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Reagan, Ronald

Category: Business and political leaders

 

Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was an American politician and actor who served as the 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Before his presidency, he was the 33rd Governor of California, from 1967 to 1975, after a career as a Hollywood actor and union leader.  Reagan was initially a Democrat, but he became a conservative and switched to the Republican Party in 1962.

He twice ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency in 1968 and 1976; four years later, he easily won the nomination outright, becoming the oldest elected U.S. president up to that time, defeating incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980.  When Reagan finally left office in 1989, he held an approval rating of sixty-eight percent, matching those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later Bill Clinton, as the highest ratings for departing presidents in the modern era. He was the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve two full terms, after a succession of five prior presidents had failed to do so.

Entering the presidency in 1981, Reagan implemented sweeping new political and economic initiatives.   During his Presidency Reagan reduced inflation from 12.5%, to 4.4% ; and the unemployment rate declined from 7.5% to 5.4%. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth recovered strongly after the early 1980s recession ended in 1982, and grew during his eight years in office at an annual rate of 7.9% per year, with a high of 12.2% growth in 1981.

Although he had planned an active post-presidency, Reagan disclosed in 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier that year. He appeared publicly for the last time at the funeral of Richard Nixon.  He died ten years later in 2004 at the age of 93.

In May 16 2002, Nancy Reagan accepted the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honour bestowed by Congress, on behalf of the president and herself.

Why is he on the site?  In The Faith of Ronald Reagan, Brown makes the case that the secret ingredient to Reagan’s astonishingly successful presidency, was his deep Christian faith.  And he had good reason to have such faith.  He had more than one near death experience in which he appears to have communicated with ‘angels’ – spirit helpers.  The observations provide the details.

The Faith of Ronald Reagan

According to Paul Kengor, author of God and Ronald Reagan, Reagan had a particularly strong faith in the goodness of people; this faith stemmed from the optimistic faith of his mother and the Disciples of Christ faith, into which he was baptized in 1922. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination in the United States in the Reformed tradition. 

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. We welcome all to the Lord's Table as God has welcomed us.

His faith stayed with him his entire life.  After leaving office in 1989, for example, the Reagans purchased a home in Bel Air, Los Angeles, in addition to the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara. They regularly attended Bel Air Church. This faith, this enacting of the principles of Christianity, made its appearance in a number of his policies.

with Margaret Thatcher

Pro-life support

 Although he mistakenly signed an Abortion Bill when he was Governor of California, letting it go through without consideration, he was a Pro-life supporter.

Opposition to racial and sexual discrimination

 Reagan was opposed to racial and sexual discrimination. His opposition went back right to his youth. In Dixon, for example, when the proprietor of a local inn would not allow black people to stay there, he brought them back to his house, where his mother invited them to stay overnight and have breakfast the next morning.  During his 1980 campaign, Reagan pledged that, if given the opportunity, he would appoint the first female Supreme Court Justice. That opportunity came in his first year in office when he nominated Sandra Day O'Connor to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Potter Stewart. Reagan also nominated Vaughn Walker, who would later be revealed to be the earliest known gay federal judge.  Early in his tenure, Reagan appointed Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., of San Diego as the first African American to chair the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Support for prayer in schools

In 1981, Reagan became the first president to propose a constitutional amendment on school prayer. Reagan's election reflected an opposition to the 1962 Supreme Court case Engel v. Vitale, prohibiting state officials from composing an official state prayer and requiring that it be recited in the public schools. Reagan's 1981 proposed amendment stated:

 "Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. …."

 In 1984, Reagan again raised the issue, asking Congress

"why can't [the] freedom to acknowledge God be enjoyed again by children in every schoolroom across this land?"

In 1987 Reagan renewed his call for Congress to support voluntary prayer in schools and end "the expulsion of God from America's classrooms."  During his term in office, Reagan campaigned vigorously to restore organized prayer to the schools, first as a moment of prayer and later as a Moment of Silence.

Invocation of faith in speeches of pivotal importance

 
 
 

The disintegration of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, proved a pivotal moment in Reagan's presidency. All seven astronauts aboard were killed. On the night of the disaster, Reagan delivered a speech, written by Peggy Noonan, in which he said:

The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave ... We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God.'

War on Drugs

Reagan announced a War on Drugs in 1982, in response to concerns about increasing crack use. He said that "drugs were menacing our society" – economically and morally.  Along with stronger law enforcement he also expanded drug treatment programmes.  In 1986, $1.7 billion was allocated to fund the War on Drugs. First Lady Nancy Reagan made the War on Drugs her main priority by founding the "Just Say No" drug awareness campaign, which aimed to discourage children and teenagers from engaging in recreational drug use by offering various ways of saying "no." Nancy Reagan travelled to 65 cities in 33 states, raising awareness about the dangers of drugs.

Actions against totalitarianism and abuse of power

Reagan spoke frequently at rallies with a strong ideological dimension and was a consistent believer in the importance of smaller government. He consolidated themes that he had developed in his famous speech, "A Time for Choosing":

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 ... You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream—the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order—or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. — October 27, 1964

Immigration and protection of ‘the little man’

Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. The act made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants, and required employers to attest to their employees' immigration status. Reagan said, "The employer sanctions program is the keystone and major element."  In other words the punishment was to fall on employers, not the immigrants.   Note that before the act, illegal immigrants had no protection against exploitation and were often paid next to nothing.  Their presence also affected the wages of the rest of the lower paid workforce, forcing them down.  The Act granted amnesty to approximately three million illegal immigrants who had entered the United States before January 1, 1982, and had lived in the country continuously. Reagan said,

"The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society. Very soon many of these men and women will be able to step into the sunlight and, ultimately, if they choose, they may become Americans."

The final destruction of Atheistic Communism

Reagan was the first serving U.S. president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt. He believed that God had spared his life so that he might go on to fulfil a greater purpose and it is clear that the principle purpose he homed in on was the final destruction of totalitarian atheistic Communism.

Destruction of Communist regimes

Reagan and his administration provided overt and covert aid to anti-communist resistance movements world-wide in an effort to "rollback" Soviet-backed communist governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  On October 25, 1983, Reagan ordered U.S. forces to invade Grenada, where a 1979 coup d'état had established an independent non-aligned Marxist–Leninist government. The forces were successful and in mid-December, after a new government was appointed by the governor-general, U.S. forces withdrew.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was considered to be a Communist or Socialist leader [Libya was known as the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya].  When, in early April 1986, a bomb exploded in a Berlin discothèque, resulting in the injury of 63 American military personnel and death of one serviceman, Reagan stated that there was "irrefutable proof" that Libya had directed the "terrorist bombing," and in the late evening of April 15, 1986, the United States launched a series of airstrikes on ground targets in Libya.  Britain's Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, allowed the U.S. Air Force to use Britain's air bases to launch the attack.

Furthermore, although Reagan was not involved directly in the Iran Contra affair, he did support the Contras, in their fight against the Communist regime in Nicaragua.

Reagan’s stance also helped many eastern block countries in their struggle to be free of the Communist yoke.  In 2007, Polish President Lech Kaczyński posthumously conferred on Reagan the highest Polish distinction, the Order of the White Eagle, saying that Reagan had inspired the Polish people to work for change and helped to unseat the repressive communist regime; Kaczyński said it "would not have been possible if it was not for the tough-mindedness, determination, and feeling of mission of President Ronald Reagan."   Reagan backed the nation of Poland throughout his presidency, supporting the anti-communist Solidarity movement.

Reform in Russia

One of Reagan’s most interesting policies was his policy of "peace through strength" which resulted in a record peace-time defence build-up including a 40% real increase in defence spending between 1981 and 1985.   So high was the defence spending that it effectively broke Russia’s ability to keep up and ended the Cold War. 

Gennadi Gerasimov, the Foreign Ministry spokesman under Gorbachev, said that the Strategic Defense Initiative was "very successful blackmail. ...The Soviet economy couldn't endure such competition."

Reagan also initiated a computer based defence strategy dubbed ‘Star Wars’.  Again it was intended to be defensive – a vast network of satellites that could remove aggressor weapons before they reached the US.  At the time the technology simply did not exist to implement this strategy [although of course it stimulated considerable research].  But again, the intention was to stretch Russia to the limit until it broke – and it worked.

Together with the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Reagan denounced the Soviet Union in ideological terms. In a famous address on June 8, 1982, to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Reagan said, "the forward march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism–Leninism on the ash heap of history." On March 3, 1983, he predicted that communism would collapse, stating, "Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written."

 

Reagan 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's personal mission was to achieve "a world free of nuclear weapons," which he regarded as "totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization."

But he and Thatcher used their existence to, in effect, transition Cold War policy from détente to rollback, by escalating an arms race with the USSR while engaging in talks with Gorbachev, which culminated in the INF Treaty, shrinking both countries' nuclear arsenals. 

Gorbachev, Reagan and Thatcher held four summit conferences between 1985 and 1988: the first in Geneva, Switzerland, the second in Reykjavík, Iceland, the third in Washington, D.C., and the fourth in Moscow. Reagan believed that if he could persuade the Soviets to allow for more democracy and free speech, this would lead to reform and the end of Communism.  When Reagan visited Moscow for the fourth summit in 1988, a journalist asked the president if he still considered the Soviet Union the evil empire. "No," he replied, "I was talking about another time, another era."  At Gorbachev's request, Reagan gave a speech on free markets at the Moscow State University. 

Speaking at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to go further, saying

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Reagan's presidency hastened the decline of the Soviet Union, but more importantly the decline of Communism which he opposed all his life. The Cold War was unofficially declared over at the Malta Summit on December 3, 1989.  Just ten months after the end of his term, the Berlin Wall fell, and on December 26, 1991, nearly three years after he left office, the Soviet Union – and Communism - collapsed.

Margaret Thatcher
Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired.

Life and career

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in an apartment on the second floor of a commercial building in Tampico, Illinois on February 6, 1911. He was the younger son of Nelle Clyde (née Wilson) and John Edward "Jack" Reagan. Jack was a salesman and storyteller whose grandparents were Irish Catholic immigrants from County Tipperary, while Nelle was of half-English and half-Scottish descent (her mother was born in Surrey).

Reagan attended Dixon High School, where he developed interests in acting, sports, and storytelling. His first job involved being a lifeguard at the Rock River in Lowell Park in 1927. Over a six-year period, Reagan reportedly performed 77 rescues as a lifeguard. He attended Eureka College, a Disciples-oriented liberal arts school, where he studied economics and sociology. He developed a reputation as a "jack of all trades", excelling in campus politics, sports, and theatre. He was a member of the football team and captain of the swim team. He graduated in 1932.  He had a brief stint as an announcer for WHO radio in Des Moines for Chicago Cubs baseball games.

Film career

with Jane Wyman,Michael and Maureen

Reagan took a screen test in 1937 that led to a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers studios. He spent the first few years of his Hollywood career in the "B film" unit, where, Reagan joked, the producers "didn't want them good; they wanted them Thursday".  By the end of 1939 he had already appeared in 19 films.

In 1938, Reagan co-starred in the film Brother Rat with actress Jane Wyman (1917–2007). They married on January 26, 1940, at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather church in Glendale, California. Together they had two children, Maureen (1941–2001) and Christine (who was born in 1947 but only lived one day), and adopted a third, Michael (born March 18, 1945). After arguments about Reagan's political ambitions, Wyman filed for divorce in 1948, the divorce was finalized in 1949.  Reagan and Wyman continued to be friends until his death, with Wyman saying "America has lost a great president and a great, kind, and gentle man."

Army and the First Motion Picture Unit

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Reagan enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Officers Reserve Corps of the cavalry on May 25, 1937.  On April 18, 1942, he was ordered to active duty for the first time. Due to his poor eyesight, he was classified for limited service only, which excluded him from serving overseas. Upon the approval of the Army Air Force (AAF), he applied for a transfer from the cavalry to the AAF on May 15, 1942, and was assigned to AAF Public Relations and subsequently to the First Motion Picture Unit (officially, the "18th Army Air Force Base Unit") On January 14, 1943, he was promoted to first lieutenant and was sent to the Provisional Task Force Show Unit of This Is the Army at Burbank, California. He returned to the First Motion Picture Unit after completing this duty and was promoted to captain on July 22, 1943. While with the First Motion Picture Unit in 1945, he was indirectly involved in discovering actress Marilyn Monroe. He separated from active duty on December 9, 1945. By the end of the war, his units had produced some 400 training films for the AAF.

Screen Actors Guild (SAG)

Reagan was first elected to the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in 1941, serving as an alternate member. After World War II, he resumed service and became third vice-president in 1946.  He was President from 1947 to 1952 and in 1959.

Though an early critic of television, Reagan landed fewer film roles in the late 1950s and decided to join the medium.  Reagan and future wife Nancy Davis appeared together on television several times.   They were married on March 4, 1952, at the Little Brown Church in the Valley (North Hollywood, now Studio City) San Fernando Valley. They had two children: Patti (born October 21, 1952) and Ronald "Ron" Jr. (born May 20, 1958).

The Reagans' relationship was close, authentic and intimate.  He once wrote to her, "Whatever I treasure and enjoy... all would be without meaning if I didn't have you."
In 1998, while he was stricken by Alzheimer's, Nancy told Vanity Fair, "Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it's true. It did. I can't imagine life without him."

Bedtime for Bonzo 1951

Governor of California

Reagan became Governor of California in 1966.  In 1967, Reagan signed the Mulford Act, which repealed a law allowing public carrying of loaded firearms. In 1969, he signed the Family Law Act, which became the first no-fault divorce legislation in the United States.  Reagan was involved in several high-profile conflicts with the protest movements of the era, including his public criticism of university administrators for tolerating student demonstrations at the University of California, Berkeley campus.  In his first term, he froze government hiring and approved tax hikes to balance the budget.  As governor, Reagan turned a state budget deficit to a surplus, he was re-elected in 1970.

Presidential attempts

 In 1976, Reagan challenged incumbent President Gerald Ford in a bid to become the Republican Party's candidate for president. Ford prevailed and would go on to lose the 1976 presidential election to the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter.

The 1980 presidential election featured Reagan against incumbent President Jimmy Carter and was conducted amid a multitude of domestic concerns as well as the ongoing Iran hostage crisis. Reagan's campaign stressed some of his fundamental principles: lower taxes to stimulate the economy, less government interference in people's lives, states' rights, and a strong national defense.  Reagan won the election, carrying 44 states with 489 electoral votes to 49 electoral votes for Carter (representing six states and Washington, D.C.). Reagan received 51% of the popular vote while Carter took 41%.

 

Presidency

During his presidency, Reagan pursued policies that reflected his personal belief in individual freedom; brought changes domestically, both to the U.S. economy and expanded military; and contributed to the end of the Cold War.  In his first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, which Reagan himself wrote, he addressed the country's economic malaise, arguing: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem."

In 1981, PATCO, the union of federal air traffic controllers went on strike, violating a federal law prohibiting government unions from striking. Declaring the situation an emergency as described in the 1947 Taft–Hartley Act, Reagan stated that if the air traffic controllers "do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated."

They did not return and on August 5, Reagan fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored his order, and used supervisors and military controllers to handle the nation's commercial air traffic until new controllers could be hired and trained.

 

A leading reference work on public administration concluded, "The firing of PATCO employees … demonstrated a clear resolve by the president to take control of the bureaucracy."

During Reagan's presidency, federal income tax rates were lowered significantly - the top marginal tax bracket from 70% to 50% and the lowest bracket from 14% to 11%. In 1982 the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982 was signed into law, initiating one of the United States' first public–private partnerships and a major part of the president's job creation program. Sixteen million new jobs were created, while inflation significantly decreased

Conversely, Congress passed and Reagan signed into law tax increases of some nature in every year from 1981 to 1987 to continue funding such government programs as Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), Social Security, and the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 (DEFRA).

The Tax Reform Act of 1986, simplified the tax code by reducing the number of tax brackets to four and slashing a number of tax breaks. The increase of the lowest tax bracket from 11% to 15% was more than offset by expansion of the personal exemption, standard deduction, and earned income tax credit. The net result was the removal of six million poor Americans from the income tax roll and a reduction of income tax liability at all income levels.

For those who cite Reagan’s policies as the reason for the widening gap between rich and poor, the counter argument is that this was fuelled by executive greed and over-inflated egos, and had little to do with politics.

Soviet fighters downed Korean Air Lines Flight 007 near Moneron Island on September 1, 1983, carrying 269 people; the cause of KAL 007's going astray were thought to be inadequacies related to its navigational system.  As a consequence, Reagan announced on September 16, 1983, that the Global Positioning System would be made available for civilian use, free of charge, once completed in order to avert similar navigational errors in future.

In the 1984 presidential election Reagan was re-elected, winning 49 of 50 states. The president's overwhelming victory saw Mondale – his opponent - carry only his home state of Minnesota (by 3,800 votes) and the District of Columbia. Reagan won a record 525 electoral votes, the most of any candidate in United States history, and received 59% of the popular vote to Mondale's 41%.  At 73 years of age, he was the oldest person to ever have been sworn into a second term.

Illness

CODE OF THE SECRET SERVICE (1939)

On July 13, 1985, Reagan underwent surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital to remove cancerous polyps from his colon. The surgery lasted just under three hours and was successful.  In August of that year, he underwent an operation to remove skin cancer cells from his nose. In October, more skin cancer cells were detected on his nose and removed. 

In January 1987, Reagan underwent surgery for an enlarged prostate which caused further worries about his health. No cancerous growths were found, however, and he was not sedated during the operation. In July of that year, aged 76, he underwent a third skin cancer operation on his nose.

On January 7, 1989, Reagan underwent surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to repair a Dupuytren's contracture of the ring finger of his left hand.  Reagan suffered an episode of head trauma in July 1989. After being thrown from a horse in Mexico, a subdural hematoma was found and surgically treated later in the year.

In August 1994, at the age of 83, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  In November, he informed the nation through a handwritten letter, writing in part:

I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease ... At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done ... I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you.

Reagan's doctors say that he only began exhibiting overt symptoms of the illness in late 1992 or 1993, several years after he had left office. Reagan's public appearances became much less frequent with the progression of the disease, and as a result, his family decided that he would live in quiet semi-isolation with his wife Nancy. Reagan died of pneumonia, complicated by Alzheimer's disease, at his home in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles, California, on the afternoon of June 5, 2004.  He was 93 years of age.

His burial site is inscribed with the words he delivered at the opening of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library:

"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."

 

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