Ronald Reagan February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004
was an American politician who served as the 40th
president of the United States from 1981 to 1989.
Prior to his presidency, he was a Hollywood actor
and union leader before serving as the 33rd
governor of California from 1967 to 1975.
Reagan was raised in a poor family in small towns
of northern Illinois. He graduated from Eureka
College in 1932 and worked as a sports announcer
on several regional radio stations. After moving
to California in 1937, he found work as an actor
and starred in a few major productions. Reagan was
twice elected President of the Screen Actors Guild
—the labor union for actors—where he worked to root
out Communist influence. In the 1950s, he moved
into television and was a motivational speaker at
General Electric factories. Reagan had been a
Democrat until 1962, when he became a conservative
and switched to the Republican Party. In 1964,
Reagan's speech, "A Time for Choosing", supported
Barry Goldwater's foundering presidential campaign
and earned him national attention as a new
conservative spokesman. Building a network of
supporters, he was elected governor of California
in 1966. As governor, Reagan raised taxes, turned
a state budget deficit to a surplus, challenged the
protesters at the University of California, ordered
in National Guard troops during a period of protest
movements in 1969, and was re-elected in 1970.
He twice ran unsuccessfully for the Republican
presidential nomination, in 1968 and 1976. Four
years later in 1980, he won the nomination and
then defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter.
At 69 years, 349 days of age at the time of his
first inauguration, Reagan was the oldest person
to have been elected to a first-term, until Donald
Trump (aged 70 years, 220 days) in 2017. Reagan is
still, however, the oldest president elected, at
73 years, 349 days of age at his second inauguration.
Reagan faced former vice president Walter Mondale
when he ran for re-election in 1984, and defeated
him, winning the most electoral votes of any U.S.
president, 525, or 97.6% of the 538 votes in the
Electoral College. This was the second-most lopsided
presidential election in modern U.S. history after
Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1936 victory over Alfred M.
Landon, in which he won 98.5% or 523 of the
(then-total) 531 electoral votes.
Soon after taking office, Reagan began implementing
sweeping new political and economic initiatives. His
supply-side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics",
advocated tax rate reduction to spur economic growth,
economic deregulation, and reduction in government
spending. In his first term he survived an
assassination attempt, spurred the War on Drugs, and
fought public sector labor. Over his two terms, the
economy saw a reduction of inflation from 12.5% to
4.4%, and an average annual growth of real GDP of
Reagan began his presidency during the decline of the
Soviet Union, and the Berlin Wall fell just ten months
after the end of his term. Germany reunified the
following year, and on December 26, 1991 (nearly
three years after he left office), the Soviet Union
When Reagan left office in 1989, he held an approval
rating of 68%, matching those of Franklin D. Roosevelt,
and later Bill Clinton, as the highest ratings for
departing presidents in the modern era.
He was the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower
to serve two full terms, after a succession of five
prior presidents did not. Although he had planned an
active post-presidency, Reagan disclosed in November
1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's
disease earlier that year. Afterward, his informal
public appearances became more infrequent as the
disease progressed. He died at home on June 5, 2004.
His tenure constituted a realignment toward conservative
policies in the United States, and he is an icon among
conservatives. Evaluations of his presidency among
historians and the general public place him among the
upper tier of American presidents.
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