Ronald Reagan

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Portrait, Ronald Wilson ReaganRonald Wilson Reagan 40th President of the United States (January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989) Nicknames: “The Gipper”; “The Great Communicator”; “Dutch” Born: February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois Died: June 5, 2004, in Los Angeles, California

Father: John Edward Reagan Mother: Nelle Wilson Reagan Married: Jane Wyman (1917-2007), on June 25, 1940 (divorced in 1948); Nancy Davis Reagan (1923-2016), on March 4, 1952 [Among the most influential First Ladies, she launched the anti-drug ‘Just Say No’ campaign in 1986, and was heavily involved in it.] Children: Maureen Elizabeth Reagan (1941-2001); Michael Edward Reagan (adopted) (1945- ); Patricia Ann Reagan (1952- ); Ronald Prescott Reagan (1958- ) Religion: Disciples of Christ Education: Graduated from Eureka College (1932) Occupation: Actor, public official Political Party: Republican Other Government Positions:

  • Governor of California, 1967-75

Presidential Salary: $200,000/year + $50,000 expense account When Ronald Reagan took office, he began the first two term presidency since that of tiny U.S. flag Eisenhower. The 1980’s in America were characterized to a considerable extent by his term in office and the policies he is known for. Several of them continue to have an impact on the country today. Reagan won the 1980 elections at the end of a decade that had put considerable economic strain on the American people. To turn the tide, his administration implemented a sweeping array of new economic policies that drastically cut taxes, especially for corporations, with the belief that this would allow wealth to “trickle down” to the middle classes and spur spending and economic growth. This model has come to be widely termed “Reaganomics”. Government spending in most sectors was cut as well, and economic deregulation was the order of the day. However, defense was one of the few areas where spending was drastically stepped up as the US became involved in an escalating arms race with the USSR. Cold War tensions reached a pitch by the middle of the decade, and then began to decline when Mikhail Gorbachev became the premier of the Soviet Union and put into action the glasnost reform policy. Relations between the two states visibly got better, leading to Reagan’s famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate in which he urged Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” referring to the Berlin Wall.  Reagan’s presidency was also a time when the US became increasingly involved in areas of the world where communist ideologies or appeared to be taking hold, such as Latin America. The Iran-Contra affair is a demonstrative example of the nature of US intervention at the time. The Soviet War in Afghanistan too drew much attention. Reagan also launched the War on Drugs that continues till today and has significant socioeconomic effects across the country. Reagan’s presidential tenure was instrumental in reviving and realigning conservative politics in the US and its impact is evident today.

Presidential Election Results:
YearPopular VotesElectoral Votes
1976tiny U.S. flag James E. Carter, Jr.40,827,394297
tiny U.S. flag Gerald R. Ford39,145,977240
Ronald Reagan1
1980Ronald Reagan43,267,489489
tiny U.S. flag James E. Carter, Jr.34,964,58349
John B. Anderson5,588,014
1984Ronald Reagan53,428,357525
Walter F. Mondale36,930,92313

Vice President: tiny U.S. flag George Bush (1981-89) [Ran for and won the presidential office in 1988, beating the Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis.] Cabinet:

Secretary of State
Alexander M. Haig, Jr. (1981-82)
George P. Schultz (1982-89)
Secretary of the Treasury
Donald T. Regan (1981-85)
James A. Baker, III (1985-88)
Nicholas F. Brady (1988-89)
Secretary of Defense
Caspar W. Weinberger (1981-87) [Indicted in the Iran-Contra affair, but pardoned before trial]
Frank C. Carlucci (1987-89)
Attorney General
William French Smith (1981-85)
Edwin Meese (1985-88)
Dick Thornburgh (1988-89)
Secretary of the Interior
James G. Watt (1981-83)
William P. Clark (1983-85)
Donald P. Hodel (1985-89)
Secretary of Agriculture
John R. Block (1981-86)
Richard E. Lyng (1986-89)
Secretary of Commerce
Malcolm Baldrige (1981-87)
C. William Verity (1987-89)
Secretary of Labor
Raymond J. Donovan (1981-85) [The first sitting US cabinet member to be indicted. He was indicted by a grand jury on charges of larceny and fraud, but was later acquitted.]
William Brock (1985-87)
Ann Dore McLaughlin (1987-89)
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Richard S. Schweiker (1981-83) [Named Reagan’s potential running mate during the Republican primaries for the 1976 presidential elections]
Margaret M. Heckler (1983-85) [The first female designated survivor]
Otis R. Bowen (1985-89) [The first medical doctor to hold this position]
Secretary of Education
Terrel H. Bell (1981-85)
William J. Bennett (1985-88)
Lauro F. Cavazos, Jr. (1988-89) [The first Hispanic member of the US cabinet]
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Samuel R. Pierce, Jr. (1981-89)
Secretary of Transportation
Andrew L. Lewis, Jr. (1981-83)
Elizabeth H. Dole (1983-87) [The first woman to hold this position, and thus the first female head of a US Military branch – the US Coast Guard]
James H. Burnley (1987-89)
Secretary of Energy
James B. Edwards (1981-82)
Donald P. Hodel (1982-85)
John Herrington (1985-89)

Supreme Court Appointments:

Chief Justice
William H. Rehnquist (1986-2005)
Associate Justice
Sandra Day O’Connor (1981-2006) [The first female US Supreme Court Justice]
Antonin Scalia (1986-2016)
Anthony M. Kennedy (1988-2018)

Notable Events:

Internet Biographies:

Ronald Reagan — from The Presidents of the United States of America
Compiled by the White House.
Ronald Reagan — from American Presidents: Life Portraits — C-SPAN
Biographical information, trivia, key events, video, and other reference materials. Website created to accompany C-SPAN’s 20th Anniversary Television Series, American Presidents: Life Portraits.
Ronald Reagan — from U.S. Presidents
From the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, in addition to information on the Presidents themselves, they have first lady and cabinet member biographies, listings of presidential staff and advisers, and timelines detailing significant events in the lives of each administration.
Ronald Reagan — from Character Above All
From a PBS broadcast of the same name, this essay excerpt by Peggy Noonan discusses some of the issues and events that molded Reagan.

Historical Documents:

First Inaugural Address (1981)
Second Inaugural Address (1985)
A Time for Choosing (“The Speech”) (1964)
President Reagan’s Speech to the House of Commons (Evil Empire Speech) (1982)
President Reagan’s Speech at Pointe de Hoc, Normandy, France (The 40th Anniversary of D-Day) (1984)
President Reagan’s Speech on the Challenger Disaster (1986)
Former President Reagan’s Speech at the National Republican Convention (1992)
President Reagan’s Speech on the Occasion of the Tenth Anniversary of the Announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative (1993)

Media Resources:

From his first State of the Union address on January 26, 1982. (0:56)
MP3 (445K)
From the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University.
Audio & Video
The American Presidency Project‘s Presidential Audio/Video Archive for Ronald Reagan

Other Internet Resources:

Ronald Reagan’s Filmography— from the Internet Movie Database
List of Reagan screen credits including Code of the Secret Service (1939), Knute Rockne, All American (1940), and Bedtime for Bonzo (1951).
Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Foundation
Tourist information for the Library, calendar of events, and an online catalog of your favorite Reagan attire from the Museum. Located in Simi Valley, California.
Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
Location and hours of operation information, plus a description of the exhibits.
The Day Reagan Was Shot
Transcripts from the White House Situation Room after Reagan was shot.

Points of Interest:

  • Reagan was the fifth left-handed president of the United States.
  • In the 1980 election, Reagan won in 46 out of 50 states. The only states he did not win in were Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, or West Virginia. He also did not win the District of Columbia.
  • In the 1984 election, Reagan won in 49 out of 50 states. The only state he did not win in was Minnesota, and he lost by a very small margin there. He also did not win the District of Columbia.
  • Reagan’s election was the first time a Hollywood actor was elected to the office of the President.
  • He nominated the first female Supreme Court Justice in America.


  • Who was the US president during the 1980’s?

Ronald Reagan was the US president through most of the 1980’s. The first term began in 1981, with his second term ending in 1989.

  • How old was Ronald Reagan when he became president?

Ronald Reagan was 69 years old when he became president. At the time, he was the oldest person to take office.

  • What was the Reagan Doctrine?

The Reagan Doctrine was a principle of foreign policy announced in the 1985 State of the Union address. According to the doctrine, the US would provide assistance to “freedom fighters” around the world. It was used to justify covert American military support to groups such as the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua, and those fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

  • Who shot Ronald Reagan?

Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel a few months after his inauguration. He was gravely injured and had to be rushed into emergency surgery. Hinckley was put on trial, but was judged to be not guilty on grounds of insanity. He had shot the president because he believed it would impress actress Jodie Foster.

Related Resources:

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©1996-2008. Robert S. Summers. All rights reserved.

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