Ronald Wilson Reagan Ronald Reagan
(born February 6,
1911) was the 40th
(1981-1989) President Order: 40th President
of the United States. Term of Office: January 20, 1981 - January 20, 1989
Reagan was also a
noted film actor Predecessor: Jimmy Carter
before entering Successor: George H. W. Bush
politics. He is the
longest-lived person Date of Birth: Monday, February 6, 1911
to have served as Place of Birth: Tampico, Illinois
President, as well as First Lady: Nancy Davis
the oldest elected
President (69 years Profession: Actor
and 349 days). Political Party: Republican
Vice President: George H. W. Bush
Early life and career
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
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".
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.
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
On July 13, 1985, Reagan underwent surgery to remove cancerous polyps 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.
He portrayed himself as being:
* 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
Reagan's policies and successes or failures remain controversial in many
* 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
* 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
* It is generally agreed that Reagan substantially weakened environmental
* 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-Contra 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
destabilized 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).)
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."
Supreme Court appointments
* Sandra Day O'Connor - 1981
* William Rehnquist - Chief Justice, 1986 (an associate justice since
* Antonin Scalia - 1986
* Anthony M. Kennedy - 1988
* Nancy Reagan (first lady)
* U.S. presidential election, 1976
* U.S. presidential election, 1980
* U.S. presidential election, 1984
* Reagan Doctrine
Reagan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6374 Hollywood Blvd.