be a segment on the impact that he has made not only on the United States political landscape but on the world as well. Early Life:
Born on February 6, 1911, Ronald Reagan was born in a small apartment that was located right above a small bank building in Tampico, Illinois to proud parents John “Jack” Reagan and Nelle Wilson Reagan (Cannon 21). Unknown to most, Ronald Reagan was known to his dad as “Dutch” due to the Dutchboy haircut that he sported and his fat appearance. Paul Kengor wrote in his book entitled, God and Ronald Reagan, that Reagan had an innate sense of trust in the goodness of all people (Cannon 21). This, according to the author, was born out of the optimistic outlook and faith of his mother and that the Disciples of Christ faith had on him.
Soon after, Reagan began practicing his faith and it was even remembered that he had a very strong opposition to racial discrimination which was shown when he brought back black people to his house when they were denied lodging at a local inn (Cannon 21). This anecdote shows that Ronald Reagan already had the makings of greatness even at a young age. In the late 1920s, the Reagans transferred to Dixon. It was during this stage in his life that Ronald Reagan had started to develop an interest in acting, sports and storytelling.
As a lifeguard in Lowell Park in 1926, he saved seventy-seven (77) lives, each represented by a notch on a wooden log that he had (Cannon 35). After graduating from his school in Eureka, Ronald Reagan began his career in show business, applying at several small-town radio stations, finally landing a job at the University of Iowa broadcasting football games. Not long after, he moved on to WHO radio where he was an announcer for Chicago Cubs games. It was from this point on that he embarked on his Hollywood Career (Cannon 35). In 1937, Ronald Reagan found himself in California and decided to take a screen test with Warner Brothers Studios.
This marked the beginning of his movie career. He soon landed the starring role in the 1937 movie, Love is on the Air. By the year 1939, he had appeared or starred in over nineteen (19) films (Appleby 14). Among his more memorable movies would be Knute Rockne, All American, where he earned the nickname “The Gipper”, and Kings Row. While most of the Hollywood Career was in the “B” Film area, Reagan still succeeded in receiving acclaim from many of the critics in Hollywood (Appleby 14). Ronald Reagan was not only a matinee idol but he was also a devoted countryman, enlisting to join the Army Enlisted Reserve on April 29, 1937 (Appleby 14).
Designated as a private at Des Moines, Iowa, he became a Second Lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps of the Cavalry. Even during his stint in the Reserve Corps, Ronald Reagan seemed destined for showbiz as he found himself a member of the Provisional Task Force Show Unit at Burbank, California (Appleby 14). By the end of his military career, Ronald Reagan had produced over four hundred (400) films for the AF. Personal Life and Marriage: Ronald Reagan was first married to Jane Wyman, who he co-starred with while shooting the film, Brother Rat. They were married on January 26, 1940 in Glendale, California.
The union of Ronald and Jane produced two children; Maureen and Christine. A third child was added to the fold when the couple decided to adopt Michael. This union did not last long, however, because in 1948, Jane Wyman filed for divorce due to her disagreement over the political aspirations of Ronald Reagan (Cannon 135). Incidentally, this is the only instance that an American President has been divorced. The second wife of Ronald Reagan, Nancy Davis, became the eventual First Lady after they marred on March 4, 1952 in San Fernando Valley. Nancy and Ronald met in 1949, after Ronald’s divorce (Cannon 135).
The meeting was for Nancy to request for help from Ronald to clear up her name regarding the communist blacklist in Hollywood during that time. From this union, Ronald and Nancy had two (2) children, Patti and Ron (Cannon 135). As the public now knows, Nancy Reagan has always been regarded as very supportive of her husband’s political career. According to White House observers, Nancy and Ronald often shared very intimate and affectionate moments. The courting that Ronald did to win Nancy over never stopped even after they got married and he even wrote frequent letters to her.
This same affection was shared by Nancy as it was reported that she slept in the shirt of Ronald after she had heard of the assassination attempt in order to be reassured that everything was alright. Pivotal Years: The path of Ronald Reagan towards the American Presidency was crooked, to say the least. While there were showings that he was destined for greatness, there was no clear indication that he was headed for the White House as the Fortieth President of the United States of America. The early political exposure of Ronald Reagan began with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in 1941 where he was elected to the Board of Directors.
After World War II he became the Third Vice President of the SAG in 1946 (Cannon 153). Early on during the career of Ronald Reagan as President of SAG, he was already being trained to face controversy. From the years 1947 to 1952 and again in 1959, Ronald Reagan weathered the issues that SAG had to face such as the labor disputes that arose as well as the Taft-Hartley Act, House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) hearings and the Hollywood blacklist era (Cannon 153). This leadership that marked the tenure of Reagan with the HUAC included testifying before the HUAC to protect many of the members of the film industry during that time.
Already showing signs of his contempt for the ideals of Communism, Reagan remarked, “As a citizen, I would hesitate to see any political party outlawed on the basis of its political ideology. However, if it is proven that an organization is an agent of foreign power, or in any way not a legitimate political party—and I think the government is capable of proving that—then that is another matter… But at the same time I never as a citizen want to see our country become urged, by either fear or resentment of this group, that we ever compromise with any of our democratic principles through that fear or resentment.
(Fischer 31)” Early Political Career: As is well documented, the first stint that Ronald Reagan had as an elected official was as the Governor of California from 1967 to 1975. Yet, the most important political exposure that he got, however, came earlier in his career as a registered democrat. A staunch admirer of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan began supporting the New Deal early on in his political career. Eventually, he shifted to a more limited form of federal government and started endorsing similarly inclined politicians such as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon (Cannon 178).
The position that Ronald Reagan held at General Electric was an important launching point for his political career (Fischer 31). The reason for this was that it required him to tour the many GE plants all over the country and give speeches. While most of these speeches were politically motivated, they also contained conservative and pro-business messages (Fischer 31). Often writing his own speeches, Ronald Reagan soon developed a style that was going to be his own and be known for it in his later tenure as the President of the United States of America.
By 1962, following his dismissal from General Electric, Ronald Reagan joined the Republican Party and soon after joined the campaign of Barry Goldwater. During certain times of Goldwater’s presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan was asked to deliver to the public his belief on the importance of small government (Fischer 31). This led to the famed speech that he delivered known as the “Time for Choosing” speech that also allowed him to raise US $1 million for Goldwater’s campaign. As Ronald Reagan stated, “The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people.
And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing. (Fischer 31)” This speech was so influential that many consider it as the single most important event that catapulted Ronald Reagan’s political and presidential career. After the impressive speech that he gave, Reagan soon found himself once again in the political spotlight, this time as the Governor of California as he was nominated by the California Republicans in 1966 (Fischer 31).
The Gubernatorial campaign of Ronald Reagan was based on two main platforms; “sending the welfare bums back to their jobs” and “cleaning up the mess at Berkeley. ” These themes struck a chord with the voters and he was soon the Governor of California, edging out Edmund G. Brown. It was from this post that Ronald Reagan began testing the waters for his presidential campaign in 1968. He had joined the “Stop Nixon” movement in an attempt to derail Nixon’s campaign in the South in order to enable him to become a compromise candidate if neither Nelson Rockefeller nor Nixon would be able to get enough votes at the Republican Convention.
This became a futile attempt though as by that time Nixon had gathered enough votes (692) to secure his nomination (Cannon 178). Continuing on his gubernatorial tenure, Ronald Reagan was pivotal in the UC Berkeley protest movements and the incident that was known as “Bloody Thursday. ” He ordered two thousand and two hundred State National Guards to crack down on protesters and in response to the demands of the Symbionese Liberation Army; Reagan remarked “It’s just too bad we can’t have an epidemic of botulism.
(Cannon 178)” In 1967, he also figured in another controversial matter as he signed the “Therapeutic Abortion Act” into law but later regretted that decision writing about the consequences of such at length later on in his political career. In 1970, Ronald Reagan was once again re-elected as Governor for California when he defeated Jesse Unruh. This was to be his last term as Governor. The term, aside from minor political controversies, was uneventful compared to the first term yet it helped Ronald Reagan institute several policy reforms that would be enhanced during his career as president (Cannon 178).
He also strongly advocated less government intervention in the economy and opposed ideas of having a welfare state. Presidential Years: After failing in his bid against Ford, Ronald Reagan once again attempted to run for President, this time against incumbent President Jimmy Carter. This was closely contested campaign that was anchored on the concerns on a domestic level as well as concerns with the Iran Hostage Crisis (Cannon 178). The strength of his campaign bid, however, rested on the sound fundamental principles that he championed early on in his career.
These principles included a push for lower taxes in an effort to stimulate the local economy, reduction in government intervention on the private sector and a strong national defense. With George H. W. Bush as his running mate, Ronald Reagan soon won the election and became the Fortieth President of the United States of America. First Term: The Presidential career of Ronald Reagan was memorable for several reasons. The changes that he instituted with regard to individual freedom and the economic policies that he enacted are but some of the many great things that he contributed to American Society.
Though he was the oldest person ever elected as President of the United States of America, one could never tell due to the impact that he has had throughout his career. The impact was apparent even during the first day of his career as the 52 hostages held by Iran were released as Ronald Reagan was delivering his inaugural address (Beschloss 99). Before discussing the achievements of the Reagan administration, a discussion into the most tragic events during his tenure must be done. This concerns the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life on March 30, 1981.
This had a profound effect on his career as it increased his approval rating during that time to 73%. It also renewed a certain vigor in him as he later on did several great things (Beschloss 99). One of the main reasons why Ronald Reagan is widely regarded by most Americans of the present generation as one of the best American presidents in history is because of his Reaganomics. The economic turnaround and growth that manifested during his tenure highlighted the peak of the United States Economy. Upon assuming office, the inflation rate was at 11. 83% and the unemployment rate was at 7.
5% (Beschloss 217). By implementing the principles of Laissez-Faire Economics, Ronald Reagan was able to stimulate the economy and turn the inflation and unemployment rate around. Even though he had lowered tax rates significantly during his term, Reagan was able to efficiently increase the tax base resulting in an annual Gross Domestic Product increase of 3. 4% which led to the creation of sixteen million new jobs (Beschloss 217). By appointing Paul Volcker as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, he was also able to put an end to the price controls on domestic oil production (Beschloss 217).
This led to increases in fuel supply and also led to the booming of the American economy that was felt even into the 1990s. Perhaps one of the most important achievements of the Reagan administration was the cessation of the Cold War. Though it was Reagan who stopped the Cold War it was also during his administration that the cold war escalated in 1979 after the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan. Denouncing the ideologies of the Soviet Union, Reagan and ally, Margaret Thatcher, led the campaign against the Soviet Union (Beschloss 217).
In his famous address to the British Parliament, Ronald Reagan said that “the forward march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history. (Beschloss 219)” This was followed by his prediction that Communism would soon after collapse. Reagan soon implemented his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) which was aimed at protecting the United States against missile attacks from the Soviet Union. It was argued that this project would make any nuclear war impossible. This bold declaration, as argued by some, hastened the end of the Cold War as it sparked concerns even with the Soviet Union.
Second Term: Running against Walter Mondale, Ronald Reagan was able to secure his second term after winning almost every state in the 1984 Presidential Elections. Though there were initial concerns about his age, Reagan joked that he was not concerned about his age but rather he would use this to exploit the youth of his opponent (Beschloss 99). It was this same comedic comment that assuaged the fears of the public and catapulted him to the top of the polls. One of the major policies that Ronald Reagan implemented during his term was his War on Drugs.
He called attention to the undeniable fact that drugs were menacing the society and promised to have drug-free schools and curb drug use in the United States. In doing this, he signed into law a drug enforcement bill that allocated US $1. 7 billion dollars (Beschloss 217). While this was criticized for its effect on certain minorities, it was effective and was able to reduce the level of drugs in schools and workplaces. As previously mentioned, Ronald Reagan was not only responsible for the escalation of the Cold War but he was also responsible for the end of the Cold War.
In a historic signing in 1987, the INF treaty was signed into law, ending the Cold War. This signing, however, was not without its drama as the events in the early 1980s did nothing to suggest that such a historic event was ever possible (Beschloss 217). By cleverly asking the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia, to increase oil production, Reagan was able to slow down the oil revenues of the Soviet Union. This led to a slowdown in their arms buildup. It was the installation of Mikhail Gorbachev into power, however, that eventually led to the end of the Cold War.
Ronald Reagan changed his international policy with the Soviet Union and soon adopted a more diplomatic approach to Russian-American relations (Beschloss 99). In 1987, the Gorbachev and Reagan signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that called for the elimination of an entire class of nuclear weapons. This signaled the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a new era of Russian-American relations. Conclusion: After leaving the White House in 1989, Ronald Reagan still continued his political advocacy, speaking at conventions and gatherings whenever possible.
He also continued to push for reforms that he had initiated during his term as president. It came as a blow to America, therefore, when his death was announced on June 5, 2004 (Bumgarner 194). While June 11 will always be remembered as a National Day of Mourning for this great President, the legacy of Ronald Reagan continues to reside in the many accomplishments that he has such as the peaceful resolution of the Cold War and the economic prosperity that his administration brought to America (Bumgarner 194). Ronald Reagan was a great man who helped create a better, safer and freer world.
He was always destined for greatness and we all have him to thank for bringing us along on his journey, making us great as well. “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and that there is purpose and worth to each and every life” Works Cited: Appleby, Joyce; Alan Brinkley, James M. McPherson (2003). The American Journey. Woodland Hills, California: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. 0078241294. Beschloss, Michael (2007). Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How they Changed America 1789–1989. Simon & Schuster. Bumgarner, John R (1994).
The Health of the Presidents: The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician’s Point of View. Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland & Company. ISBN 0899509568. Cannon, Lou (2000). President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. New York: Public Affairs. ISBN 1891620916 Michael Beschloss (2001). Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio: A History Illustrated from the Collection of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1891620843. Fischer, Klaus (2006). America in White, Black, and Gray: The Stormy 1960s. London: Continuum.