Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, IL. Because Reagan’s
father worked in sales, they moved several times while Reagan was growing up. At
last, the family settled in Dixon, IL, in 1920. Reagan graduated high school in
1928, and attended Eureka College. There, he played multiple sports, was captain
of the swim team, and was student council president. He also spent some of his time
acting. In 1932, he moved to Iowa, where he obtained a job as a sports announcer.
Reagan’s Acting Career and Marriages
While in California covering the Cubs’ spring training routine, Reagan auditioned
at Warner Brothers studio. They liked him and signed a contract with him; later
that year, Reagan debuted in “Love is on the Air,” which appropriately starred Reagan
as a radio news reporter. In 1940, Reagan married Jane Wyman, an actress, and together
they had a daughter, Maureen. They also adopted a son, Michael. They were divorced
in 1948, and four years later, Reagan married Nancy Davis, also an actress. They
had two children together, Patricia and Ronald. Reagan went on to have a part in
more than 50 movies during the next three decades. He was disqualified from participating
in World War II because he could not see well. Instead, he worked with the Army
to make training films for soldiers.
Journey to Presidency
During his television career, Reagan often spoke out against too much government
control as well as inappropriate government spending. Reagan won the race for governor
of California in 1966, and was re-elected in 1970. In 1980, after several failed
attempts, Reagan finally gained the Republican nomination for president. He and
his running mate, George H. W. Bush, defeated President Jimmy Carter and his running
mate, Vice President Walter Mondale. Reagan was the oldest person to be elected
to the presidency.
Assassination Attempt on President Reagan
Two months after Reagan was inaugurated, John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate
President Reagan. Hinckley had a history of psychological issues, and put a bullet
through the President’s lungs. Reagan took the whole incident lightheartedly, and
told his wife, “I forgot to duck.” Several weeks later, Reagan was able to return
to work. While president, Reagan introduced tax cuts, encouraged increases in military
spending, and reduced funding for social programs. This became known as Reaganomics.
As far as foreign affairs are concerned, Reagan’s term was marked with escalating
tensions of the Cold War. During his first term, he spent time building up US troops
and arms. To Reagan, the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire. Through the
Reagan Doctrine, the US provided anticommunist support to Africa, Latin America,
and Asia. The Reagan administration also dealt with issues in Grenada and Beirut.
Reagan was reelected in 1984, and formed a diplomatic relationship with Mikhail
Gorbachev. In 1987, Reagan spoke at the Berlin Wall in Germany, challenging Gorbachev
(leader of the Soviet Union) to tear down the Berlin wall. A little more than two
years later, Gorbachev let Berlin tear down the wall.
Alzheimer’s and Death
Ronald Reagan penned a handwritten letter to the US, which he revealed in November
of 1994, stating that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He died on
June 5, 2004, at home in Los Angeles.
- October 24, 1964:
“A Time for Choosing” delivered by future President Ronald Reagan
- March 8, 1983:
“Evil Empire” delivered by President Ronald Reagan
- January 28, 1986:
Reagan addresses the nation after the Challenger crashes
- June 12, 1987:
Reagan’s address to East Berlin and Gorbachev to “Tear Down This Wall”