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The Biography of Ronald Reagan

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Early Life

Ronald Reagan was born on the 6th of February 1911, in an apartment on the second floor of a commercial building in Tampico, Illinois. His father was a man named Jack Reagan and the mother of Reagan was Nelle Clyde. Reagan was the youngest son of the two. His father was a salesman and a storyteller. Reagan was bestowed the nickname Dutch because according to his father he had a “Fat Little Dutchman” appearance. His family was Christian, a religion that Ronald Reagan would follow for the rest of his lifetime. Due to Jack Reagan’s belief in Christianity he did not endorse groups such as the KKK because their actions clashed with his Catholic views and beliefs. Ronald Reagan’s beliefs closely aligned with his father’s and he continued to be a devoted Christian. (wikipedia, 2019)

Formal Education

Ronald Reagan attended Dixon High School. He was very active in sports, storytelling, and acting clubs. While he was doing high school he got his first job as a life guard and preformed 77 rescues during his employment (wikipedia, 2019). Ronald Reagan stated that even though his family was not living in comfortable conditions it was the happiest time of his life (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019). After graduating from Dixon High School he attended Eureka College in Illinois. He soon became a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, a cheerleading group, and studied economics and sociology. While he was still part of the Miller Center of public affairs he acquired a reputation of being a “Jack of All Trades”. He was also a member of the football team and the captain of the swimming team. He was also heavily involved in the politics of his university and even led a student revolt against the college president after threatening to lessen faculty. (wikipedia, 2019)

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Pre-Presidential Jobs

After graduating from Eureka University he drove to become a radio commentator for the Chicago Cub baseball team in 1932. He was chosen for this role because of the way he quickly and simply described the events of the game while they were happening. In 1937 while he went to California with the Cubs he decided to take a screen test at the Warner Bros studios. He continued acting until the US entered the Second World War. Reagan enlisted into the Army’s Enlisted Reserves and was commission as second lieutenant in the Officers’ Reserve Corps of the Cavalry on May 25, 1937. He started to create training films and by the end of his service he and his unit made 400 training films. After his service he became a secrete FBI informer in Hollywood in the late 1940s. During the rise of the cold war he was assigned with the task of determining who communist sympathizers were and who was not. Even though Reagan had his reservations he continued with his task. But in the 1950s he was hired as the host of General Electric Theatre and he was making a fortune. The show was very popular and it resulted in his name becoming a household name. (wikipedia, 2019)

Entrance into Politics

At the beginning of his political career he entered as a “Hollywood Democrat” and was very fond of Franklin Roosevelt. But then later moved to the right-wing in the 1950s before becoming a full-fledged republican. He was known to be very against nuclear armament, he was also known for attending and leading protest against it but nuclear weapons the production of them would later become the main point of his presidency. He became the governor of California in 1965-1975. He won the Californian vote after his “Time for Choosing” speech. In 1980 he ran for the Oval Office against Jimmie Carter. Reagan won with his main points being about the government should have less interference with people’s lives and lowering taxes. (wikipedia, 2019)

Political Impact. Cold War: Arms Race and the Collapse of the Soviet Union

In between 1981 and 1989 Ronald Reagan instilled a strategy of “Peace by Strength”. His plan was to stockpile weapons to scare the Soviet Union out of the arms race. Ronald Reagan hated communism and his foreign policies were mainly focused on interventions on countries that had communism lurking to take leadership. He was determined to extinguish the national feeling of sadness after American defeat in Vietnam. He called it the Vietnam Syndrome and he was determined to get rid of it. Together with the British Prime Minister Margarete Thatcher he denounced communist ideologies in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster on June 8 1982. And under the Reagan doctrine he showed how serious he was about the spread of communism. Under the doctrine, he authorized and provided overt and covert resistances that were anti-communist in Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Asia. He also developed special CIA Special Activities Division to be sent to Afghanistan and Pakistan to train, equip and lead mujahidin against the Soviet Army. These actions would get him credit for defeating the Soviet Army in Afghanistan and ending Soviet occupation there too. On 23 October 1983, American peacekeeping forces were attacked by Hezbollah forces (a radical Shi’ite organization) in Beirut. This resulted in 241 servicemen dead and another 60 wounded and it was later known as the Beirut Barack Bombings. Afterwards a truck bomb that killed 80 civilians exploded in Beirut and it is widely believed to be an American led retaliation for the Beirut Barrack Bombings. Meanwhile in Libya, tensions between Reagan and Muammar Gadhafi continued to rise and in 1982 the US proclaimed that Gadhafi with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, were the “Unholy Trinity”. In early April of 1986 a bomb exploded in Berlin causing 63 American Personals to be injured and the death of one serviceman. Reagan stated that there was irrefutable proof that Libya was behind the bombings and authorized military action in Libya even though that was going against the UN’s and the rest of the worlds wishes. This resulted in bombing in Libya which ended with ground targets being successfully destroyed. With all this military action the military budget was on the rise and using the arms race as fuel to the fire of Reagan’s hunger for weapons. The Soviet Union just could not compete and slowly and slowly the union was shrinking. The end of the cold war came about with summit meetings between Gorbachev and Reagan in 1982 and they mutually agreed to cease nuclear armament. (Reagan’s Foreign Policy and the End of the Cold War)

Economic Impact. Reaganomics

The word “Reaganomics” refers to Ronald Reagans approach to the US’s economic problems. Some of which being a high unemployment rate and high inflation. His main promises were that he would make the market freer and remove more regulations and that he would reduce taxes. This is seems like the perfect recipe to allow the private sector of America to grow. And it did. The amount of entrepreneurs were more than ever but with tax lessened and the cold war escalating and the arms race rising Reagan was forced to put the country in an increasing debt line with an increases greater than any presidency since WW2. But the GDP grew by 21.4% compared to the average 19.1%. He lowered the federal income tax from 70% to 50% in the top marginal tax and 14% to 11% in the lowest marginal tax by signing the Economic Recovery Act in 1981. The unemployment rate rose from 3.1% under Jimmie Carter to 5.5% the month Reagan left office. At the beginning of his presidency the percentage of people living under poverty was 13% and then it rose to 15.2% in 1983 then declined in back to 13% at the end of his presidency. Most of his critics argued that he widened the wage gap and he was mostly looking out for the rich but his supporters said that the economic stage he set was perfect for entrepreneurs. (Reaganomics, 2019)

Social Impacts. War on Drugs

Before Ronald Reagans war on drugs, fighting drug abuse was a small part of law enforcement. But in June 1971 Richard Nixon declared drug abuse as public enemy number 1 and increased funding to drug-control agencies and drug treatment facilities. But Reagan bumped up the penalties for drug abuse and the entire War on Drugs. Before his presidency there were 50,000 people being detained for nonviolent drug crimes but by 1997 there were 400,000. Even his wife, Nancy, started her campaign against drugs by educating children about the effects of drugs and what would happen if they did take illegal drugs in 1984. She called it the “Just Say No” campaign. The war on drugs was also amplified by the media during the crack epidemic of the 1980s. Crack was mainly targeted and we can see this by the minimum sentence given to drug offenders. If someone was found with 5 grams of crack it would be an automatic 5 years while it took at least 500 grams of cocaine to even trigger a sentence. And since 80% of crack users at the time were African American it led to a lot of claims that the War on Drugs was purely a racist war. This left a lot of households without fathers and mothers. And since in the constitution it states people held in penitentiaries can be subject to involuntary work it can be said this was a ply made by Ronald Reagan to exploit crack addicts to do free labor of the American government. (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018)

Conclusion

Ronald Reagan lived a full life from acting to protesting to being heavily involved in politics. His efforts for the private business sector to grow were understandable but it instead led to a huge class gap and higher unemployment rates. I did not understand how he would plan continue the arms race without racing taxes but he decided to increase the national debt and leave that problem to his successor. His war on drugs should have been a more rehabilitation effort than incarsarating a huge amount of drug addicts, people who are sick and need treatment, and making them work. I am surprised that the influences that he took from his father did not advise him to treat them like people who need help. He did end the cold war but at a huge cost for both the USSR and the US but at least it did not end in mutual atomic annihilation

Bibliography

  1. Reagan’s Foreign Policy and the End of the Cold War. (n.d.). Retrieved from courses.lumenlearning.com: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ushistory/chapter/reagans-foreign-policy-and-the-end-of-the-cold-war/
  2. Reaganomics. (2019, May 9). Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaganomics
  3. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2018, December 5). War on Drugs. Retrieved from www.britannica.com: https://www.britannica.com/topic/war-on-drugs
  4. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019, June 1). Ronald Reagan. Retrieved from www.britannica.com: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ronald-Reagan
  5. Wikipedia. (2019, May 30). Ronald Reagan. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Reagan/wiki/Ronald_Reagan</li></ul>

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