The Life of Ronald Reagan
Life Before Politics
Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6th, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois to John and Nelle Reagan. He had one brother, Neil Reagan who was 3 years his senior. Because he disliked his name, Reagan went by “Dutch” for most of his childhood. Ronald moved a lot as a child, so he never really made permanent friends, so the Reagan’s grew very close, so much so that by high school he was calling his parents by their first names. For most of his childhood he was a rather introverted boy, playing with his tin soldiers or reading books on natural history. When the family finally settled in Dixon, Illinois, Wilson made lots of friends and “bloomed where he was planted”. He enjoyed swimming, fishing, hunting, and trapping, getting himself into lots of mischief, one time firing an illegal rocket at a bridge and earning a trip to the police station. As he grew up enjoyed sports and took part in numerous plays in church and school, earning respect and popularity along the way, eventually becoming president of the Student Body. At Eureka College, he swam and played football, becoming captains on both teams, and eventually became president of the Boosters and Student Council clubs. After college he had a lot of odd jobs here and there until he got a job as sportscaster in Des Moines and settled down. In 1937, the Sportscaster Reagan convinced his boss to let him cover the Cubs spring training in Los Angeles, but was really trying to make it in the movie industry. He lied to his new agent so he could at least score and interview with some Hollywood directors, and it worked. At Warner Bro’s. he turned down a further interview because he had to get back to Des Moines, which he immediately regretted. But a week after he got back his agent called him and told him that WB offered him a 1 year contract and $200 a month, to which he promptly agreed. While on the set of Brother Rat, he met the Oscar-winning actress Jane Wyman, and soon there were rumors of a possible romance between the two. Soon they were married and had two children. But after a miscarriage that traumatized Ms. Wyman, the couple got divorced. As he became more famous he started to perform in bigger movies until he starred in Knute Rockne, All American, which boosted him to stardom. He also played an amnesiac who lost his legs, which almost won him an Oscar. He considered it his finest role. While serving as a propaganda movie maker in WW2, he invited many of his Hollywood friends to help, making some of the most successful movies of the war. While making his movies, Reagan was one of the first Americans to see the horrific pictures of the German Concentration camp, and he would never forget it. After the war, he became increasingly political and throughout the 50’s he gave very conservative anti-communist speeches, but was a Democratic Liberal. But eventually became a middle-road Conservative. After finding his party, he turned to politics, running in the extremely liberal state for Governor of California…
Reagan the Governor
In 1966, when Reagan announced his candidacy for Governor of California, he campaigned awfully, finding it difficult to give speeches to the large crowds of liberal Californians. His platform was lower taxes, less crime, welfare reform, and reduced government spending, of which he accused the Democrat nominee Pat Brown of doing. As Reagan got more comfortable in front of the cameras, his opponent got so confident that he vacationed in Europe for most of the campaign, which allowed Reagan to sweep in. After the results came out, the new Governor had 53 of the 58 counties and got more than a million more votes than Mr. Brown. Like most politicians, Ronald couldn’t do everything he promised while running. His priority was reduced government spending, which he addressed by budgeting 10% of each department, but the government was still in it’s record deficit, so he had to raise taxes (going against his platform) and eventually even sell the state jet. After the deficit crisis Reagan’s job was a little smoother, but he had to deal with an increasingly large anti-war movement in California that was sweeping across the nation in the late 60’s. After violent protests at University of California at Berkeley, he sent in the National Guard, one of the most controversial decisions while in office. But the people of California still loved him, and re elected him into office again in 1970, and after a successful term was encouraged to run again, but declined saying that governor should, like the president, be limited to two turns. Running against an incumbent like Gerald Ford is an extremely difficult task, but Ronald Reagan felt like he was up for it. Since he was at a disadvantage, his campaign revolved around bashing Ford and Nixon, strongly opposing Mr. Ford’s pardon to the “Draft Dodgers” of the Vietnam War, as well as the nuclear agreements with the Soviet Union. But he mostly criticized how big and powerful the government is, and how social welfare should be handed to states. He beat Gerald Ford, but lost to the Democrat nominee Jimmy Carter, which had a silver lining as he would be the favorite for the Republican ticket in 1980. His 1980 campaign was pretty much the same thing as he attacked Jimmy Carter and his unsuccessful dealings with the Soviet Union. He said that the USSR was winning the Cold War because the US military was so small, and proposed a massive build up. After beating George Bush for the Republican ticket, he beat Jimmy Carter in a landslide victory getting 489 electoral votes to Carter’s 49 and won 45 million popular votes to Carters 34. The former actor had finally made it to office and it was his time to shine.
After he left office, he and his second wife Nancy retired to a residence in Bel Air, California where he wrote the autobiography, “An American Life.” He travelled around the globe giving speeches for $30-40,000, receiving criticism for accepting two million dollars to speak in Japan. Than tragedy struck. When he was in court for the Iran-Contra scandal that happened during his term, he frustratingly exclaimed he really didn't remember. After doctors ran some tests, they figured out that he was one of the millions of Americans that suffer Alzheimers, and really couldn’t remember the scandal. After he was diagnosed, he disappeared from public life, until he died in 2004. When one looks back, one sees how much he changed the job of being the President of the United States. Before him, being comfortable in front of the camera was bonus, after him it was a necessity. During his terms, the US had the largest peacetime defense budget, something that would take a long time to shrink. Out of his talks with Gorbachev, came the collapse of the Soviet Union and a large reducement in nuclear weapons. During his two terms, the middle and upper class thrived and the economy recovered from it’’s recession. He reduced the government and gavere power to the states, policies that stand today. All said Reagan was a momentous president and changed America forever.
Reagan's 1985 Inaugural Speech
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"Ronald Reagan." The White House. The White House, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.