Ronald Wilson Reagan was born to Jack Reagan and Nelle Wilson Reagan on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois. Neil, his older brother, was his only sibling. Reagan was nicknamed “Dutch” because of his Dutchman-like look. This moniker stuck with him throughout his childhood.
He received his primary education from Dixon High School. He received a scholarship to attend Eureka College, where he studied economics and sociology. While he excelled academically, his achievements as an athlete and performer earned him the position of student body president.
He worked as a radio sports commentator in Iowa after graduating in 1932, and then he was employed by ‘WHO’ radio. Following a screen test with the ‘Warner Brothers,’ he signed a contract with the studio in 1937.
He appeared in several films over his three-decade Hollywood career. Although he began his acting career in ‘B-movies,’ his work was well received by both audiences and reviewers. ‘Knute Rockne, All American’ and ‘Kings Row’ were two of his most famous films.
Meanwhile, in 1937, he enrolled in the Army Enlisted Reserve and was summoned to action in 1942. He was only qualified for limited service in the Army Air Forces due to his nearsightedness (AAF). Soon after, he was commissioned to the first lieutenant and then captain. He was released from active duty in 1945.
From 1947 until 1952, Reagan served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild. In 1959, he was elected president for the second time. He went on to host the show General Electric Theatre, which aired on television. After that, he hosted a show called “Death Valleys Days.”
His political stance evolved from liberal to conservative throughout his time as a television personality. In 1964, he rose to prominence due to a speech he gave in support of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.
In 1966, Ronald Reagan ran for governor of California and won by almost a million votes. In 1970, he was re-elected for a second term, serving until January 1975.
He ran for president in 1980, establishing himself as a conservative “Republican Party” candidate. The election outcome was enthralling, as he easily beat Democratic President Jimmy Carter, receiving 50.7 percent of the vote.
On January 20, 1981, Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States of America. In his inauguration address, Reagan called for a rebirth of the country and the government, which he referred to as the issue rather than the solution.
On his 69th day in office, while he was moving out of the ‘Washington Hilton Hotel,’ Reagan was shot and injured in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr. After having emergency surgery, he recovered and became the first US president survived an assassination attempt.
Several social, economic, domestic, and foreign initiatives were implemented during his presidency. He increased the military budget and cut the cost of crucial social programs, including “Medicaid,” “Food Stamps,” government education programs, and deregulated corporations. He abolished domestic oil price limits, allowing for an unrestricted supply of energy in the 1980s.
He suggested decreasing marginal tax rates to revitalize the American economy, which resulted in more investment, improved economic growth, and higher employment and earnings.
His economic initiatives resulted in the nation’s economy reviving in 1983, marking the start of seven years of financial success.
In terms of foreign policy, during his first tenure as president, the ‘Cold War’ was the most pressing problem. He ordered a build-up of weaponry and troops to defend the country against the Soviet Empire. He also established the ‘Reagan Doctrine,’ which aided anti-communist forces in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He also sought to build space-based weapons to defend the United States from Soviet nuclear missiles.
His attempt to keep the peace in Lebanon was thwarted when suicide bombers attacked the US Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. In retaliation, he authorized the invasion of Grenada, a Caribbean Island.
During his second tenure as president, he enacted strict anti-drug legislation and pledged drug-free schools and workplaces. In addition, he implemented strict drug enforcement and increased public awareness.
The ‘Iran-Contra affair,’ a complex ‘arms-for-hostages agreement with Iran to send money to anti-communist insurgencies in Central America, tainted most of his second administration.
When Reagan paid a visit to a German military cemetery in Bitburg to celebrate “World War II” in 1985, he sparked controversy. When it was discovered that Nazi war criminals from the Waffen-SS were also buried there, he was chastised.
The United States struck Libya in 1986 under the codename “Operation El Dorado Canyon.” The operation was taken out because Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was a group known as the “Unholy Trinity,” which supported the Red Army Faction and the Red Brigades. The US was concerned that the ‘Unholy Trinity’ was attempting to become a nuclear power.
During his second tenure as president, in 1987, the United States and the Soviet Union reached a historic deal to remove intermediate-range nuclear weapons. Reagan also played a crucial role in the fall of the Berlin Wall. When US President Donald Trump abandoned the pact, claiming Russia’s non-compliance, it became obsolete. Both parties formally terminated the agreement in February 2019.
In January 1989, he fled the ‘White House’ and returned to Los Angeles, California, after serving as president for two consecutive terms. In Simi Valley, California, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum opened in 1991.