previous | page 2 of 8 | next

Ronald Reagan

Many well-known phrases in the political world are associated with Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president of the United States. Many have called him the “Great Communicator.” Others refer to his era as the “Reagan Revolution.” Still others reflect on “Morning in America,” one of the most memorable campaign themes in American history.

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born in the small northwest Illinois town of Tampico on February 6, 1911. After attending high school in Dixon, he studied economics and sociology at Eureka College, where he was elected president of the student body. After his graduation from college, he moved to Iowa, where he began a career in radio as a sports broadcaster.

While on assignment in California, Ronald Reagan took a screen test and began working as an actor. He spent four years in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. After completing his commitment to the army, he returned to acting in motion pictures and began working in television. Ronald Reagan appeared in a total of fiftythree films between 1937 and 1964.

While working in Hollywood, Ronald Reagan became involved in the Screen Actors Guild, a labor union for actors, and became its president in 1947. He served as its president at a time when fears about the spread of communism led Congress and the FBI to investigate members of the entertainment industry for their political views. His experiences during this period of his life deeply rooted his commitment to fighting communism both at home and abroad.

In 1954, Ronald Reagan began hosting General Electric Theater, a weekly television series. He became General Electric’s spokesman, traveling to the company’s numerous plants across the country, speaking out against big government, excessive taxation, and communism. During his General Electric years, Ronald Reagan honed his message and polished his speaking skills.

theater ronald reagan

What themes from Ronald Reagan’s time as a spokesman for General  Electric did he carry over into his later career?

Although Ronald Reagan was a supporter of Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt and maintained his membership in the Democratic Party for many years, his political beliefs became increasingly more conservative. Part of Ronald Reagan’s decision to join the Republican Party was its alignment with his anticommunist views. In 1963, he became involved in the campaign of Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for president. In October 1964, Ronald Reagan delivered a speech that became known as “A Time for Choosing,” in which he attacked the expansion of government and appeasement of communism, themes that would resonate throughout his career. The speech thrust him into the national political spotlight.

Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California in 1966 and served two terms in office. While governor, he became prominent in national Republican politics as well. In 1976 he challenged incumbent president Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination for president. Although he did not win the nomination, he established his position as a leader within the Republican Party, emphasizing the conservative ideals of less government regulation and taxation, vigorous opposition to communism, and support for a strong national defense.

Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination for president in 1980 and went on to defeat the incumbent Democratic president Jimmy Carter in the election. He was sworn in as the fortieth president of the United States on January 20, 1981, at the age of sixty-nine. Some historians and political scientists have used the phrase “The Age of Reagan” to describe his importance in American politics. Ronald Reagan’s administration would be defined by its efforts to reduce the size and scope of government powers, reduce taxes, fight communism around the world, and renew American patriotism. The pursuit of these themes during Ronald Reagan’s presidency influenced the course of both domestic and foreign policy.

previous | page 2 of 8 | next