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President Ronald Reagan

Portrait of Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan
by Unknown

Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States.

Served as President: 1981-1989
Vice President: George Bush
Party: Republican
Age at inauguration: 69

Born: February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois
Died: June 5, 2004 in Bel-Air, California

Married: Nancy Davis Reagan
Children: Maureen, Michael, Patricia, Ronald
Nickname: The Great Communicator, The Gipper


What is Ronald Reagan most known for?

Ronald Reagan is most known for being president during the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. He's also famous for his economic policy called "Reaganomics" as well as for being a Hollywood movie star who became president.

Growing Up

Ronald Reagan grew up in Illinois. He lived in several small towns growing up because his father, a salesman, moved the family around a lot. As a child, his family called him "Dutch" because his father thought he looked like a Dutchman. Ronald was athletic and gifted in acting. He went to Eureka College in Illinois where he was student body president and played a number of sports including football and swim team.

President Reagan with Russian Leader Gorbachev
Ronald Reagan and Soviet General
Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev

by Unknown
Reagan's first job out of college was as a radio announcer in Iowa. In 1937 he took a screen test and landed an acting job with Warner Brothers Films. He appeared in a number of films over the next several years including Knute Rockne: All American, Kings Row, and Dark Victory.

His Hollywood career was interrupted by World War II when, in 1942, he was ordered to active duty. He spent the next four years in the army where he worked stateside on promotional films for the war.

Before He Became President

As Reagan grew older he became more involved in politics. First he was part of the Democratic Party and then moved over to the Republicans as his views changed. In 1966 he ran for Governor of California and served for two terms. In 1980 he ran for President of the United States and won over incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

Ronald Reagan's Presidency

Ronald Reagan's goal as president was to "go down in history as the President who made Americans believe in themselves again". In the years prior to his presidency the United States had experienced high inflation, unemployment, and rapidly rising gas prices. In addition, several American citizens were being held hostage in Iran and they had been there for over a year. Reagan wanted people to feel confident in their own abilities and to not rely on the government to take care of everything.


In order to try and get the American economy moving, Reagan made a number of changes to try and get employment up and inflation down. First he cut taxes and a variety of government programs. At the same time, he put money into strengthening the military. In 1980, the year before he took office, the inflation rate was 13.5%. Eight years later, when he left office, the inflation rate was at 4%. Unemployment rates continued to rise over his first year and half as president and then steadily declined over the next 6 years.

The Cold War

For many years the United States had been in what was called a "Cold War" with the Soviet Union. Both countries had the atomic bomb and were considered the two Super Powers of the world. Each side was scared if the other decided to drop the bomb, what would happen.

When Reagan became president, he was determined to make the U.S. stronger than the Soviet Union. He denounced the Soviet Union and spent lots of money building up the military and nuclear arsenal.

However, in 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union, Reagan saw an opportunity for peace. The two leaders agreed to reduce their stockpile of nuclear missiles. Reagan is famous for his speech at the Berlin Wall where he said to Gorbachev "Mr. Chairman, tear down this wall". Two years later, in 1989, the Berlin Wall, separating communist East Germany from democratic West Germany, was torn down. The Cold War was over.

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy
hat at Rancho Del Cielo, 1976

from the Ronald Reagan Library

How did he die?

Reagan became sick from Alzheimer's disease in his old age. He died at his home in Bel Air, California on June 5, 2004.

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