When it comes to presidency character is everything. In the early 1980’s Ronald Wilson Reagan never thought he would grow up to be one of the most famous icons in history that was known as a true American hero. Many people would have to say that Reagan was one of the greatest presidents of all time, while others might differ to this claim. Regardless of peoples political views it was obvious that Reagan changed the world and will forever be remembered in history books. He was a strong president who cared dearly for his country and transformed the American spirit to make people feel more at ease with all the crises that the country was facing. Before his presidency he was a sports commentator and actor in Hollywood but shortly after that served two terms as governor of California.
Reagan dealt with many challenges that helped shape his legacy and why many people looked up to him.
Ronald Wilson Reagan he was born on February 6th 1911 in Tampico Illinois in a five room flat above H.C. Pitney General Store where his father worked. The nickname Dutch was given to Ronald as a kid by his father because he said he looked like a fat little Dutchman. He had an older brother named Neil and his parents were John Edward and Nelle Reagan who didn’t come from a lot of money and struggled throughout his childhood. His father was of Irish decent and worked as a shoe salesman while his mother was of Scottish- English decent and stayed at home as a homemaker.
Since Reagan’s father was alcoholic he could never keep a job, which meant they were constantly moving throughout Illinois searching for a new job. Once Ronald reached the age of nine they finally settled in Dixon Illinois but he didn’t really fit in since he never really had friends from always being on the move. He was boy who liked to be by himself and play with his tin soldiers but really enjoyed reading books about natural history. As a boy, Reagan’s life was filled with scrapes and adventures. He once narrowly escaped death while playing under a train that suddenly began moving. Reagan graduated from Dixon High School in 1928, where he played on the football and basketball teams, became president of the student body, acted in school plays, and wrote for the yearbook. Reagan, an accomplished swimmer since early boyhood, worked six summers as a lifeguard in Lowell Park in Dixon on the treacherous Rock River. According to newspaper reports of the time and later research, he saved 77 people from drowning (Lou Cannon).
After high school Reagan decided to enroll in Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois where he majored in economics but ended up graduating with only a C average. While attending Eureka he played football, cheered during basketball season, swam for the swim team and was apart of the drama club. Not only did he do all that but also joined the debate team, was a reporter for the school newspaper, worked on the college yearbook and was president of the student council. With all the activities he had going on in his life at such a young age he was very driven to participate in many things that made him happy. At home Jack Reagan’s fashion Booty Shop staggered under the depression and finally went out of business. Regan had to provide for himself, and in addition to washing dishes at the fraternity, he was the school’s swimming coach and teacher and worked in the kitchen of the girl’s dormitory (Bill Boyarsky 1981 pg. 40). He also had an early taste of politics: while still a freshman he made a dramatic oration on behalf of Eureka students who were striking to restore classes that the school administration had eliminated because of financial strains caused by the Great Depression. After the strike, the college president resigned (Cannon).
Once he graduated college he didn’t have any job opportunities he was very confident and optimistic that something would turn up. He believed that there was more to college than just books and felt that knowledge was associated with facts and stated what good is it to teach someone all the facts if they don’t know how to live and if they don’t use them for the solutions of the problems that people are going to deal with as life goes on. Eventually he decided to enter radio broadcasting and got turned down by many big stations but MacArthur at WOC in Davenport offered him a salary of $100 a week to be a staff announcer and his job was to play records and sometimes make public service announcements such as the weather or reading a commercial but he was later fired for making too many errors. Regan was given a chance to read out a play action between the Chicago cubs or White Socks game and had to give a brief description of the play going on and loved what he brought to announcing. After all of that Reagan moved to Des Moines, Iowa to start working at WHO studios where he began all his training, which eventually would lead him to Hollywood California. Working at this job also helped him perfect his speaking abilities and learned how to sell soap, cars and major- league baseball by the power of his voice. Ronald Reagan was one of the best play-by-play men in the Midwest, a nonstop talker who was so talkative that he wasn’t even nervous when the wire occasionally break down and would just improvise until it was repaired.
When it came to his acting career and how he became a Hollywood star all began when he went out to Los Angeles, California to follow the Chicago Cubs to their spring training camp while being out there he ended up reading for a casting director in Hollywood who offered him no hope in the acting industry. Later he met up with a friend who introduced him to an agent named Bill Meiklejohn who got him to meet with a casting director at Warner Brothers Studios. Warner Bros. gave him a screen test and was so impressed to offer him a contract starting at $200 a week since he resembled Robert Taylor an actor who died in a car accident and needed a replacement. The first film he appeared in was Love Is on the Air which ended up not being one of the best films ranging in the B average. In many of his roles Reagan was a victim of the poorly written movies grounded out by Hollywood’s film factories in the thirties, forties and fifties by useless writers, directors and producers. By 1938 he met a talented woman named Jane Wyman during the filming of Brother Rat about 2 years he was later married to Wyman on January 26 and had a daughter named Maureen by 1941 and just a few years later adopted a son name Michael in 1945. In 1948 Regan and Wyman’s marriage ended up in a divorce because she did not share the same interest and her acting career was taking off. The next four years were going to be the toughest years of his life especially with his movie career failing which made him start getting into politics.
Once he began seeing actress Nancy Davis he knew she was the one and wanted to share the rest of his life with. Reagan’s political view started to change once he married Nancy being that she came from a conservative family. Her father was a wealthy conservative surgeon who retired after his long career in Chicago. Shortly after their wedding in 1952 Nancy announced she was pregnant with a daughter who they named Patricia Ann Reagan. With all this going on Ronald needed to figure out how he was going to produce money being that his acting career was falling apart. In 1954 the General Electric Corporation was looking for a host for a new television series who could sell the products to build the company’s corporate image and visit G.E. plants to improve employee self-confidence by delivering inspirational speeches. In 1958 Nancy was in labor with a son who they named Ronald Prescott and Reagan was in relief that his wife survived. Reagan During those eight years of working for General Electric Company would be a very crucial part of his political development. To him it felt like a political campaign to him since he was meeting and shaking hands with these people but was very concerned with how these people felt. Many people were dissatisfied with the union, company and government. Eventually, however, his speeches became too controversial for the company’s taste, and he was fired as both spokesman and television host in 1962 (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica). He was more than ready to do something else with his life and felt that working for G.E. helped him sharpen his political philosophy.
In the year of 1962 Reagan changed his registration from democrat to republican and started to campaign actively for Richard Nixon delivering more than 200 speeches and a couple years later he was appointed state co-chairman of citizens for Goldwater- Miller. Shortly after in 1966 Ronald had the confidence to run for governor in California but had to go up against two- term, Democratic governor Edmud G. Brown of San Francisco who had plenty of experience. Brown wanted to go up against Reagan and leaked photos of the other republican opponent George Christopher that ended up backfiring on Brown. Christopher was angry he backed Reagan to unify the republicans. The Reagans heard the news of Ronnie’s victory over the radio on their way home from the Jorgensen’s’ to the Biltmore. In the end Reagan carried all three counties. The final tally: Reagan, 3,742,914; 2,749,174 (Bob Colacello 2004). Four years later he won a second term and became a successful governor that many liberal democrats didn’t expect but he showed compromise to the Republican Party. He made promises during his campaign that he would squeeze, cut, and trim the growth of state government. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to get much done during his first term but made sure to get things done during his second. Reagan knew his political problems would get better if he could get the tax increase approved by coming to terms with Unruh. His political skills improved and his administration was able to change the direction of the welfare policy through laws and regulations. During his two terms as governor (1967“1975), Reagan erased a substantial budget deficit inherited from the Brown administration (through the largest tax increase in the history of any state to that time) and instituted reforms in the state’s welfare programs (The Editors Encyclopedia Britannica). With all the risk he took to make the country a better one he would soon find himself interested in a presidency.
After leaving the governor’s office at the end of 1974, Reagan decided to write columns that appeared in 175 newspapers, recorded commentaries that aired on more than 200 radio stations and gave speeches. Fast-forward to the election of 1980, which was a big one for Reagan since he defeated Carter and John Anderson who both ran as independents. Ronald Reagan was elected the 40th president of the United States and inaugurated on January 21, 1981 and stated “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” There were many things he got done during his presidency such as advanced domestic policies that featured a reducing of federal government responsibility in solving social problems, reduced restrictions on businesses and implemented tax cuts also known as Reaganomics. Not only did he do all that but also during the cold war he challenged soviet Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall since it represented the repressive communist era. On November 9, 1989 East and West Germans broke down the wall, which meant an end to the Cold War. There was so much to admire about Reagan he had a funny personality and said what he felt no matter what others thought. A few years later after his presidency, Ronald Reagan developed Alzheimer’s disease and decided to breakaway from the public eye. Unfortunately Ronald Reagan passed away at the age of 93 at his home on June 5, 2004 in Bel-Air, California.
In conclusion Ronald Reagan was a man who was looked at as an American hero who was able to do so much in a short amount of time. He spoke his mind whenever he felt it was necessary. People were surprised that this man was able to accomplish a lot since they thought he was going to fail. Ronald Reagan once said, Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. This quote he stated is such an important part of history today especially with everything going on in the world. If people don’t change their ways and care about what’s more important for the future generation to come this country will fall apart. Reagan cared deeply for this country and fought for what he thought was right to help better this country and was by far one of the most influential presidents of all time.
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