Ronald Reagan was marked in American history as president of the country, being elected in 1980 and re-elected in 1984. Reagan, who had a career as an actor in the 1940s, entered politics in the 1960s with a very conservative political bias, and his government defended neoliberalism.
Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, United States, on February 6, 1911. He was the youngest son of Nelle Wilson and John Edward Reagan. Although his father was a Catholic, Reagan was baptized as a Disciple of Christ in 1922 under the influence of his mother. Ronald had an older brother called John Neil Reagan.
During his childhood, Reagan’s parents settled in different cities in Illinois. And in the 1920s, they settled in Dixon, where Reagan completed his high school education at Dixon High School. Later on, he was admitted to Eureka College (Illinois), where he obtained a BA in Economics and Sociology in 1932. He was a good student and made many good friends who will remain loyal to him.
After graduating, Reagan got a job as a sports commentator. He became an employee of two radio stations in Iowa, a neighboring state of Illinois, and stood out during the period, and he was hired to commentate the games of a baseball team called the Chicago Cubs.
In 1937, Reagan made a trip to California and there conducted an audition in the studio Warner Bros. He won a seven-year contract to act in films produced by the studio, and the first production he participated in was “Love is on the go” in 1937. In the early 1940s, Reagan became a widely recognized Hollywood actor.
In 1937, Reagan was enlisted as a recruit in the United States Army due to the outbreak of World War II. In the same year, he became the second lieutenant in the Cavalry Reserve Officers’ Corps.
In 1942, his first mission was at the San Francisco Shipping Port, California. After approval by the Army Air Forces (AAF), he was assigned to the agency’s public relations.
Later, he went to the First Motion Picture Unit, the 18th Air Force Base Unit. In 1943 he was promoted to the first lieutenant and sent to the filming of “This Is the Army.” In 1943 he was promoted to captain. In 1945, Reagan was dismissed from active service. By the end of the war, First Motion Picture had produced more than four hundred films for the AAF.
In 1941, while still in the military, Reagan was elected to the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild. After World War II, he resumed his duties. In 1947 he was elected to the position of president and held office between 1947 and 1952. He later took office in 1959.
In the late 1950s, Ronald Reagan joined the television medium. He was hired to present the series “General Electric Theater,” which became popular. At this company, he made motivational speeches for the brand and was the host of a television program that was maintained for almost a decade. He also presented the series “Death Valley Days, between 1964 and 1965.
By this time, Reagan had begun to manifest anti-communism, which was one of his hallmarks in the presidency.
Reagan decided to become a politician in the 1960s, and to that end, he joined the Republican Party in 1962. Since the late 1940s, Reagan had undergone a radical political and ideological transformation. During his youth, he was linked to the Democratic Party, supporting several candidates from that party. As he aged, he took on more conservative positions and was increasingly aligning himself with the Republican Party.
In the 1950s, he campaigned for Republican presidential candidates, and in 1962 he joined the Republican Party. In this context, he was convinced to launch his political career.
By becoming a leading figure of the Republican Party, Reagan had victorious primary for the Republican candidacy for the government d to California. In 1966, he defeated Republican Pat Brown, and in 1970 he was re-elected after defeating Democrat Jesse Unruh. In all, Reagan ruled California for eight years, in a term that extended from 1967 to 1975.
The eight years as governor of California secured Reagan as one of the great conservative politicians in the United States. He tried to run for president for the Republican Party on two occasions (1968 and 1976) but was defeated in the party primaries by Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, respectively.
In 1980, Reagan was chosen in the Republican primaries to be the party’s candidate in the race against Democratic President Jimmy Carter. He chose George Bush (father) as his deputy. In the election campaign, explored issues such as inflation and the situation in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Reagan still had a conservative discourse that spoke of reducing taxes and decreasing state regulations for large companies. The result was that Ronald Reagan won a significant victory, winning 51% of the vote and 489 of the 538 delegates from the Electoral College.
In 1984, he ran for re-election against Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, obtaining an even more expressive victory. He obtained 59% of the votes and won 525 of the 538 delegates of the Electoral College. The Reagan government was marked by what was already expected: conservatism, neoliberal measures, and the fight against communism in the world.
In the first months of his government, he was the victim of an attempt of murder in Washington. On March 30, 1981, Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Junior shortly after leaving a hotel in the US capital. He was hit by a bullet, which bounced off and hit him in the left armpit area, but underwent emergency surgery and survived.
During his tenure, Reagan fulfilled a campaign promise and reduced taxes, as well as easing regulations for the environment and the economy. In addition, it reduced spending on social assistance programs for the poorest population. In practice, these measures resulted in the increased exploitation of labor, reduced wages, and increased social disparity (the rich became richer and the poor became poorer).
A symbolic case of the effect of this law came in 1981. In that year, about 13,000 air traffic controllers went on strike for better wages. The strike was considered illegal, and Reagan issued an ultimatum for workers to return to work. With the refusal of the category, Reagan authorized the dismissal of about 11 thousand workers.
With regard to military spending, Reagan invested heavily in the army, considerably increasing the country’s budget for military spending. He adopted an aggressive policy to combat communism or against any leftist practice. This led to interventions in places like Nicaragua and Granada. This anti-communism policy was called the “Reagan Doctrine.” The United States’ interference in the sovereignty of other countries grew during his tenure.
On March 8, 1983, he called the Soviet Union “the empire of evil.” This is after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Reagan believed that only a strong United States could make the Soviet Union see the need to negotiate arms reduction between the two superpowers. He wanted to set up the ‘Strategic Defensive Initiative’ (SDI or Star Wars), a nuclear space shield. Ultimately, the plans turned out to be too expensive and technically impracticable.
Critics accused President Reagan of also carrying out secret and illegal guerrilla actions. In particular, supporting the Contras in Nicaragua after the fall of dictator Somoza and the Sandinistas’ electoral victory of Daniel Ortega.
In 1983, Reagan ordered the invasion of the small island of Grenada, which had suffered a communist coup. Towards the end of his term, Reagan supported the democratic emergency in Latin America by generously supporting states that hold free elections. Also, the Reagan government supported Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein in the war between Iran and Iraq from 1980 to 1988.
Ronald Reagan ran two presidential elections in his life and won both by a wide margin. In 1980, he defeated President Jimmy Carter and, in 1984, Walter Mondale, both from the Democratic Party.
The Iran-Contra scandal
Almost immediately after being re-elected to a second term in 1984, he was confronted with the Iran-Contra scandal. Secretly, American weapons had been supplied to Iran via Israel, a country with which the United States had no close ties either.
The reason was to release the six American hostages held by Hezbollah. Iran pledged to do everything it could to arrange the release, but without much success. The hostages were released, but then others were taken prisoners.
The profits made on the weapons supported right-wing anti-Sandinista rebels in Nicaragua without the president’s knowledge. Congress had actually banned such practices.
The scandal ended with several members of Reagan’s cabinet convicted. The president himself was close to receiving some sanction, but he was not prosecuted. In any case, its popularity declined considerably while the investigations lasted.
Death of Ronald Reagan
After two terms, Reagan had to say goodbye to Washington with a heavy heart. In 1994, Reagan informed the population in a handwritten letter that he had Alzheimer’s disease. Reagan died ten years later, on June 5, 2004, at the age of 93, at his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles.
The legacy of Ronald Reagan
At the time of his office as president, America was struggling with an economic crisis. On the domestic front, Reagan wanted to balance the budget, cut taxes, and spend more on defense. In his supply-side economics, he tried to achieve higher economic activity by means of lower taxes. He believed that lower tax rates meant an incentive and reward to work, save, invest and take risks. Government spending had to be cut, and Reagan cut spending on health, education, and social affairs.
During his second term (1985-1989), the war on drugs was declared. The first lady, Nancy Reagan, got directly involved in this policy by launching the “Just say No” campaign. The aim was to raise awareness among children and adolescents about the problems of drug use.
Reagan had a true presence on the stage of American life. He always knew how to listen, respect, and learn from public opinion. His calm voice and strong language earned him the title of a great communicator.
Lastly, when Michael Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union in 1985, promising openness and reform, attitudes between the major powers began to change. Gorbachev and Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in 1987. An agreement between the two parties requiring nuclear and conventional missiles and cruise missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers to be destroyed.
Marriage life of Ronald Reagan
Throughout American history, the United States has had only two presidents who divorced, and Ronald Reagan was one of them (the other was Donald Trump). Reagan married twice in his life, his first wife being an actress named Jane Wyman. With it, Reagan had two sons: a biological daughter named Maureen and an adopted son named Michael. This marriage lasted from 1940 to 1949.
The second marriage Reagan was with Nancy Davis, also an actress. The marriage lasted from 1952 to 2004, and two children were born from the union: Patricia and Ronald. Nancy was known for her conservative views, and many biographers tell of her influence on the ideological changes that Reagan had in her life. The end of Nancy and Reagan’s marriage was due to the death of Ronald Reagan.
Reagan restored America’s confidence in the White House. His optimism was contagious and made society feel better. His communication skills helped him during his political and intellectual burden. He is still remembered as the leader who fought and defeated “the evil empire,” as he called the Soviet Union.
Despite the fact that his second term started with the scandal of the sale of arms to Iran and the transfer of profits to the anti-Sandinista guerrillas, he managed to escape political punishment and retired from the White House with enormous popularity. In the words of Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, “you could agree or disagree with Reagan, but no one can deny that he was honest, that he fought for what he believed in, and that he had the courage to uphold his convictions.
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