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Ronald Reagan

For the Navy ship named in honor of the person, please see USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).

Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6 1911June 5 2004) was the 40th (19811989) President of the United States (the 39th person to hold the office) and the 33rd (19671975) Governor of California. Reagan was also a broadcaster, actor, and head of the Screen Actor's Guild before entering politics.

Reagan lived to the age of 93.


Early life and career

Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, the second of two sons to John "Jack" Reagan and Nelle Wilson. One of his four great-grandfathers had immigrated to the United States from Ballyporeen, Ireland in the 1860s. Prior to his grandfather's emigration, the family name had been spelled Regan.

In 1920, after years of moving from town to town, the family settled in Dixon, Illinois. In 1921, at the age of 10, Reagan was baptized in his mother's Disciples of Christ church in Dixon, and in 1924 he began attending Dixon's Northside High School. Reagan always considered Dixon to be his home-town.

Ronald and his older brother Neil, with parents Jack and Nelle Reagan. (c. 1916-17)
Ronald and his older brother Neil, with parents Jack and Nelle Reagan. (c. 1916-17)

In 1927, at age 16, Reagan took a summer job as a lifeguard in Lowell Park, two miles away from Dixon on the nearby Rock River. He continued to work as a lifeguard for the next seven years, reportedly saving 77 people from drowning. Reagan would later joke that none of them ever thanked him.

In 1928, Reagan entered Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, majoring in economics and sociology and graduating in 1932. In 1929 Ronald Reagan joined Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity which according to him was one of the greatest experiences he had during his college years. He earned excellent grades and made many lasting friendships. Reagan developed an early gift for storytelling and acting. He was a radio announcer of Chicago Cubs baseball games, getting only the bare outlines of the game from a ticker and relying on his imagination and storytelling gifts to flesh out the game. Once in 1934, during the ninth inning of a Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals game, the wire went dead. Reagan smoothly improvised a fictional play-by-play (in which hitters on both teams fouled off pitches) until the wire was restored.


Reagan had a successful career in Hollywood as a leading man, aided by his clear voice and athletic physique. His first screen credit was the starring role in the 1937 movie Love Is On the Air . By the end of 1939, he had appeared in 19 films. In 1940 he played the role of George "The Gipper" Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American, from which he acquired the nickname the Gipper, which he retained the rest of his life. Reagan himself considered his best acting work to have been in Kings Row (1942). He played the part of a young man whose legs were amputated. He used a line he spoke in this film, "Where's the rest of me?" as the title for his autobiography. Other notable Reagan films include Hellcats of the Navy, This Is the Army, and Bedtime for Bonzo. Reagan was kidded widely about the last named film because his co-star was a chimpanzee. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6374 Hollywood Blvd.

Nancy and Ronald Reagan married in 1952. Nancy Reagan became a powerful background figure in Ronald Reagan's rise and roles as governor and president.
Nancy and Ronald Reagan married in 1952. Nancy Reagan became a powerful background figure in Ronald Reagan's rise and roles as governor and president.

Reagan was commissioned as a reserve cavalry officer in the U.S. Army in 1935. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he was activated and assigned, partially due to his poor eyesight, to the First Motion Picture Unit in the United States Army Air Force, which made training and education films. He remained in Hollywood for the duration of the war, and he attained the rank of captain. Reagan tried repeatedly to go overseas for combat duty, but was turned down because of his astigmatism.

Reagan married actress Jane Wyman in 1940. They had a daughter, Maureen in 1941 and adopted a son, Michael in 1945. Their second daughter, Christine, was born four months prematurely in 1947 and lived only one day. They divorced in 1948. Reagan remarried in 1952 to actress Nancy Davis. Their daughter Patti was born on October 21 of the same year. In 1958 they had a second child, Ron. Reagan was a loving and devoted husband. One of the most touching speeches he ever made as president was a tribute to his wife.[1]

As Reagan's film roles became fewer in the late 1950s, he moved into television as a host and frequent performer for General Electric Theater. Reagan appeared in many live television plays and often co-starred with Nancy. Reagan became head of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). In 1952, a Hollywood scandal raged over his granting of a SAG blanket waiver to MCA, which allowed it to both represent and employ talent for its burgeoning TV franchises. He went from host and program supervisor of General Electric Theater to actually producing and claiming an equity stake in the TV show itself. At one point in the late 1950s, Reagan was earning approximately $125,000 per year. His final regular acting job was as host and performer on Death Valley Days. Reagan's final big-screen appearance came in the 1964 film The Killers, in which, uncharacteristically, he played a mob chieftain. This film was a remake of an earlier version based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway. Reagan's co-stars were John Cassavetes and Lee Marvin.

Early political career

Ronald Reagan began his political life as a Democrat, supporting Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal. He gradually became a staunch social and fiscal conservative. He embarked upon the path that led him to a career in politics during his tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947 until 1952, and then again from 1959 to 1960. In this position, he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee on Communist influence in Hollywood. He also kept tabs on actors he considered "disloyal" and informed on them to the FBI under the code name "Agent T-10," but he would not denounce them publicly. He supported the practice of blacklisting in Hollywood. Concluding that the Republican Party was better able to combat communism, Reagan gradually abandoned his left-of-center political views, supporting the presidential candidacies of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 and Richard Nixon in 1960—all while Reagan was still a Democrat.

His employment by the General Electric company further enhanced his political image. By the 1964 election, Reagan was an outspoken supporter of conservative Republican Barry Goldwater. His nationally televised speech "A Time for Choosing" electrified conservatives and led to his being asked to run for Governor of California. To this day, this speech is considered one of the most stirring ever made on behalf of a candidate. Soon after, several top Republican contributors visited Reagan at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, urging him to seek the governorship in 1966. Though these requests were initially "laughed off" by Reagan, he says in his autobiography, he eventually gave in, after countless sleepless nights.


In 1966, he was elected the 33rd Governor of California, defeating two-term incumbent Pat Brown; he was re-elected in 1970, defeating Jesse Unruh, but chose not to seek a third term. During the People's Park protests, he sent 2,200 National Guard troops into the Berkeley campus of the University of California. Reagan made it clear that the policies of his administration would not be influenced by the student agitators nor their actions tolerated, even "if it takes a bloodbath." When the kidnappers of Patty Hearst demanded the distribution of food to the poor, Reagan suggested it would be a good time for an outbreak of botulism.

During his first term, he froze government hiring, but also approved tax hikes to balance the budget. One of Reagan's greatest frustrations in office concerned the death penalty. He had gone on record as a strong supporter. However, his efforts to enforce the state's death penalty law were thwarted when the Supreme Court of California issued its People v. Anderson decision, which invalidated all death sentences passed in California prior to 1972. Although the decision was quickly overturned by a constitutional amendment, there would not be another execution in California until 1992.

During his governorship, Reagan actively dismantled the public psychiatric hospital system, proposing that a community-based housing and treatment system replace it. According to some Reagan critics, the first objective was effectively accomplished, but the community replacement facilities were never adequately funded, either by Reagan or by his successors. Also, a statewide teachers strike started in Los Angeles due to disagreements with Reagan's cost-cutting plans.

Presidential campaigns

Reagan's first attempt to gain the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 was unsuccessful. He tried again in 1976 against the incumbent Gerald Ford, but was narrowly defeated at the Republican Convention. He finally succeeded in gaining the Republican nomination in 1980. The campaign, led by William J. Casey, was conducted in the shadow of the Iran hostage crisis; some analysts believe President Jimmy Carter's inability to solve the hostage crisis played a large role to Reagan's victory against him in the 1980 election. Other issues in the campaign included inflation, lackluster economic growth, instability in the petroleum market leading to a return of gas lines , and the perceived weakness of the U.S. national defense.

Reagan's showing in the televised debates boosted his campaign. He seemed more at ease, almost making fun of the president with remarks like "There you go again," though these did not need to be factual rebuttals to be effective. Perhaps his most influential remark was a closing question to the audience, during a time of skyrocketing global oil prices and highly unpopular Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Reagan's victory was accompanied by an 12-seat change in the Senate from Democratic to Republican hands, giving the Republicans a majority in the Senate for the first time in 28 years. Upon his election, Reagan became the oldest president to enter office, at almost 70 years of age.

In the 1984 presidential election, he was re-elected in a landslide over Carter's Vice President Walter Mondale, winning 49 of 50 states and receiving nearly 60 percent of the popular vote. At the Democratic National Convention, Mondale accepted the party nomination with a speech that is believed to have constituted a self-inflicted mortal wound. In it he remarked "Reagan will raise taxes, I will raise taxes. Reagan won't tell you this, I just did."[2] Reagan accepted the Republican nomination in Dallas, Texas, on a wave of good feeling bolstered by the recovering economy and the dominating performance by the U.S. athletes at the Los Angeles Olympics. Despite a weak performance in the first debate, Reagan recovered in the second and was considerably ahead of Mondale in polls taken throughout much of the race. Reagan's landslide win in the 1984 presidential election is often attributed by political commentators to be a result of his conversion of the so-called "Reagan Democrats," the traditionally Democratic voters who voted for Reagan in that election.


Main article: Reagan Administration

Domestic record

Chaos outside the Washington Hilton Hotel after the assassination attempt on President Reagan.
Chaos outside the Washington Hilton Hotel after the assassination attempt on President Reagan.

Ronald Reagan portrayed himself as being conservative, anti-communist, in favor of tax cuts and smaller government. Reagan also liked to think of himself and was thought of by many others as being supportive of business interests and tough on crime.

Reagan's first official act upon taking the presidency was to remove the solar water heating panels [3] on the roof of the White House which had been placed there in the Carter administration. Perhaps the high point of the Reagan presidency's first 100 days was the freeing of American hostages in Tehran at the conclusion of the Iran hostage crisis, within minutes of his inauguration.

While leaving the Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC on March 30, 1981, Reagan, his Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and District of Columbia police officer Thomas Delanty were shot by John Hinckley, Jr.. Reagan turned what could have been a low point in his first 100 days into another high point by remarking "I hope you're all Republicans," to his surgeons and "Honey, I forgot to duck" to his wife.[4] Reagan also said that he forgave Hinckley and hoped he asked God's forgiveness as well.

Vice President Bush, right, meets with President Reagan, left, in 1984.
Vice President Bush, right, meets with President Reagan, left, in 1984.

In the summer of 1981 Reagan fired a majority of the nation's air traffic controllers when they went on strike. This action proved to be a political coup for Reagan as the public came to perceive the strikers as greedy and unconcerned with public safety. Not only did this set limits for public employee unions, but also signaled that it was acceptable for businesses to play hardball with unions.

A large focus of Reagan's first term was reviving the stagflation-troubled economy his administration inherited. His administration sought to fight the high inflation recession with large across-the-board tax cuts, controversially combined with reductions in social welfare spending. Reagan's fiscal theories were variously referred to as "Reaganomics", "Trickle-down economics", and "Voodoo Economics". (This final epithet was used by George H. W. Bush in the U.S. Presidential election of 1980. Once Bush was offered the position of Vice President of the United States, he immediately halted its use.) The end result was that public spending as a percentage of the national income, steadily growing in the pre-Reagan era, now folded to a steady level that has fluctuated ever since.[5] Also, in order to achieve increases in military spending to fight the Cold War, the administration had to allow increases in spending on social programs, resulting in record deficit spending and a tripling of the national debt by the end of his second term. At the same time, inflation which had been 13 percent in 1979 came down to under 4 percent in 1982. Unemployment also dropped from 7.5 percent in the year that Reagan took office to 5.2 percent in the year that he left. Proponents often note that Reagan used his veto on public spending projects 78 times in all.

A renewal of the "war on drugs" was also declared during his presidency, spearheaded by Nancy Reagan's high-profile "Just Say No" series of messages.

President Reagan was criticized by the gay rights movement and others for not responding quickly enough to the HIV-AIDS epidemic. The first official mention of the disease in the White House was on October 15, 1982 when Reagan's press secretary Larry Speakes, in response to a reporter's inquiry about "the gay plague," said "I don't have it, do you?" to general laughter. (AIDS was just beginning to be understood at this time. The term AIDS had been coined that year--hence the reporter calling it "the gay plague," and HIV, the virus which causes the disease, was not identified until 1983.)

Reagan made the abolition of communism and the implementation of supply-side economics the primary focuses of his presidency, but he also took a strong stand against abortion. He published the book Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, which decried what Reagan saw as a disrespect for life, promoted by the practice of abortion. Many conservative activists refer to Reagan as the most pro-life president in history (however, two of his three Supreme Court picks, Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, voted to uphold Roe v. Wade, to Reagan's disappointment).

Although Reagan's second term was mostly noteworthy for matters related to foreign affairs, his administration supported significant pieces of legislation on domestic matters, including an overhaul of the Internal Revenue Code in 1986, as well as the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which compensated victims of the Japanese American Internment during World War II. Reagan also signed legislation authorizing the death penalty for offenses involving murder in the context of large-scale drug trafficking; wholesale reinstatement of the federal death penalty would not occur until the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Foreign policy and interventions

Reagan forcefully confronted the Soviet Union, marking a sharp departure from the détente observed by his predecessors Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. Sensing that planned economies could not compete against market economies in a renewed arms race, he made the Cold War economically and rhetorically hot. The administration oversaw a massive military build-up that represented a policy of "Peace through strength." The Reagan administration set a new policy toward the Soviet Union with the goal to win the Cold War through a three-pronged strategy outlined in NSDD-32 (National Security Decisions Directive). The directive outlined Reagan's plan to confront the Soviet Union on three fronts: 1. Economic - decrease Soviet access to high technology and diminish their resources, including depressing the value of Soviet commodities on the world market 2. Military - increase American defense expenditures to strengthen the US negotiating position and force the Soviets to devote more of their economic resources to defense, 3. Clandestine - support anti-Soviet factions around the world from Afghanistan resistenace fighters in his early years to Solidarity later in his presidency. Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher said, "Ronald Reagan won the cold war without firing a shot."

Others argued, however, that the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union was due more to internal separatist problems, an inherent weakness in communist economic theory, and the depressed global price of crude oil, on which the Soviet economy during those years depended heavily. Lech Walesa, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II also played significant roles in the Soviet collapse.

President Reagan and at .
President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher at Camp David.

Among European leaders, his main ally and undoubtedly his closest friend was Thatcher, who as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom supported Reagan's policies of deterrence against the Soviets.

Reagan, left, in one-on-one discussions with , the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR from 1985 to 1991.
Reagan, left, in one-on-one discussions with Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR from 1985 to 1991.

Although the administration negotiated arms-reduction treaties such as the INF Treaty and START Treaty with the USSR, it also aimed to increase strategic defense. A controversial plan, named the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), was proposed to deploy a space-based defense system that was supposed to make the U.S. invulnerable to nuclear weapon missile attack. Critics dubbed the proposal "Star Wars" and argued that SDI was unrealistic and would likely inflame the Arms Race. Supporters responded that even the threat of SDI forced the Soviets into unsustainable spending to keep up. In fact, the Soviets did not attempt to follow suit with their own program, but instead followed a program of arms reduction treaties. The technology required to implement SDI is still being researched in the United States, but remains elusive.

Support for anti-communist groups including armed insurgencies against communist governments was also a part of administration policy, referred to by his supporters as the Reagan Doctrine. Following this policy, the administration funded "freedom fighters" such as the mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Contras in Nicaragua, and Jonas Savimbi's rebel forces in Angola. The administration also helped fund central European anti-communist groups such as the Polish Solidarity movement and took a hard line against the Communist regime in Cambodia. Covert funding of the Contras in Nicaragua would lead to the Iran Contra Affair, while overt support led to a World Court ruling against the United States in Nicaragua v. United States.

The administration considered groups resisting Israeli occupations, such as Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Palestinian guerrillas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and left-wing guerrillas fighting US-backed right-wing military dictatorships in Honduras and El Salvador to be terrorists. The Reagan administration also considered guerrillas of the ANC's armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK or Spear of the Nation) and other anti-apartheid militants (e.g. the PAC) fighting the apartheid government in South Africa to be terrorists.

U.S. involvement in Lebanon followed a limited term United Nations mandate for a Multinational Force. A force of 800 U.S. Marines was sent to Beirut to evacuate PLO forces. The September 16, 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Beirut (see Sabra and Shatila Massacre) prompted Reagan to form a new multinational force. Intense administration diplomatic efforts resulted in a peace agreement between Lebanon and Israel. U.S. forces were withdrawn shortly after the October 23, 1983 bombing of a barracks in which 241 Marines were killed. Reagan called this day the saddest day of his life and of his presidency.

A communist coup on the small island nation of Grenada in 1983 led the administration to develop an invasion plan to restore the former government. The resulting Operation Urgent Fury was successful.

Initially neutral, the administration increasingly became involved in the Iran-Iraq War. At various times, the administration supported both nations, but mainly sided with Iraq, believing that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was less dangerous than Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The American fear was that an Iranian victory would embolden Islamic fundamentalists in other Arab states, perhaps leading to the overthrow of secular governments in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait. After initial Iraqi military victories were reversed and an Iranian victory appeared possible in 1982, the American government initiated Operation Staunch to attempt to cut off the Iranian regime's access to weapons (notwithstanding their later shipment of weapons to Iran in the Iran-Contra Affair). The United States also provided intelligence information and financial assistance to the Iraqi military regime. The Administration also allowed the shipment of some chemical, biological and "dual use" materials, which Iraq claimed were required for agriculture, medical research, and other civilian purposes, but which were diverted to use in Saddam's weapons of mass destruction programs[6], although most Iraqi weaponry was supplied by Germany, Britain, France and the USSR.

Concurrent with the support of Iraq, the Administration also engaged in covert arms sales to Iran in order to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The resulting Iran-Contra Affair became a scandal. Reagan professed ignorance of the plot's existence and quickly called for an Independent Counsel to investigate the scandal. The President was eventually found to be culpable of lax control over his own staff. A significant number of officials in the Reagan Administration were either convicted or forced to resign as a result of the scandal.

In 1985, on an official visit to West Germany, Reagan laid a wreath at a cemetery where approximately 50 SS soldiers were buried along with many German regular army veterans of both World Wars. This visit incited a great deal of controversy; see Bitburg for more details concerning the visit.

"The Great Communicator"

Reagan was dubbed "The Great Communicator" for his ability to express ideas and emotions in an almost personal manner, even when making a formal address. He honed these skills as an actor, live television and radio host, and politician, and as president hired skilled speechwriters who could capture his folksy charm.

Reagan's style varied. Especially in his first term, he used strong, even bombastic language to condemn the Soviet Union and communism.

But he could also evoke lofty ideals and a vision of the United States as a defender of liberty. His October 27, 1964 speech entitled "A Time for Choosing" introduced the phrase "rendezvous with destiny" to popular culture.[7] Other speeches recalled America as the "shining city on a hill", "big-hearted, idealistic, daring, decent, and fair," whose citizens had the "right to dream heroic dreams." [8][9]

On January 28, 1986, after the Challenger accident, he postponed his State of the Union address and addressed the nation on the disaster. In a speech written by Peggy Noonan he said, "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'" [10] (The quote within Reagan's quote is from the poem "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee .)

It was perhaps Reagan's humor, especially his one-liners, that disarmed his opponents and endeared him to audiences the most. Discussion of his advanced age led him to quip in his first debate against Walter Mondale during the 1984 campaign, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." On his career he joked "Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book."

Both opponents and supporters noted his "sunny optimism", which was welcomed by many in comparison to his often smiling, but somewhat dour and serious, immediate Presidential predecessor.

"The Great Prevaricator" and other criticisms

A frequent objection by his critics, however, was that his personal charm also permitted him to say nearly anything and yet prevail, a quality that earned him the nickname "the Teflon president" (i.e., to whom nothing sticks). His denial of awareness of the Iran-Contra illegalities was belied by quotations in now-archived notes by his defense secretary, Casper Weinberger, that he (Reagan) could survive violating the law or Constitution, but not the negative public image that "big, strong Ronald Reagan passed up a chance to get the hostages free." However, in the almost twenty years since Iran Contra, no "smoking gun" has yet been revealed to show that he in fact did know about trading arms for hostages. Reagan era papers were originally scheduled to be released starting in 2000, but President George W. Bush enacted a rule change to allow these to be withheld indefinitely. Reagan was also faulted for considering Nelson Mandela a terrorist and for fiscal and tax policies said to have increased social inequality.

Christian faith

Reagan had a strong Christian faith from his childhood, and frequently addressed Christian groups. He argued that communism's enforced atheism was one of its worst features.

In a March 1978 letter to a liberal Methodist minister who was skeptical about Christ's divinity—and accused Reagan of a "limited Sunday school level theology"—Reagan argued strongly for Christ's divinity:

Perhaps it is true that Jesus never used the word "Messiah" with regard to himself (although I'm not sure that he didn't) but in John 1, 10 and 14 he identifies himself pretty definitely and more than once. Is there really any ambiguity in his words: "I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me?"… In John 10 he says, "I am in the Father and the Father in me." And he makes reference to being with God, "before the world was," and sitting on the "right hand of God."…
These and other statements he made about himself, foreclose in my opinion, any question as to his divinity. It doesn't seem to me that he gave us any choice; either he was what he said he was or he was the world's greatest liar."
It is impossible for me to believe a liar or charlatan could have had the effect on mankind that he has had for 2000 years. We could ask, would even the greatest of liars carry his lie through the crucifixion, when a simple confession would have saved him? … Did he allow us the choice you say that you and others have made, to believe in his teachings but reject his statements about his own identity?"

This was similar to the "Trilemma" argument of C.S. Lewis.



President Reagan, with his Cabinet and staff, in the Oval Office (Feb. 4, 1981)
President Reagan, with his Cabinet and staff, in the Oval Office (Feb. 4, 1981)
President Ronald Reagan 1981–1989
Vice President George H. W. Bush 1981–1989
State Alexander M. Haig 1981–1982
  George P. Shultz 1982–1989
Treasury Donald Regan 1981–1985
  James A. Baker III 1985–1988
  Nicholas F. Brady 1988–1989
Defense Casper Weinberger 1981–1987
  Frank C. Carlucci 1987–1989
Justice William F. Smith 1981–1985
  Edwin A. Meese III 1985–1988
  Richard L. Thornburgh 1988–1989
Interior James G. Watt 1981–1983
  William P. Clark, Jr. 1983–1985
  Donald P. Hodel 1985–1989
Commerce Malcolm Baldrige 1981–1987
  C. William Verity, Jr. 1987–1989
Labor Raymond J. Donovan 1981–1985
  William E. Brock 1985–1987
  Ann Dore McLaughlin 1987–1989
Agriculture John Block 1981–1986
  Richard E. Lyng 1986–1989
HHS Richard S. Schweiker 1981–1983
  Margaret Heckler 1983–1985
  Otis R. Bowen 1985–1989
Education Terrell H. Bell 1981–1984
  William J. Bennett 1985–1988
  Lauro F. Cavazos 1988–1989
HUD Samuel R. Pierce, Jr. 1981–1989
Transportation Drew Lewis 1981–1982
  Elizabeth Hanford Dole 1983–1987
  James H. Burnley IV 1987–1989
Energy James B. Edwards 1981–1982
  Donald P. Hodel 1982–1985
  John S. Herrington 1985–1989

Supreme Court appointments

Reagan appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

Major legislation approved

Legacy and retirement from public life

On January 11 1989, Ronald Reagan addressed the nation one last time on television from the Oval Office of the White House, nine days before handing over the presidency to George H. W. Bush. After the inauguration, Reagan returned to California, to write his autobiography, ride his horses, and chop wood on his ranch, and to a new house in Bel-Air. As of 2005, Reagan is one of only three presidents to serve two full terms since the adoption of the 22nd Amendment in 1951 (The others are Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton).

In fall, Fujisankei Communications Group of Japan hired him to make two speeches and attend some ceremonies. Reagan's weekly fee was about two million dollars, more than he had earned during eight years as president. Reagan made occasional appearances on behalf of the Republican party, including a well-received speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention.

(Left to right:) Presidents , , , Ronald Reagan, and at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library.
(Left to right:) Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library.
Five and attended the funeral of on , , in Nixon's hometown of , . From left: and , and , Ronald and , and , and .
Five presidents and first ladies attended the funeral of Richard Nixon on April 27, 1994, in Nixon's hometown of Yorba Linda, California. From left: Bill and Hillary Clinton, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Gerald and Betty Ford.

In 1994, Reagan was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He informed the nation of his condition on November 5 1994 with a hand-written letter, which displayed his trademark optimism, stating in conclusion: "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." As the years went on, the disease slowly destroyed his mental capacity, forcing him to live in quiet isolation.

On February 6, 1998, Washington National Airport was renamed Ronald Reagan National Airport by a bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Three years later, on March 4 2001, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was christened by the Navy. It is one of few ships christened in honor of a living person and the first to be named in honor of a living former president. Many other highways, schools and institutions were also named after Reagan in the years after his retirement and death. (See List of things named after Ronald Reagan).

Reagan's health was further destabilized by a fall in 2001, which shattered part of his hip and rendered him virtually immobile. By 2004, Reagan had begun to enter the final stage of Alzheimer's. It is frequently reported that Secret Service agents had to inform Reagan every morning that he was once the president.

Job approval rating

According to ABC News by date:

Time Approval Disapproval Event
April 22, 1981 73% 19 Shot by Hinckley
January 22, 1983 42 54 High unemployment
April 26, 1986 70 26 Libya bombing
February 26, 1987 44 51 Iran-Contra
Career average 57 39 Presidency of Ronald Reagan
July 30, 2001 66 27 (retrospective)

Upon leaving office in 1989, Reagan had an astronomical end-of-presidency job approval rating of 64 percent. This would not be matched until 2001, when Clinton left office with 65 percent job approval.

Death, funeral, and tributes afterward

Main article: Death and state funeral of Ronald Reagan

On the morning of Saturday, June 5 2004, initial reports indicated that Reagan's health had significantly deteriorated, and that his death would likely come in weeks or months. However, as the day progressed, it became clear that Reagan would pass away before week's end. Within hours, Reagan died at his home in Bel Air, California at the age of 93. He died of pneumonia.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said, "I take the death of Ronald Reagan very hard. He was a man whom fate set by me in perhaps the most difficult years at the end of the 20th century. He has already entered history as a man who was instrumental in bringing about the end of the Cold War.... It was his goal and his dream to end his term and enter history as a peacemaker."[11]

Not all the world's tributes and editorials were adulatory, however. The news of Reagan's passing sparked mixed reactions in the Latin American press, with some outlets editorializing against Reagan's policies.

Reagan was given a full presidential state funeral that began on June 9, the first since Lyndon Johnson in 1973. Vice President Dick Cheney presided over the state funeral because President George W. Bush was in Sea Island, Georgia, hosting the G-8 Summit.

Both the final funeral and the burial services were completed on June 11, though they took place on opposite sides of the country. The funeral was held at the National Cathedral (in Washington, D.C.), and included eulogies by former British Prime Minister Lady Thatcher, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, former president George H. W. Bush, who turned 80 the following day, and his son, the current President Bush. For Mulroney, his eulogy was his second tribute to Reagan that day. Just before the funeral, he appeared on "CBC News: Morning," the CBC's morning news program, and shared his thoughts about Reagan in an interview he gave with one of the program's anchors, the network's senior correspondent, Alison Smith. [12]

Reagan was buried that evening at his presidential library in California. The service included eulogies from his three surviving children. Reagan's eldest son, Michael paid tribute to his father again later in 2004 at the Republican National Convention.

On February 9, 2005, in keeping with a tradition of honoring deceased presidents in the year following their deaths, the United States Post Office released a stamp to commemorate Reagan.

Reagan holds the record as the longest lived U.S. president, at 93 years and 120 days. Since Reagan's death, Gerald Ford is now the oldest surviving president at 91, and if he lives until November 11, 2006, he will hold the new record. Reagan also holds the record as the oldest-elected president at 69 and oldest president to serve at 77.

See also

Further reading

  • Reed Brody . Contra Terror in Nicaragua. South End Press. 1985. ISBN 0896083136.
  • Dinesh D'Souza. Ronald Reagan: How An Ordinary Man Became An Extraordinary Leader. Free Press. 1999. ISBN 0684848236
  • Curt Gentry . Last Days of the Late Great State of California, (political history of the gubernatorial period).
  • Edmund Morris. Dutch, the "authorized" biography which became controversial over a number of acknowledged fictitious interpolations by the author
  • Frances Fitzgerald . Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War. Touchstone. (political history of Reagan's S.D.I.) 2000. ISBN 0684844168.
  • Lou Cannon . President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime Public Affairs. ISBN 1891620916
  • Lou Cannon . Governor Reagan: His Rise To Power Public Affairs. ISBN 1586480308
  • Lou Cannon . Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio. Public Affairs. ISBN 1891620843
  • Michael Deaver and Mickey Herskowitz . Behind the Scenes. William Morrow. 1987.
  • Elizabeth Drew . Campaign Journal: The Political Events of 1981-1984. Macmillan. 1985.
  • Marlin FitzWater . Call the Briefing! Bush and Reagan, Sam and Helen, a Decade with Presidents and the Press. Times Books 1995.
  • Jack W. Germond and Jules Whitcover . Blue Smoke & Mirrors: How Reagan Won & Why Carter Lost the Election of 1980. Viking Press. 1981.
  • Peter Schweizer. Victory: The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Atlantic Monthly Press. 1996. ISBN 0871136333
  • Gary Sick. October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan. New York: Random House. 1992.
  • Alan Moore Bill Sienkiewicz, Martha Honey , Tony Avirgan . Brought to Light: Shadowplay : The Secret Team/Flashpoint: The LA Penca Bombing (Two Books in One) ISBN 091303567X
  • Marc Green and Gail MacColl. Reagan's Reign of Error ISBN 0-394-75644-4 (a compendium of reversals and inaccuracies). 1983, 1987.
  • Paul Kengor. God and Ronald Reagan : A Spiritual Life Regan Books, 2004. ISBN: 0060571411.

External links

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|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Gerald Ford | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Republican Party Presidential candidate
1980 (won), 1984 (won) | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
George H. W. Bush

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Jimmy Carter | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |President of the United States
January 20, 1981January 20, 1989 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
George H. W. Bush

Last updated: 10-21-2005 03:24:39
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