Reagan has been called “an artist who refused to give up his skills” (Greyelin 447). Coming from a rough childhood filled with drinking and poverty, Ronald Wilson Reagan still found a way to change the face of the United States of America completely. Reagan’s life and presidency show the incredible achievements he made as an individual and the power of his actions. His new economic system produced one of the most successful and prosperous economies of all time. As well as an economic genius, Reagan was also a talented speaker. His intervention in conflicts, such as repairing relations with the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War, and improving the War on Drugs, proved how prominent Reagan was. Ronald Reagan was undoubtedly one of the most popular and respected presidents in the history of the United States.
Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois. His father, John Edward Reagan, was a shoe salesman and an alcoholic. As Ronald grew up he moved around frequently because of his father’s drinking problems. Eventually Reagan went to Eureka College and got a BA in economics and sociology. As he began his career, Ronald was a sportscaster for radio stations, but eventually found himself in California. He was able to get a job with Warner Bros. and acted in most movies as a character very similar to himself. Early on in his acting career Reagan was a spokesman for General Electric, which showed a “slight move towards Republicanism, through his support of large corporations” (Rossiter 1102). Reagan eventually became the president of the Screen Actors Guild, and this experience prompted him to develop an interest in politics.
Reagan began his political career as an active Democrat. He admired Franklin D. Roosevelt and supported other Democrats such as, Harry Truman. During the time of Harry Truman, “Reagan was a Democrat, with a hint of conservative” (Britannica). However as Reagan began to expand his horizons, he started moving towards the Republican side of the political spectrum more and more. Eventually Reagan became a true conservative with his support of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon in 1962. In 196a and 1968, Ronald Reagan ran for governor of California and won both. His “A Time for Choosing” speech ignited the country and proved his conservative views were very popular. The Washington Post thought that Reagan’s speech was “the most successful political debut since William Jennings Bryan electrified the 1896 Democratic convention with his ‘Cross of Gold’ speech” (Britannica).
Reagan decisively won the election and used taxes to severely decrease the deficit created by Brown, the previous governor. Reagan served two terms as governor, before moving up the political scale. Throughout his life, Ronald Reagan had held a lot of respect for Ford. However when Nixon left the Whitehouse, Reagan challenged Ford for the presidential nomination, but lost by 60 votes. In the presidential election of 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated Democrat Jimmy Carter 489-49; Reagan was 69 years old when he was elected president.
As the new president, Reagan started his career on a very memorable note. The public viewed Reagan as “a disarming image of sincerity, self-confidence, and friendliness” (Britannica). Reagan was clearly well respected and popular amongst the voters whom all found Reagan to be very appealing. Reagan entered office thinking “that the United States had grown weak militarily and had lost the respect it once commanded in world affairs” (Britannica). After he was inaugurated, Reagan announced that Iran had agreed to release American hostages, which Carter had failed to do, by using the United States’ powerful image and influence. On March 30, 1981, John W. Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate Ronald, but only shot him once in the chest. Before his surgery, Reagan was speaking with the surgeons, joking as usual, and said, “I hope you’re all Republicans” (Britannica). Reagan survived the surgery, and made appearances all over the country soon after in order to keep peace and tranquility.
Reagan is often given credit for ending the Cold War, something Americans were glad to escape. Martin Anderson, of the Kirkus Reviews wrote that, “Reagan played a decisive role in ending, if not winning, the Cold War” (68). As Reagan developed as a president, he used old techniques, which he employed during his two terms as governor. While Reagan focused on the important issues, his cabinet handled the smaller issues. This tactic allowed Reagan to work on the economy, major domestic issues, and foreign affairs thoroughly, in order to make better decisions for the country. This was shown when Reagan improved relations with the Soviet Union, and got Makaela Zirkhov to sign the INF Treaty, which reduced nuclear arsenals in Europe. The most remarkable part of this success was that “Reagan’s voice was the guiding intelligence behind his administration’s strategy for besting the Soviets” (Anderson 68).
Reagan showed characteristics of natural born leader. Reagan sent 800 Marines to Grenada in order to help ensure peace, but in a turn of events 241 Marines were killed by a car bomb. “Although later investigations blamed the Marine chain of command for poor security at the base and serious errors in judgment, Reagan decided to accept full blame for the tragedy himself” (Britannica). This tragedy showed how Reagan was willing to step up for the American people when they needed him to, even if it wasn’t his wrongdoing. During the Cold War talks with the USSR, “Reagan strove to right the economy, bolster the military, and push the idea of a Strategic Defense Initiative to persuade the Soviet Union that it could not possibly win an arms race with America” (Anderson 68). This dedication to America is something that few people have the courage to defend, especially against a super power like the Soviet Union. When Ronald introduced his economic plan, critics told him it was impossible. However this did not stop Reagan, he continued to develop his program until it was ready to be implemented.
Once the Cold War ended, Reagan was able to establish a stable economy. Reaganomics has become known as one of the most prosperous economies of all time. By using a “supply-side” program Reagan was able to establish low taxes because according to the program, as daily wages grew, the revenue from the low taxes would rise as well. This program worked because in order to raise demand, Reagan lowered the taxes in order to give people money to spend. However critics claimed this would cause inflation, but in order to get rid of inflation Reagan would raise the taxes. This shifted from one end to the other throughout his 8 years in office. Although the program started out with negative effects, Reagan was able to get the economy back to progression. Reagan was able to lower the inflation and unemployment rates significantly, putting the United States on a clear path to progress. Reagan believed that “with less government regulation and lower taxes, people would feel motivated to work hard and produce more goods” (Cook 1117). Reagan believed in the people to bring the nation back to greatness, he didn’t rely solely on government to solve America’s problems.
Critics of Reagan often point out that his economic programs typically benefited the rich and made the gap between rich and poor larger. However many of Reagan’s supporters use unemployment rates as a tool to show that by giving money to the rich, more jobs are created for the poor. This has become known as the “trickle-down-effect,” and Reagan’s use of it was very successful for the country. However Reagan’s cuts to programs, such as Medicaid and AFDC, led to extremely harsh conditions for the poor. Reagan called these cutes “the removal of waste, fraud, and abuse” (Cook 1117). Critics immediately saw this as Reagan’s attack on the poor. However when Reagan signed the Economy Recovery Tax Act of 1981, he promised “that his proposed tax cuts in federal spending would be fair and that the government wouldn’t stop helping people in need” (Cook 1117). Reagan’s statement showed that he was keeping the poor in mind when he was signing bills. Another flaw critics found was the debt accumulated from Reaganomics. Although the people were making money from Reagan’s economy, the government deficit grew to $4 trillion. The biggest criticism of Reagan was the problems associated with the Iran-Contra Conflict, where Reagan tried to deal with terrorists to get American hostages freed.
Reagan ended his second term in 1988 and fully supported his vice president, George Bush. With Reagan’s support, Bush easily beat his Democratic opponent. The Times wrote that Bush won the election “because of Reagan’s popularity among the United States,” showing how influential Reagan still was (Britannica). As Reagan grew older, he began to become slower than normal. After Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, his popularity did not die down. The public saw Reagan as a hero. Overall Ronald Reagan was one of the most popular and influential presidents in the history of the United States. Reagan will always be known as “the man who helped ‘win’ the Cold War and restored the country’s confidence in itself and a better tomorrow” (Britannica).