Table of contents
- Introduction: Reagan's Unexpected Presidential Journey
- Reagan's Early Career: From Broadcasting to Hollywood
- Transition to Politics: Reagan's Growing Interest and Influence
- Governorship and the Road to the Presidency
- Reagan's Presidency: Economic Policies and Challenges
- Foreign Policy and the End of the Cold War
Introduction: Reagan's Unexpected Presidential Journey
How did Ronald Reagan win people’s hearts? What steps in Reagan’s life led him to be the respected, well-loved President that he was? What were his plans and foreign policies while in office? President Reagan was an optimistic, kind man whom many people loved. Because he wanted to do what was best for Americans, he made every decision with Americans in mind. It was unexpected for Reagan to become President since he was previously an actor, however, Ronald Reagan pleasantly surprised Americans as he propelled America forward in several ways, especially with a successful foreign policy.
Reagan's Early Career: From Broadcasting to Hollywood
Although Ronald Reagan was at first quite content with his job as a decently well-known sports broadcaster, he wanted to be a big star one day (Ronald Reagan: His Life and Legacy). Having good looks and confidence, Reagan was soon noticed by an agent who set up an audition for him with a film production company, Warner Brothers. Reagan, a talented actor, soon impressed the Warner Brothers and signed a seven-year contract (“Ronald Reagan- Acting Career”). Once Reagan’s agent told Reagan about the offer, he wanted to take it immediately (Marisco 21). At this point, Reagan was extremely nervous but also very humble about his sudden change into acting (Reagan 434).
Being nervous, Reagan did well in the smaller production movies he was cast in, and eventually achieved great success. Because of his lack of fame, Reagan was cast in B movies which were lower production films (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 49). “Despite the fact that Reagan did not immediately skyrocket to the top of show business he earned a reputation on movie sets as being likable, cooperative, and professional. He used his sharp memory to recite dialogue exactly as it was written and just as directors wanted it to read.” (Marisco 21). Because of his great character and ability, Reagan was given a big part in a movie. After achieving great success, Warner Brothers began putting him in much higher production movies. His role in this movie would be his most well-known role yet. Ronald Reagan had finally made it into the A category of movies which produced higher-quality films with famous actors (Marisco 22,25).
Reagan’s popularity and talents were shown to be helpful during World War II. Even though Reagan was unable to join the military because of his poor eyesight, the Warner Brothers wanted him to star in World War II films to keep the United States in high spirits (Sutherland 58-59). The films that he starred in did quite well during that scary time in United States history (“Ronald Reagan-Acting Career”).
Transition to Politics: Reagan's Growing Interest and Influence
After World War II, although his height of stardom was over, Reagan began to take other opportunities that were rather important to his political and presidential journey (“Ronald Reagan- Acting Career”). One of the first major opportunities he took was to host and star in a television show called “General Electric Theater.” Beginning to tour with the show, he made many speeches a day which helped him become familiar with how to effectively communicate with people. His interest in politics was beginning to grow more and more as he toured. Not only was he interested in how politics actually worked, but also in how much it could change people’s life. Reagan surprised people while on these tours because instead of talking about old Hollywood days, he would instead talk about America and politics (Marisco 35). He made speeches in an effective, storytelling manner that made people begin to respect and like him (“Ronald Reagan: His Life and Legacy”). Reagan showed that he was outstanding at leading people and getting work done (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 59).
Governorship and the Road to the Presidency
As Reagan grew more politically popular in politics, people wanted to see him in a leadership position. Reagan had grown up used to public speaking because of his acting career, therefore, it helped greatly in all his political campaigning (Johnson 16). As a result of his popularity, his standards, and his leadership, Reagan won the election for governor of California in 1966. People were relieved to have an inexperienced politician because he was not a politician with government tricks and dishonest ways. While being governor of California, people loved him for his attention to the common person (Marisco 43-45).
Americans, feeling they were unable to trust their Presidents after Nixon, saw that Reagan was a great candidate for President because of his lack of experience as a politician (Sutherland 122). Reagan had considered the presidency before, but he was hesitant because of his inexperience. He put up a good campaign but ultimately lost the presidential elections. A year after losing, Reagan felt more determined and prepared to run for President, and he and his team announced they were preparing for the 1980 elections (Sutherland 125). With George H. W. Bush by his side as his vice president, Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election (Marisco 60).
Reagan's Presidency: Economic Policies and Challenges
When Reagan became President, the United States was economically destroyed, but Reagan had a plan (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 135). “He had a simple but specific idea of which he had spoken often during the campaign: cut taxes, get control of federal spending, and get the government out of the way so that the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people would be unleashed.” (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 136). Reagan was insistent on reducing taxes because of his personal experience when he was an actor (“Ronald Reagan: His Life and Legacy”). He showed how determined he was to make economic changes even when recovering from an assassination attempt. While in recovery, Reagan was still extremely focused on cutting taxes and arranged a meeting with government leaders (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 138). The tax cuts Reagan pushed for resulted in the Economic Recovery Tax Act, signed only a year after Reagan was put into office. Reagan’s tax cuts were the biggest cuts yet in America’s history (“Ronald Reagan: His Life and Legacy”). Because Reagan pushed greatly to improve America’s economy, “Reaganomics” was how experts jokingly referred to Reagan’s economic plan (Marisco 63). Reagan’s economic plan was a very popular topic to discuss during his presidency (Marisco 65). After a year, his economic plan started causing some problems. Although Reagan tried to majorly cut taxes, increase jobs, and decrease inflation, not everything worked out as well as he wanted. Because of this economics seemed to get worse. To make matters worse, he and congress had problems figuring out where they could afford to make budget cuts (Marisco 65). Two years into his presidency, economics in America was not in a good place. Because of Reagan’s plan, a large part of the nation was unemployed. After a year of hard work, Reagan was able to come back from his failed plan by creating more jobs and decreasing inflation (Marisco 64-65). It was when Americans stopped jokingly calling his plan “Reaganomics” that Reagan knew his economic plan was finally working (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 139). Reagan majorly decreased inflation during his presidency by taking it from about fourteen percent to about four percent (Marisco 62-64). In addition, he also helped to create many jobs. By the time Reagan left office, there were twenty million jobs created all over America (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 138-139). Reagan showed during his presidency how important economics was to him.
Although economics was a major priority to Reagan, he made other matters equally important. To make America safer, he wanted the military to have adequate funding and supplies. He also wanted the Constitution of America upheld, making Americans a priority (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 151,163). Personally, knowing that education should be a priority since it could greatly help one out of poverty, Reagan made sure that education would be improved. Soon he made the improvement of education a priority and had great success (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 62). Although Reagan had addressed outlawing abortion and allowing prayer in schools, he was not able to achieve them (“Ronald Reagan: His Life and Legacy”). Reagan had some successes and failures in areas he had hoped to improve.
“Regardless of how well his policies were actually working, Reagan always appeared to be optimistic and firmly in command. From the beginning of his presidency, he was the confident, decisive leader that his predecessor Carted was not, and many Americans loved him for that alone.” (Johnson 37). Reagan’s style of leadership was a decisive and effective one (Johnson 37). He had a way of speaking that would draw people’s attention. One of those reasons was that Reagan had a special talent for humor and storytelling. He was able to make any serious matter lighthearted or find the positive in any situation. As a humble leader, Reagan knew that he would be able to make great changes in America.
Ronald Reagan’s impact on America was great during and after his term in office. The character, leadership, and optimism that he had was the reason many people loved and respected him. Both in and out of office, he is still one of the most respected Presidents (“Ronald Reagan: His Life and Legacy”).
Foreign Policy and the End of the Cold War
One of the many reasons Reagan was greatly respected was because he believed in a peaceful foreign policy and a strong domestic defense. He kept these things in mind when he introduced the Strategic Defense Initiative (Ronald Reagan:100 Years 173). “That same month Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The idea behind the SDI was to use both ground and satellite devices to seek out and destroy enemy missiles before they reach U.S. targets.” (Marisco 67). The relationship between America and the Soviet Union got worse after World War II. Because of this, Reagan thought his plan was the safest option to protect America (Johnson 39). With this plan, he hoped to have a bigger and better defense system than the Soviet Union’s (Johnson 47). The public was completely taken aback by Reagan’s plan since it was something many people had never heard of before. Once again, critics came up with a nickname for Reagan’s plan; this time they nicknamed it “Star Wars” because of the possible launching of nuclear weapons (Marisco 68). Reagan was still firm about his plan, thinking it was a safe decision (Johnson 69). Regardless of how Reagan felt about his plan, his advisors thought his plan not be a real, serious plan; instead, they thought it would be a scare tactic for a peace treaty (Sutherland 185).
Even though Reagan was firm on his plan, there were many doubts about the “Star Wars” program as several problems arose. As workers began developing the plan, it had several technical issues, and they believed it could not work effectively because of mechanics (Johnson 48). Reagan wanting nuclear power, had to buy the necessary, expensive weapons (Johnson 43). The funding had to increase by about 189 billion dollars to buy many nuclear weapons (Johnson 43). Specialists were concerned that Reagan could possibly start a nuclear war (Sutherland 186). It was also rumored that Russia and the Soviet Union were prepared for a nuclear war, and America was far behind; some specialists at this time believed that it was a dangerous plan and that the Soviets would make more missiles to outnumber America’s missiles (Johnson 43,47).
Pressure from the government and Americans made Reagan realize it would be better to make peace with the Soviet Union. As much as Reagan openly opposed Communism, he did not let that get in the way of protecting Americans and creating peace with the Soviet Union. He announced this during a televised press conference, that he was open to peace talks since he realized a nuclear war could never be won (Johnson 44). The buying of expensive, nuclear weapons was economically difficult for the Soviets which made Reagan hope they would soon want to make negotiations (Johnson 43).
Gorbachev, the main leader of the Soviet Union, and Reagan soon met to sign a peace treaty to end the tension of the Cold War. The treaty they agreed upon was the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Although both Gorbachev and Reagan wanted to make the world a better place, both were rigid in certain areas because they wanted to protect their countries (Ronald Reagan: 100 Years 175). They disagreed on many things, but both decided to put their differences aside and agreed on what to do. The treaty was signed with one of the terms including that both countries greatly reduce the number of nuclear weapons they had within three years. The signing of this treaty showed the ending of the Cold War between the United States and Russia (Johnson 69-71,86). Reagan showed how much he valued a safe America that would have a strong foreign policy.
Another one of the most popular of Reagan’s strong foreign policies was that of his bold stand at the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was a wall that separated East and West Germany, intensely trying to keep Communism away from any freedom. Harrison describes the Berlin Wall this way:
In fact, it was two walls separated by up to 160 yards, and between them was a ‘death strip’ with dogs, guard towers, flood lights, tripwires, anti-vehicle obstacles, and armed guards with shoot-to-kill orders. This 96-mile border encircled democratic, capitalist West Berlin, separating it from communist East Berlin and the surrounding East German countryside. Another barrier, with more than 1 million mines, was erected along the 850-mile border between East and West Germany. All of this was to keep east Germans in, not to keep others out (Harrison).
Because of this outrageously high security, many people died simply trying to escape Communist Berlin (Harrison). Reagan, who despised Communism, wanted to take a stand. At the Berlin Wall, Reagan made a speech directed toward Gorbachev. In this speech, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to have the Berlin Wall brought down (“Ronald Reagan: 100 Years” 176). Although Reagan did not have a part in actually taking down the Berlin Wall, he showed great courage and determination that made him stand out (Harrison).
Ronald Reagan, although once just an actor, showed Americans that he was an intelligent, optimistic, and caring President who had many plans including an effective foreign policy. Ronald Reagan had a positive impact on many people’s lives in many ways. He greatly helped America in having a better economy, stability, and power. He was not only a well-respected President but also a well-respected person for his care for others and his hard work in government.