Ronald Reagan was born on 6 February 1911 in Illinois. His family lived in several towns and cities in Illinois, including Monmouth, Chicago and Galesburg until 1919, when they returned to Tampico. Reagan moved to Dixon in late 1920, where he attended Dixon High School and while studying there he developed interest in sports, acting and storytelling. His first job was as a lifeguard at the Rock River, near Dixon, in 1926. After High School, Reagan attended Eureka College, where he was a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, majored in economics and performed excellently in sports, particularly in Football.
After graduating from Eureka in 1932, Reagan worked at various radio stations as an announcer. In 1937, he appeared on the large screen for the first time in the movie, Love is on the air. By the end of the 1939, he had already appeared in 19 films. Reagan was first elected to the board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild in 1941. Reagan led SAG through eventful years that were marked by labor-management disputes, the Taft-Hartley Act, House Committee on UN-American Activities (HUAC) hearings and the Hollywood blacklist era.
Marriages and Children
Ronald Regan had two marriages. He married his first wife Jane Wyman, an actress, on 26 January, 1940, at the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather Church in Glendale, California. The couple had two children, namely Maureen and Christine and adopted a third, Michael. However, the marriage proved to be unhappy and following regular bouts of arguments and conflicts, Wyman filed for divorce in 1948 which was finalized in 1949. Ronald was the only U.S. President to have been divorced.
Nancy Davis, an actress met Reagan in 1949 and the two got married on 4 March 1952. The couple had two children, Patti and Roni. Their affection for each other was known to everyone and observers described their relationship as real, intimate and close. Nancy Davis remained his last love until his death in 2004.
Governor of California (1967-1975)
Initially a Democrat, Reagan formally switched to the Republican Party in 1962. California Republicans were impressed with his political views and charisma, and eventually he was nominated for Governor of California in 1966. He was elected and was sworn in on 3 January 1967. Shortly after the beginning of his term, he froze all government hiring and tax hikes to balance the budget. Ronald Regan became a controversial figure after the People’s Park Protest, held on 15 May 1969. Reagan sent the California Highway patrol to quell the protest, and the incident became known as ‘Bloody Thursday’. During his tenure as Governor, he strongly advocated the Republican ideal of less government regulation of economy.
Presidency (1981- 1989)
Ronald Regan had failed in his run for presidency 1976 before he finally became President in 1981. During his campaign for presidency, his speech emphasized on the dangers of nuclear war and the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Though he lost the nomination in 1976, he received appreciation and support from across the country. The 1980 presidential campaign was conducted during the ongoing Iran Hostage Crisis. His campaign stressed some of his fundamental principles: lower taxes to stimulate the economy, less government interference in people’s lives and a strong national defense. Reagan won the election and Republicans captured the senate for the first time since 1952, while the Democrats remained a majority.
First Term (1981-1985)
Reagan served two terms as President beginning From1981 till 1989. Till date, he is the oldest man elected to the office of presidency. His first inaugural address was held on 20 January 1981 that began in a dramatic manner. As Reagan was giving his inaugural address, 52 U.S. hostages held by Iran for 444 days, were set free. During his first term, Reagan expanded military to insure national defense. Reagan, as President, believed in individual freedom and pursued the policies that revitalized the U.S. economy, brought domestic changes and contributed to the end of the Cold War. On March 30, 1981, Reagan, along with his press secretary James Brady and two others were shot by John Hinckley, Jr. The bullet passed his left lung, missing his heart by less than one inch. The bullet was removed after an emergency operation and he was released from the hospital on 11 April. The assassination attempt had a great influence on Reagan’s popularity, which rose to 73% after the incident.
Reagan entered office with the mandate to revitalize the stagnating economy of U.S. He implemented the supply-side policy seeking to stimulate the economy with large tax cuts and promoted the proposed tax cuts as potentially stimulating the economy enough to expand with tax base. His economic policy became a subject of debate with a mixed view of supporters and critics. During his presidency, federal income tax rates were lowered and GDP recovered strongly after 1982 recession. Sixteen million new jobs were created while inflation significantly decreased. However critics argue that his policy made wealthy become wealthier and he was indifferent to the struggle of the poor. Some economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman and Robert A. Mundell argue that Reagan’s tax policies invigorated America’s economy and contributed to the economic boom of 1990s.
Second Term (1985- 1989)
Reagan was sworn in for the second term on 20 January 1985, at the White House. During his second term, Reagan declared more militant policies in the War on Drugs and promised to fight for drug free schools and workplaces using stronger law enforcement and creating public awareness. On 27 October 1986, he signed a drug enforcement bill to fund the War on drugs and specified a mandatory minimum penalty for drug offenses. First Lady Nancy Reagan made War on Drugs his main priority by founding Just Say No awareness campaign. In 1986; Reagan signed the Immigration reform and Control Act. The act made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants, making it mandate for employers to attest to their employees’ immigration status. He granted amnesty to approximately 3 million illegal immigrants who entered the United States prior to January 1982.
In 1986, Iran- Contra war became the largest political scandal during the 1980s. The International Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. had violated the international law, ‘not to intervene in the affair of other states’. Though the investigating Committee failed to give evidence that the President was aware of the mismanagement of the funds, Ronald’s popularity declined rapidly in less than a week. He was criticized for his disengagement from managing his staff and making the diversion of funds possible. The scandal resulted in fourteen indictments within Reagan’s staff and eleven convictions.
End of the Cold War
Till 1980s, Regan supported anti-Communist movements worldwide and describing the USSR as an ‘Evil Empire’. He recognized the change in the direction of the Soviet leadership with Mikhail Gorbachev and shifted to diplomacy, with a view to encourage the Soviet Leader to pursue substantial arms agreements. Reagan believed that allowing freedom to speech and more democracy in the Soviet Union would lead to reform and the end of Communism. Ronald Regan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF Treaty) at the White House in 1987.
Alzheimer Disease and Death
In August 1994, at the age of 83, Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, an incurable neurological disorder which ultimately results into total memory loss, callusing brain cells to die. The disease destroyed Reagan’s mental capacity, while he remained active. He was only able to recognize a few people other than his wife, Nancy. Reagan died at his home in Bel Air, California on 5 June, 2004. The then President George W. Bush declared 11 June a National Day of Mourning and international tributes came in from around the world. On 9 June, Reagan’s body was flown to Washington, where he became the tenth U.S. President to lie in State. On June 11, 2004 a state funeral was conducted in the Washington National Cathedral, and presided over by President George W. Bush.