Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ronald Reagan

Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan!
Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989) and the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975). Born in Illinois, Reagan moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, where he became an actor, president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and a spokesman for General Electric. His start in politics occurred during his work for GE; originally a member of the Democratic Party, he switched to the Republican Party in 1962. After delivering a rousing speech in support of Barry Goldwater's presidential candidacy in 1964, he was persuaded to seek the California governorship, winning two years later and again in 1970. He was defeated in his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 as well as 1976, but won both the nomination and election in 1980.

After graduating from Eureka in 1932, Reagan worked at radio stations WOC in Davenport, Iowa, and WHO in Des Moines as an announcer for Chicago Cubs baseball games. While traveling with the Cubs in California, Reagan took a screen test in 1937 that led to a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers studios. His first screen credit was the starring role in the 1937 movie Love Is on the Air, and by the end of 1939 he had already appeared in 19 films. Before the film Santa Fe Trail in 1940, he played the role of George "The Gipper" Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American; from it, he acquired the lifelong nickname "the Gipper".[14] Reagan's favorite acting role was in 1942's Kings Row, but his performance did not meet with universal approval: one reviewer felt that Reagan had made "only casual acquaintance with the [character]". Reagan also acted in Tennessee's Partner, Hellcats of the Navy, This Is the Army, Dark Victory, Bedtime for Bonzo, Cattle Queen of Montana, and The Killers (his final film) in a 1964 remake.

In 1938, Reagan co-starred in the film Brother Rat with actress Jane Wyman (1917–2007). They were engaged at the Chicago Theatre, and married on January 26, 1940, at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather church in Glendale, California. Together they had two children, Maureen (1941–2001) and Christine (born and died June 26, 1947), and adopted a third, Michael (born 1945). Reagan and Wyman divorced on June 28, 1948 (finalized in 1949) following arguments about Reagan's political ambitions, making him the only American president to have been divorced.

Reagan met actress Nancy Davis (born 1921) in 1949 after Davis contacted then-president of the Screen Actors Guild Reagan to help her with issues regarding her name appearing on a communist blacklist in Hollywood (Davis was mistaken for another Nancy Davis). Nancy described their meeting by saying, "I don't know if it was exactly love at first sight, but it was pretty close." They were engaged at Chasen's restaurant in Los Angeles and were married on March 4, 1952 at the Little Brown Church in the San Fernando Valley. Ronald and Nancy Reagan had two children: Patti (born 1952) and Ron (born 1958).

As president, Reagan implemented new political initiatives as well as economic policies, advocating a laissez-faire philosophy, but the extent to which these ideas were implemented is debatable. The supply side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics", included substantial tax cuts implemented in 1981. After surviving an assassination attempt and ordering controversial military actions in Grenada, he was re-elected in a landslide victory in 1984.

Reagan's second term was marked by the ending of the Cold War, as well as a number of administration scandals, notably the Iran-Contra affair. The president ordered a massive military buildup in an arms race with the Soviet Union, forgoing the previous strategy of détente. He publicly portrayed the USSR as an "Evil Empire" and supported anti-Communist movements worldwide. Despite his rejection of détente, he negotiated with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to shrink both countries' nuclear arsenals. Reagan left office in 1989; in 1994 the former president disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He died ten years later at the age of ninety-three, and ranks highly among former U.S. presidents in terms of approval rating.

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