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More than THREE MILLION biographies And hundreds of new biographies are added daily
|Use attributes for filter !|
|Death||18 years ago|
|Date of birth||February 6,1911|
|Date of died||June 5,2004|
|Presidential term||January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989|
|Vice president||George H. W. Bush|
|Dixon High School|
|Awards||Presidential Medal of Freedom|
|Francis Boyer Award|
|Golden Globe Hollywood Citizenship Award|
|Presidential term||January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989|
|Vice president||George H. W. Bush|
|Latest noncurrent party||Republican Party|
An American Life
The Reagan Diaries
Where's the rest of me?
Speaking My Mind: Selected Speeches
Rendezvous with Destiny
The Notes: Ronald Reagan's Private Collection of Stories and Wisdom
A shining city
Reagan, In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan that Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America
Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation
The speeches of Ronald Reagan
The Reagan wit
Stories in his own hand
The quotable Ronald Reagan
Reagan In His Own Voice
The common sense of an uncommon man
Reagan's path to victory
Quotations of Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan Talks to America
Actor, ideologue, politician
The Uncommon Wisdom of Ronald Reagan: A Portrait in His Own Words
Along wit's trail
U. S. S. R. - U. S. A. Summit, Moscow, May 29-June 2, 1988
January 1981-October 1985
Ronald Reagan: In God I Trust
November 1985-January 1989
State of the Union Addresses of Ronald Reagan
Pension and Profit Sharing
The Great Communicator: Selected Speeches of President Ronald Reagan
Tales of Mystery and Suspense: Featuring Suspense 3: Radio's Outstanding Theatre of Thrills
The Last Best Hope: The Greatest Speeches of Ronald Reagan
The Evil Empire Speech, 1983
The Quest for Peace, the Cause of Freedom: Selected Speeches on the United States and the World
1974 Conservative Political Action Conference Banquet Speech CD
The official Ronald Wilson Reagan quote book
Being a Good Governor
State of the Union Address
Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan, 1982
Ronald Reagan's Weekly Radio Addresses: The first term
Reinvigorating Our Schools: A Challenge to Parents, Teachers, and Policymakers : Excerpts from Three Reports
Reagan at CPAC: The Words that Continue to Inspire a Revolution
State of the Union 1982 to 1988
How to Save Free Enterprise
State of the Union Addresses of President Ronald Reagan with the Constitution of the United States of America and Bill of Rights
The Presidency and Separation of Powers
The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: A Speech by President Ronald Reagan on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day
Bedtime for Bonzo
Hellcats of the Navy
Knute Rockne, All American
This Is the Army
Santa Fe Trail
General Electric Theater
The Winning Team
Cattle Queen of Montana
Death Valley Days
The Voice of the Turtle
The Last Outpost
Love Is on the Air
The Hasty Heart
John Loves Mary
That Hagen Girl
The Girl from Jones Beach
Cowboy from Brooklyn
The Bad Man
Brother Rat and a Baby
Tugboat Annie Sails Again
Code of the Secret Service
She's Working Her Way Through College
Secret Service of the Air
Night Unto Night
Nine Lives Are Not Enough
Smashing the Money Ring
Naughty But Nice
An Angel from Texas
Beyond the Line of Duty
The Angels Wash Their Faces
Prisoner of War
It's a Great Feeling
Boy Meets Girl
Swing Your Lady
Girls on Probation
Murder in the Air
Accidents Will Happen
Law and Order
|Date of Reg.|
|Date of Upd.|
Ronald Wilson Reagan was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975 after a career as a Hollywood actor and union leader.
Ronald Wilson Reagan ( RAY-gən; February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975 after a career as a Hollywood actor and union leader.
Reagan was born to a low-income family in Tampico, Illinois. He graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and began to work as a radio sports commentator in Iowa. In 1937, Reagan moved to California, where he found work as an actor and appeared in several major productions. From 1947 to 1952, Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, during which time he worked to root out alleged communist influence within it. In the 1950s, he moved to a career in television and became a spokesman for General Electric. From 1959 to 1960, he again served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. In 1964, his speech "A Time for Choosing"—a campaign speech on behalf of Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater—earned him national attention as a new conservative figure. Building a network of supporters, Reagan was elected as governor of California in 1966. During his governorship, he raised taxes, turned the state budget deficit into a surplus, challenged the protesters at UC Berkeley, and ordered in National Guard troops during a period of protest movements.
In November 1979, Reagan announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in the 1980 presidential election. He won the nomination and the election, defeating incumbent Democratic president Jimmy Carter. At 69 years, 349 days of age at the time of his first inauguration, Reagan was the oldest person to assume the U.S. presidency. Reagan ran for reelection in the 1984 presidential election, in which he was opposed by the Democratic nominee Walter Mondale, who had previously served as vice president under Carter. Reagan defeated him in an electoral landslide, winning the most electoral votes of any U.S. president: 525 (97.6% of the 538 votes in the Electoral College). It was one of the most lopsided presidential elections in U.S. history.Early in his presidency, Reagan began implementing new political and economic initiatives. His supply-side economics policies—dubbed "Reaganomics"—advocated tax reduction, economic deregulation, and reduction in government spending. In his first term, he survived an assassination attempt, spurred the War on Drugs, invaded Grenada, and fought public-sector labor unions. Over his two terms, the economy saw a reduction of inflation from 12.5% to 4.4% and an average real GDP annual growth of 3.6%. Reagan enacted cuts in domestic discretionary spending, cut taxes, and increased military spending, which contributed to a near tripling of the federal debt. Foreign affairs dominated his second term, including the bombing of Libya, the Iran–Iraq War, the Iran–Contra affair, and the ongoing Cold War. In a speech in June 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate, four years after he publicly described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire", Reagan challenged Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to open the Berlin Wall. He transitioned Cold War policy from détente to rollback by escalating an arms race with the USSR while engaging in talks with Gorbachev. The talks culminated in the INF Treaty, which shrank both countries' nuclear arsenals.
When Reagan left office in 1989, he held an approval rating of 68%, matching those of Franklin D. Roosevelt and later Bill Clinton as the highest ratings for departing presidents in the modern era. Although he had planned an active post-presidency, Reagan disclosed in November 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier that year. His public appearances became more infrequent as the disease progressed. Reagan died at his home in Los Angeles on June 5, 2004. His tenure constituted a realignment toward conservative policies in the United States known as the Reagan Era, and he is often considered a conservative icon. Evaluations of his presidency among historians and the general public place him among the upper tier of American presidents.
Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in an apartment on the second floor of a commercial building in Tampico, Illinois. He was the younger son of Nelle Clyde (née Wilson) and Jack Reagan. Jack was a salesman and storyteller whose grandparents were Irish Catholic emigrants from County Tipperary, while Nelle was of English and Scottish descent. Ronald's older brother, Neil Reagan, became an advertising executive.Reagan's father nicknamed his son "Dutch", due to his "fat little Dutchman" appearance and Dutch-boy haircut; the nickname stuck with him throughout his youth. Reagan's family briefly lived in several towns and cities in Illinois, including Monmouth, Galesburg, and Chicago. In 1919, they returned to Tampico and lived above the H. C. Pitney Variety Store until finally settling in Dixon, Illinois. After his election as president, Reagan lived in the upstairs White House private quarters, and he would quip that he was "living above the store" again.For that period, which was long before the civil rights movement, Reagan's opposition to racial discrimination was unusual. He recalled the time when his college football team was staying at a local hotel that would not allow two black teammates to stay there, and he invited them to his parents' home 15 miles (24 kilometers) away in Dixon. His mother invited them to stay overnight and have breakfast the next morning. Reagan's father was strongly opposed to the Ku Klux Klan due to his Catholic heritage, but also due to the Klan's anti-semitism and anti-black racism. After becoming a prominent actor, Reagan gave speeches in favor of racial equality following World War II. Later, as a politician, Reagan was often accused of appealing to white racial resentment and backlash against the civil-rights movement; one example was during his first campaign for Governor of California, Reagan's platform included a promise to repeal legislation barring housing discrimination. Certain in his own lack of prejudice, Reagan responded resentfully to claims he was racist while defending his position, arguing: "If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so." He believed that "the right to dispose of and control one's own property is a basic human right".
Ronald Reagan wrote that his mother "always expected to find the best in people and often did". She attended the Disciples of Christ church regularly and was active, and very influential, within it; she frequently led Sunday school services and gave the Bible readings to the congregation during the services. A firm believer in the power of prayer, she led prayer meetings at church and was in charge of mid-week prayers when the pastor was out of town. She was also an adherent of the Social Gospel movement. Her strong commitment to the church is what induced her son Ronald to become a Protestant Christian rather than a Roman Catholic like his Irish father. He also stated that she strongly influenced his own beliefs: "I know that she planted that faith very deeply in me." Reagan identified himself as a born-again Christian. In Dixon, Reagan was strongly influenced by his pastor Ben Hill Cleaver, whom he considered "a wonderful man." Cleaver was the father of Reagan's fiancée. Reagan saw him as a second father. Stephen Vaughn says:
At many points the positions taken by the First Christian Church of Reagan's youth coincided with the words, if not the beliefs of the latter-day Reagan. These positions included faith in Providence, association of America's mission with God's will, belief in progress, trust in the work ethic and admiration for those who achieved wealth, an uncomfortableness with literature and art that questioned the family or challenged notions of proper sexual behavior, the presumption that poverty is an individual problem best left to charity rather than the state, sensitivity to problems involving alcohol and drugs, and reticence to use government to protect civil rights for minorities.
According to Paul Kengor, Reagan had a particularly strong faith in the goodness of people; this faith stemmed from the optimistic faith of his mother and the Disciples of Christ faith, into which he was baptized in 1922.During his years at Hollywood, Reagan became a member of the Hollywood-Beverly Christian Church and attended its services infrequently. Subsequently, from 1964 onwards, Reagan began to attend church services at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, where he became acquainted with Donn Moomaw. Reagan scaled down his church attendance while serving as president, citing the inconvenience that his large Secret Service entourage would bring to other churchgoers and the potential danger (to others) from his presence due to possible terrorism. After leaving office, Reagan officially joined Bel Air as its member and regularly attended services there.
Reagan attended Dixon High School, where he developed interests in acting, sports, and storytelling. His first job involved working as a lifeguard at the Rock River in Lowell Park in 1927. Over six years, Reagan performed 77 rescues. In 1928, he attended Eureka College. He was an indifferent student, majored in economics and sociology and graduated with a C average. He developed a reputation as a "jack of all trades", excelling in campus politics, sports, and theater. He was a member of the football team and of the swim team. He was elected student body president and participated in student protests against the college president.
After graduating from Eureka in 1932, Reagan took jobs in Iowa as a radio announcer at several stations. He moved to WHO radio in Des Moines as an announcer for Chicago Cubs baseball games. His specialty was creating play-by-play accounts of games using only basic descriptions that the station received by wire as the games were in progress.
While traveling with the Cubs in California in 1937, Reagan took a screen test that led to a seven-year contract with Warner Bros. studios. He spent the first few years of his Hollywood career in the "B film" unit, where, Reagan joked, the producers "didn't want them good; they wanted them Thursday".He earned his first screen credit with a starring role in the 1937 movie Love Is on the Air, and by the end of 1939, he had appeared in 19 films, including Dark Victory with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart. Before the film Santa Fe Trail with Errol Flynn in 1940, he played the role of George Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American; from it, he acquired the lifelong nickname "the Gipper". In 1941, exhibitors voted him the fifth most popular star from the younger generation in Hollywood.Reagan played his favorite acting role in 1942's Kings Row, where he plays a double amputee who recites the line "Where's the rest of me?"—later used as the title of his 1965 autobiography. Many film critics considered Kings Row to be his best movie, though the film was condemned by The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther.Kings Row made Reagan a star—Warner immediately tripled his salary to $3,000 a week. Shortly afterward, he received co-star above-the-title billing with Flynn – who was still a huge star at the time – in Desperate Journey (1942). In April 1942, Reagan was ordered to military active duty in San Francisco and never quite became a big first-rank film star despite playing the lead in numerous movies. After his wartime military service he co-starred in such films as The Voice of the Turtle, John Loves Mary, The Hasty Heart, Bedtime for Bonzo, Cattle Queen of Montana, Tennessee's Partner, Hellcats of the Navy (the only film in which he appears with Nancy Reagan), and his one turn at playing a vicious villain, in the 1964 remake The Killers (his final film) with Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. Throughout his film career, Reagan's mother answered much of his fan mail.
After completing 14 home-study Army Extension Courses, Reagan enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Officers' Reserve Corps of the Cavalry on May 25, 1937.On April 18, 1942, Reagan was ordered to active duty for the first time. Due to his poor vision—Reagan was severely nearsighted—he was classified for limited service only, which excluded him from serving overseas. His first assignment was at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation at Fort Mason, California, as a liaison officer of the Port and Transportation Office. Upon the approval of the U.S. Army Air Forces (AAF), he applied for a transfer from the cavalry to the AAF on May 15, 1942, and was assigned to AAF Public Relations and subsequently to the 18th AAF Base Unit (Motion Picture Unit) at Culver City, California. On January 14, 1943, he was promoted to first lieutenant and was sent to the Provisional Task Force Show Unit of This Is the Army at Burbank, California. He returned to the 18th AAF Base Unit after completing this duty and was promoted to captain on July 22, 1943.In January 1944, Reagan was ordered to temporary duty in New York City to participate in the opening of the Sixth War Loan Drive, which campaigned for the purchase of war bonds. He was reassigned to the 18th AAF Base Unit on November 14, 1944, where he remained until the end of World War II. By the end of the war, his units had produced some 400 training films for the Air Force, including cockpit simulations for B-29 crews scheduled to bomb Japan. He was separated from active duty on December 9, 1945, as an Army captain. While he was in the service, Reagan obtained a film reel depicting the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp; he held on to it, believing that doubts would someday arise as to whether the Holocaust had occurred.
Reagan was first elected to the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in 1941, serving as an alternate member. After World War II, he resumed service and became third vice president in 1946. When the SAG president and six board members resigned in March 1947 due to the union's new bylaws on conflict of interest, Reagan was elected president in a special election. He was subsequently re-elected six times, in 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1959. He led the SAG through implementing the 1947 Taft–Hartley Act, various labor-management disputes, and the Hollywood blacklist era. First instituted in 1947 by Studio executives who agreed that they would not employ anyone believed to be or to have been Communists or sympathetic with radical politics, the blacklist grew steadily larger during the early 1950s as the U.S. Congress continued to investigate domestic political subversion.Also during his tenure, Reagan was instrumental in securing residuals for television actors when their episodes were re-run, and later, for motion picture actors when their studio films aired on TV.
In 1946, Reagan served on the national board of directors for the Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions (ICCASP) and had been a member of its Hollywood chapter (HICCASP). His attendance at a July 10, 1946, meeting of HICCASP brought him to the attention of the FBI, which interviewed him on April 10, 1947, in connection with its investigation into HICCASP. Four decades later it was revealed that, during the late 1940s, Reagan (under the code name T-10) and his then-wife, Jane Wyman, provided the FBI with the names of actors within the motion picture industry whom they believed to be communist sympathizers. Even so, he was uncomfortable with the way the SAG was being used by the government, asking during one FBI interview, "Do they (ie. the House Un-American Activities Committee) expect us to constitute ourselves as a little FBI of our own and determine just who is a Commie and who isn't?"
In October 1947 during HUAC's Hollywood hearings, Reagan testified as president of the Screen Actors Guild:
There has been a small group within the Screen Actors Guild which has consistently opposed the policy of the guild board and officers of the guild... suspected of more or less following the tactics that we associate with the Communist Party... At times they have attempted to be a disruptive influence... I have heard different discussions and some of them tagged as Communists... I found myself misled into being a sponsor on another occasion for a function that was held under the auspices of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee.
Regarding a "jurisdictional strike" going on for seven months at that time, Reagan testified:
The first time that this word "Communist" was ever injected into any of the meetings concerning the strike was at a meeting in Chicago with Mr. William Hutchinson, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, who were on strike at the time. He asked the Screen Actors Guild to submit terms to Mr. Walsh, for Walsh to give in the settling of this strike, and he told us to tell Mr. Walsh that if he would give in on these terms he, in turn, would run this Sorrell and the other Commies out—I am quoting him—and break it up. However, Reagan also opposed measures soon to manifest in the Mundt–Nixon Bill in May 1948 by opining: As a citizen I would hesitate, or not like, to see any political party outlawed on the basis of its political ideology... I detest, I abhor their philosophy, but I detest more than that their tactics, which are those of the fifth column, and are dishonest, but at the same time I never as a citizen want to see our country become urged, by either fear or resentment of this group, that we ever compromise with any of our democratic principles through that fear or resentment.
Further, when asked whether he was aware of Communist efforts within the Screen Writers Guild, Reagan would not play along, saying, "Sir, like the other gentlemen, I must say that that is hearsay."
Reagan landed fewer film roles in the late 1950s and moved into television. He was hired as the host of General Electric Theater, a series of weekly dramas that became very popular. His contract required him to tour General Electric (GE) plants 16 weeks out of the year, which often demanded that he give 14 talks per day. He earned approximately $125,000 (equivalent to $1.1 million in 2021) in this role. The show ran for ten seasons from 1953 to 1962, which increased Reagan's national profile. On January 1, 1959, Reagan was the host and announcer for ABC's coverage of the Tournament of Roses Parade. In his final work as a professional actor, Reagan was a host and performer from 1964 to 1965 on the television series Death Valley Days. Following their marriage in 1952, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, who continued to use the stage name Nancy Davis, acted together in three TV series episodes, including a 1958 installment of General Electric Theater titled "A Turkey for the President".
In 1938, Reagan co-starred in the film Brother Rat with actress Jane Wyman (1917–2007). They announced their engagement 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 biological daughters, Maureen (1941–2001) and Christine (born prematurely, and died, June 26, 1947); and adopted a son, Michael (b. 1945). After the couple had arguments about Reagan's political ambitions, Wyman filed for divorce in 1948, citing a distraction due to her husband's Screen Actors Guild union duties; the divorce was finalized in 1949. Wyman, who was a registered Republican, also stated that their breakup stemmed from a difference in politics (Reagan was still a Democrat at the time). When Reagan became president 32 years later, he became the first divorced person to assume the nation's highest office. Reagan and Wyman continued to be friends until his death; Wyman voted for Reagan in both his runs, and on his death she said, "America has lost a great president and a great, kind, and gentle man."
Reagan met actress Nancy Davis (1921–2016) in 1949 after she contacted him in his capacity as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He helped her with issues regarding her name appearing on a Communist blacklist in Hollywood; she had been mistaken for another Nancy Davis. She 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 Valley (North Hollywood, now Studio City) San Fernando Valley. Actor William Holden served as best man at the ceremony. They had two children: Patti (b. 1952) and Ronald "Ron" (b. 1958).
The couple's relationship was close, authentic and intimate. During his presidency, they often displayed affection for each other; one press secretary said, "They never took each other for granted. They never stopped courting." He often called her "Mommy", and she called him "Ronnie". He once wrote to her, "Whatever I treasure and enjoy ... all would be without meaning if I didn't have you." In 1998, while he was stricken by Alzheimer's, Nancy told Vanity Fair, "Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it's true. It did. I can't imagine life without him." Nancy Reagan died on March 6, 2016, at the age of 94.
Reagan began as a Hollywood Democrat, and Franklin D. Roosevelt was "a true hero" to him. He moved to the right-wing in the 1950s, became a Republican in 1962, and emerged as a leading conservative spokesman in the Goldwater campaign of 1964.In his early political career, he joined numerous political committees with a left-wing orientation, such as the American Veterans Committee. He fought against Republican-sponsored right-to-work legislation and supported Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950 when she was defeated for the Senate by Richard Nixon. It was his belief that Communists were a powerful backstage influence in those groups that led him to rally his friends against them.At rallies, Reagan frequently spoke with a strong ideological dimension. In December 1945, he was stopped from leading an anti-nuclear rally in Hollywood by pressure from the Warner Bros. studio. He would later make nuclear weapons a key point of his presidency when he specifically stated his opposition to mutual assured destruction. Reagan also built on previous efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. In the 1948 presidential election, Reagan strongly supported Harry S. Truman and appeared on stage with him during a campaign speech in Los Angeles. In the early 1950s, his relationship with actress Nancy Davis grew, and he shifted to the right when he endorsed the presidential candidacies of Dwight D. Eisenhower (1952 and 1956) and Richard Nixon (1960).Reagan was hired by General Electric (GE) in 1954 to host the General Electric Theater, a weekly TV drama series. He also traveled across the country to give motivational speeches to over 200,000 GE employees. His many speeches—which he wrote himself—were non-partisan but carried a conservative, pro-business message; he was influenced by Lemuel Boulware, a senior GE executive. Boulware, known for his tough stance against unions and his innovative strategies to win over workers, championed the core tenets of modern American conservatism: free markets, anticommunism, lower taxes, and limited government. Eager for a larger stage, but not allowed to enter politics by GE, Reagan quit and formally registered as a Republican. He often said, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me."When the legislation that would become Medicare was introduced in 1961, he created a recording for the American Medical Association (AMA) warning that such legislation would mean the end of freedom in America. Reagan said that if his listeners did not write letters to prevent it, "we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don't do this, and if I don't do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free." Other Democratic initiatives he opposed in the 1960s included the Food Stamp Program, raising the minimum wage, and the establishment of the Peace Corps. He also joined the National Rifle Association (NRA) and would become a lifetime member.Reagan gained national attention in his speeches for conservative presidential contender Barry Goldwater in 1964. Speaking for Goldwater, Reagan stressed his belief in the importance of smaller government. He consolidated themes that he had developed in his talks for GE to deliver his famous speech, "A Time for Choosing":
The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing ... You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream—the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order—or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.
This "A Time for Choosing" speech was not enough to turn around the faltering Goldwater campaign, but it was the crucial event that established Reagan's national political visibility. David Broder of The Washington Post called it, "the most successful national political debut since William Jennings Bryan electrified the 1896 Democratic convention with his Cross of Gold speech".
California Republicans were impressed with Reagan's political views and charisma after his "Time for Choosing" speech, and in late 1965 he announced his campaign for governor in the 1966 election. He defeated former San Francisco mayor George Christopher in the Republican primary. In Reagan's campaign, he emphasized two main themes: "to send the welfare bums back to work", and, in reference to burgeoning anti-war and anti-establishment student protests at the University of California, Berkeley, "to clean up the mess at Berkeley". In 1966, Reagan accomplished what both U.S. senator William Knowland in 1958 and former vice president Richard Nixon in 1962 failed to do: he was elected, defeating Pat Brown, the Democratic two-term governor. Reagan was sworn in on January 2, 1967. In his first term, he froze government hiring and approved tax hikes to balance the budget.
Shortly after assuming office, Reagan tested the 1968 presidential waters as part of a "Stop Nixon" movement, hoping to cut into Nixon's southern support and become a compromise candidate if neither Nixon nor second-place candidate Nelson Rockefeller received enough delegates to win on the first ballot at the Republican convention. However, by the time of the convention, Nixon had 692 delegate votes, 25 more than he needed to secure the nomination, followed by Rockefeller with Reagan in third place.Reagan was involved in several high-profile conflicts with the protest movements of the era, including his public criticism of university administrators for tolerating student demonstrations at the Berkeley campus. On May 15, 1969, during the People's Park protests at the university's campus (the original purpose of which was to discuss the Arab–Israeli conflict), Reagan sent the California Highway Patrol and other officers to quell the protests. This led to an incident that became known as "Bloody Thursday", resulting in the death of student James Rector and the blinding of carpenter Alan Blanchard. In addition, 111 police officers were injured in the conflict, including one who was knifed in the chest. Reagan then called out 2,200 state National Guard troops to occupy the city of Berkeley for two weeks to crack down on the protesters. The Guard remained in Berkeley for 17 days, camping in People's Park, and demonstrations subsided as the university removed cordoned-off fencing and placed all development plans for People's Park on hold. One year after the incident, Reagan responded to questions about campus protest movements saying, "If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with. No more appeasement." When the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Patty Hearst in Berkeley and demanded the distribution of food to the poor, Reagan joked to a group of political aides about a botulism outbreak contaminating the food.Early in 1967, the national debate on abortion was starting to gain traction. In the early stages of the debate, Democratic California state senator Anthony Beilenson introduced the Therapeutic Abortion Act in an effort to reduce the number of "back-room abortions" performed in California. The state legislature sent the bill to Reagan's desk where, after many days of indecision, he reluctantly signed it on June 14, 1967. About two million abortions would be performed as a result, mostly because of a provision in the bill allowing abortions for the well-being of the mother. Reagan had been in office for only four months when he signed the bill and later stated that had he been more experienced as governor, he would not have signed it. After he recognized what he called the "consequences" of the bill, he announced that he was anti-abortion. He maintained that position later in his political career, writing extensively about abortion.
In 1967, Reagan signed the Mulford Act, which repealed a law allowing the public carrying of loaded firearms (becoming California Penal Code 12031 and 171(c)). The bill, which was named after Republican assemblyman Don Mulford, garnered national attention after the Black Panthers marched bearing arms upon the California State Capitol to protest it.Despite an unsuccessful attempt to force a recall election on Reagan in 1968, he was re-elected governor in 1970, defeating Jesse M. Unruh. He chose not to seek a third term in the following election cycle. One of Reagan's greatest frustrations in office was the controversy of capital punishment, which he strongly supported. His efforts to enforce the state's laws in this area were thwarted when the Supreme Court of California issued its People v. Anderson decision, which invalidated all death sentences issued in California before 1972, though the decision was later overturned by a constitutional amendment. The only execution during Reagan's governorship was on April 12, 1967, when Aaron Mitchell's sentence was carried out by the state in San Quentin's gas chamber.In 1969, Reagan signed the Family Law Act, which was an amalgam of two bills that had been written and revised by the California State Legislature over more than two years. It became the first no-fault divorce legislation in the United States. Years later, he told his son Michael that signing that law was his "greatest regret" in public life.Reagan's terms as governor helped to shape the policies he would pursue in his later political career as president. By campaigning on a platform of sending "the welfare bums back to work", he spoke out against the idea of the welfare state. He also strongly advocated the Republican ideal of less government regulation of the economy, including that of undue federal taxation.
Reagan's 1976 campaign relied on a strategy crafted by campaign manager John Sears of winning a few primaries early to damage the inevitability of Gerald Ford's likely nomination. Reagan won North Carolina, Texas, and California, but the strategy failed, as he ended up losing New Hampshire, Florida, and his native Illinois. The Texas campaign lent renewed hope to Reagan when he swept all 96 delegates chosen in the May 1 primary, with four more awaiting at the state convention. Much of the credit for that victory came from the work of three co-chairmen, including Ernest Angelo, the mayor of Midland, and Ray Barnhart of Houston, whom Reagan as president would appoint in 1981 as director of the Federal Highway Administration.However, as the GOP convention neared, Ford appeared close to victory. Acknowledging his party's moderate wing, Reagan chose moderate senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his running mate if nominated. Nonetheless, Ford prevailed with 1,187 delegates to Reagan's 1,070.Reagan's concession speech emphasized the dangers of nuclear war and the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Though he lost the nomination, he received 307 write-in votes in New Hampshire, 388 votes as an independent on Wyoming's ballot, and a single electoral vote from a faithless elector in the November election from the state of Washington.
In 1978, conservative state legislator John Briggs, sponsored a ballot initiative for the November 7, 1978 California state election (the Briggs Initiative) that sought to ban gays and lesbians from working in California's public schools. Officially, California Proposition 6 was a ballot initiative put to referendum on the state ballot. Early opposition was led by LGBT activists and a few progressive politicians, but to many people's surprise, Reagan moved to publicly oppose the measure. He issued an informal letter of opposition to the initiative, told reporters that he was opposed, and wrote an editorial in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner opposing it.The timing of Reagan's opposition was significant, and surprised many, because he was then preparing to run for president, a race in which he would need the support of conservatives and those moderates who were uncomfortable with homosexual teachers. At that very moment, he was actively courting leaders from the religious right, including Jerry Falwell, who would go on to form the Moral Majority to fight out such culture war issues the following year. As Reagan biographer Lou Cannon puts it, Reagan was "well aware that there were those who wanted him to duck the issue" but nevertheless "chose to state his convictions". Cannon reports that Reagan was "repelled by the aggressive public crusades against homosexual life styles which became a staple of right wing politics in the late 1970s". Reagan's November 1 editorial stated, in part, "Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's teachers do not really influence this."
The 1980 presidential election featured Reagan against incumbent president Jimmy Carter and was conducted amid a multitude of domestic concerns as well as the ongoing Iran hostage crisis. Reagan's campaign stressed some of his fundamental principles: lower taxes to stimulate the economy, less government interference in people's lives, states' rights, and a strong national defense.
Reagan launched his campaign with an indictment of a federal government that he believed had "overspent, overstimulated, and overregulated". After receiving the Republican nomination, Reagan selected one of his opponents from the primaries, George H. W. Bush, to be his running mate. His relaxed and confident appearance during the televised Reagan–Carter debate on October 28 boosted his popularity and helped to widen his lead in the polls.On November 4, Reagan won a decisive victory over Carter, carrying 44 states and receiving 489 electoral votes to Carter's 49 in six states plus D.C. He also won the popular vote, receiving 50.7 percent to Carter's 41.0 percent, with independent John B. Anderson garnering 6.6 percent. Republicans also won a majority of seats in the Senate for the first time since 1952, though Democrats retained a majority in the House of Representatives.
During his presidency, Reagan pursued policies that reflected his personal belief in individual freedom, brought economic changes, expanded the military and contributed to the end of the Cold War. Termed the "Reagan Revolution", his presidency would boost American morale, reinvigorate the U.S. economy and reduce reliance upon government. As president, Reagan kept a diary in which he commented on daily occurrences of his presidency and his views on the issues of the day. The diaries were published in May 2007 in the bestselling book The Reagan Diaries.
Reagan was 69 years, 349 days of age when he was sworn into office for his first term on January 20, 1981, making him the oldest first-term president at the time. He held this distinction until 2017, when Donald Trump was inaugurated at age 70 years, 220 days, though Reagan was older upon being inaugurated for his second term. In his inaugural address, he addressed the country's economic malaise, arguing: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem."
Reagan campaigned vigorously to restore organized prayer to the schools, first as a moment of prayer and later as a moment of silence. In 1981, Reagan became the first president to propose a constitutional amendment on school prayer. Reagan's election reflected an opposition to the 1962 Supreme Court case Engel v. Vitale that had prohibited state officials from composing an official state prayer and requiring that it be recited in the public schools. Reagan's 1981 proposed amendment stated: "Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions. No person shall be required by the United States or by any state to participate in prayer." In 1984, Reagan again raised the issue, asking Congress, "why can't [the] freedom to acknowledge God be enjoyed again by children in every schoolroom across this land?" In 1985, Reagan expressed his disappointment that the Supreme Court ruling still banned a moment of silence for public schools, and said that efforts to reinstitute prayer in public schools were "an uphill battle". In 1987, Reagan renewed his call for Congress to support voluntary prayer in schools and end "the expulsion of God from America's classrooms".
On March 30, 1981, Reagan, his press secretary James Brady, Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty, and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy were struck by gunfire from would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr. outside the Washington Hilton hotel. Although "close to death" upon arrival at George Washington University Hospital, Reagan was stabilized in the emergency room, then underwent emergency exploratory surgery. He recovered and was released from the hospital on April 11, becoming the first serving U.S. president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt. The attempt had a significant influence on Reagan's popularity; polls indicated his approval rating to be around 73 percent. Reagan believed that God had spared his life so that he might go on to fulfill a higher purpose.
On July 7, 1981, Reagan announced that he planned to nominate Sandra Day O'Connor as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, replacing the retiring Justice Potter Stewart. He had pledged during his 1980 presidential campaign that he would appoint the first woman to the Court. On September 21, O'Connor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 99–0.
In August 1981, PATCO, the union of federal air traffic controllers, went on strike, violating a federal law prohibiting government unions from striking. Declaring the situation an emergency as described in the 1947 Taft–Hartley Act, Reagan stated that if the air traffic controllers "do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated". They did not return, and on August 5, Reagan fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored his order and used supervisors and military controllers to handle the nation's commercial air traffic until new controllers could be hired and trained. A leading reference work on public administration concluded, "The firing of PATCO employees not only demonstrated a clear resolve by the president to take control of the bureaucracy, but it also sent a clear message to the private sector that unions no longer needed to be feared."
Reagan implemented neoliberal policies based on supply-side economics, advocating a laissez-faire philosophy, and seeking to stimulate the economy with large, across-the-board tax cuts. He also supported returning the United States to some sort of gold standard and successfully urged Congress to establish the U.S. Gold Commission to study how one could be implemented. Citing the economic theories of Arthur Laffer, Reagan promoted the proposed tax cuts as potentially stimulating the economy enough to expand the tax base, offsetting the revenue loss due to reduced rates of taxation, a theory that entered political discussion as the Laffer curve. Reaganomics was the subject of debate with supporters pointing to improvements in certain key economic indicators as evidence of success, and critics pointing to large increases in federal budget deficits and the national debt. His policy of "peace through strength" resulted in a record peacetime defense buildup including a 40 percent real increase in defense spending between 1981 and 1985.During Reagan's presidency, federal income tax rates were lowered significantly with the signing of the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which lowered the top marginal tax bracket from 70 percent to 50 percent over three years (as part of a "5–10–10" plan), and the lowest bracket from 14 percent to 11 percent. Other tax increases passed by Congress and signed by Reagan ensured, however, that tax revenues over his two terms were 18.2 percent of GDP as compared to 18.1 percent over the 40 years of 1970–2010. The 1981 tax act also required that exemptions and brackets be indexed for inflation starting in 1985.Conversely, Congress passed and Reagan signed into law tax increases of some nature in every year from 1981 to 1987 to continue funding such government programs as Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (TEFRA), Social Security, and the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 (DEFRA). TEFRA was the "largest peacetime tax increase in American history". Gross domestic product (GDP) growth recovered strongly after the early 1980s recession ended in 1982, and grew during his eight years in office at an annual rate of 7.9 percent per year, with a high of 12.2 percent growth in 1981. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent monthly rate in December 1982—higher than any time since the Great Depression—then dropped during the rest of Reagan's presidency. Sixteen million new jobs were created, while inflation significantly decreased. The Tax Reform Act of 1986, another bipartisan effort championed by Reagan, simplified the tax code by reducing the number of tax brackets to four and slashing several tax breaks. The top rate was dropped to 28 percent, but capital gains taxes were increased on those with the highest incomes from 20 percent to 28 percent. The increase of the lowest tax bracket from 11 percent to 15 percent was more than offset by the expansion of personal exemption, standard deduction, and earned income tax credit. The net result was the removal of six million poor Americans from the income tax roll and a reduction of income tax liability at all income levels.The net effect of all Reagan-era tax bills was a 1 percent decrease in government revenues when compared to Treasury Department revenue estimates from the administration's first post-enactment January budgets. However, federal income tax receipts increased from 1980 to 1989, rising from $308.7 billion to $549 billion or an average annual rate of 8.2 percent (2.5 percent attributed to higher Social Security receipts), and federal outlays grew at an annual rate of 7.1 percent.
Reagan's policies proposed that economic growth would occur when marginal tax rates were low enough to spur investment, which would then lead to higher employment and wages. Critics labeled this "trickle-down economics"—the belief that tax policies that benefit the wealthy will create a "trickle-down" effect reaching the poor. Questions arose whether Reagan's policies benefited the wealthy more than those living in poverty, and many poor and minority citizens viewed Reagan as indifferent to their struggles. These views were exacerbated by the fact that Reagan's economic regimen included freezing the minimum wage at $3.35 an hour, slashing federal assistance to local governments by 60 percent, cutting the budget for public housing and Section 8 rent subsidies in half, and eliminating the antipoverty Community Development Block Grant program. Along with Reagan's 1981 cut in the top regular tax rate on unearned income, he reduced the maximum capital gains rate to 20 percent. Reagan later set tax rates on capital gains at the same level as the rates on ordinary income like salaries and wages, with both topping out at 28 percent. Reagan is viewed as an antitax hero despite raising taxes eleven times throughout his presidency, all in the name of fiscal responsibility. According to Paul Krugman, "Over all, the 1982 tax increase undid about a third of the 1981 cut; as a share of GDP, the increase was substantially larger than Mr. Clinton's 1993 tax increase." According to historian and domestic policy adviser Bruce Bartlett, Reagan's tax increases throughout his presidency took back half of the 1981 tax cut.Reagan was opposed to government intervention, and he cut the budgets of non-military programs including Medicaid, food stamps, federal education programs and the EPA. He protected entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, but his administration attempted to purge many people with disabilities from the Social Security disability rolls.The administration's stance toward the savings and loan industry contributed to the savings and loan crisis. A minority of the critics of Reaganomics also suggested that the policies partially influenced the stock market crash of 1987, but there is no consensus regarding a single source for the crash.To cover newly spawned federal budget deficits, the United States borrowed heavily both domestically and abroad, causing the national debt to nearly triple from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion. Reagan described the new debt as the "greatest disappointment" of his presidency.He reappointed Paul Volcker as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and in 1987 he appointed monetarist Alan Greenspan to succeed him. Reagan ended the price controls on domestic oil that had contributed to the energy crises of 1973–1974 and the summer of 1979. The price of oil subsequently dropped, and there were no fuel shortages like those in the 1970s. Reagan also fulfilled a 1980 campaign promise to repeal the windfall profits tax in 1988, which had previously increased dependence on foreign oil. Some economists, such as Nobel Prize winners Milton Friedman and Robert Mundell, argue that Reagan's tax policies invigorated America's economy and contributed to the economic boom of the 1990s. Other economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow, argue that Reagan's deficits were a major reason his successor, George H. W. Bush, reneged on his campaign promise and resorted to raising taxes.During Reagan's presidency, a program was initiated within the United States Intelligence Community to ensure America's economic strength. The program, Project Socrates, developed and demonstrated the means required for the United States to generate and lead the next evolutionary leap in technology acquisition and utilization for a competitive advantage—automated innovation. To ensure that the United States acquired the maximum benefit from automated innovation, Reagan, during his second term, had an executive order drafted to create a new federal agency to implement the Project Socrates results on a nationwide basis. However, Reagan's term came to an end before the executive order could be coordinated and signed, and the incoming Bush administration, labeling Project Socrates as "industrial policy", had it terminated.
The Reagan administration was often criticized for inadequately enforcing, if not actively undermining, civil rights legislation. In 1982, he signed a bill extending the Voting Rights Act for 25 years after a grass-roots lobbying and legislative campaign forced him to abandon his plan to ease that law's restrictions. He also signed legislation establishing a federal Martin Luther King holiday, though he did so with reservations. In March 1988, he vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, but his veto was overridden by Congress. Reagan had argued that the legislation infringed on states' rights and the rights of churches and business owners.
Reagan escalated the Cold War, accelerating a reversal from the policy of détente that began during the Carter administration, following the Afghan Saur Revolution and subsequent Soviet invasion. He ordered a massive buildup of the United States Armed Forces and implemented new policies that were directed towards the Soviet Union; he revived the B-1 Lancer program that had been canceled by the Carter administration, and he produced the MX missile. In response to Soviet deployment of the SS-20, Reagan oversaw NATO's deployment of the Pershing missile in West Germany. In 1982 Reagan tried to cut off Moscow's access to hard currency by impeding its proposed gas line to Western Europe. It hurt the Soviet economy, but it also caused ill will among American allies in Europe who counted on that revenue. Reagan retreated on this issue.In 1984, journalist Nicholas Lemann interviewed Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and summarized the strategy of the Reagan administration to roll back the Soviet Union:
Their society is economically weak, and it lacks the wealth, education, and technology to enter the information age. They have thrown everything into military production, and their society is starting to show terrible stress as a result. They can't sustain military production the way we can. Eventually it will break them, and then there will be just one superpower in a safe world—if, only if, we can keep spending.
Lemann noted that when he wrote that in 1984, he thought the Reaganites were living in a fantasy world. But by 2016, Lemann stated that the passage represents "a fairly uncontroversial description of what Reagan actually did".Reagan and the United Kingdom's prime minister Margaret Thatcher both denounced the Soviet Union in ideological terms. In a famous address on June 8, 1982, to the Parliament of the United Kingdom in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster, Reagan said, "the march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism–Leninism on the ash heap of history." On March 3, 1983, he predicted that communism would collapse, stating, "Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written." In a speech to the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983, Reagan called the Soviet Union "an evil empire".
After Soviet fighters downed Korean Air Lines Flight 007 near Moneron Island on September 1, 1983, carrying 269 people, including Georgia congressman Larry McDonald, Reagan labeled the act a "massacre" and declared that the Soviets had turned "against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere". The Reagan administration responded to the incident by suspending all Soviet passenger air service to the United States and dropped several agreements being negotiated with the Soviets, wounding them financially. As a result of the shootdown, and the cause of KAL 007's going astray thought to be inadequacies related to its navigational system, Reagan announced on September 16, 1983, that the Global Positioning System would be made available for civilian use, free of charge, once completed in order to avert similar navigational errors in the future.Under a policy that came to be known as the Reagan Doctrine, Reagan and his administration also provided overt and covert aid to anti-communist resistance movements in an effort to "rollback" Soviet-backed communist governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. However, in a break from the Carter administration's policy of arming Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, Reagan also agreed with the communist government in China to reduce the sale of arms to Taiwan.
Reagan deployed the CIA's Special Activities Division to Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were instrumental in training, equipping and leading Mujahideen forces against the Soviet Army. President Reagan's Covert Action program has been given credit for assisting in ending the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, though some of the United States funded armaments introduced then would later pose a threat to U.S. troops in the 2001 War in Afghanistan. The CIA also began sharing information with the Iranian government which it was secretly courting. In one instance, in 1982, this practice enabled the government to identify and purge communists from its ministries and to virtually eliminate the pro-Soviet infrastructure in Iran.In March 1983, Reagan introduced the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a defense project that would have used ground- and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. Reagan believed that this defense shield could make nuclear war impossible. There was much disbelief surrounding the program's scientific feasibility, leading opponents to dub SDI "Star Wars" and argue that its technological objective was unattainable. The Soviets became concerned about the possible effects SDI would have; leader Yuri Andropov said it would put "the entire world in jeopardy". For those reasons, David Gergen, a former aide to President Reagan, believes that in retrospect, SDI hastened the end of the Cold War.Though supported by leading American conservatives who argued that Reagan's foreign policy strategy was essential to protecting U.S. security interests, critics labeled the administration's foreign policy initiatives as aggressive and imperialistic, and chided them as "warmongering". The administration was also heavily criticized for backing anti-communist leaders accused of severe human rights violations, such as Hissène Habré of Chad and Efraín Ríos Montt of Guatemala. During the 16 months (1982–1983) Montt was President of Guatemala, the Guatemalan military was accused of genocide for massacres of members of the Ixil people and other indigenous groups. Reagan had said that Montt was getting a "bum rap", and described him as "a man of great personal integrity". Previous human rights violations had prompted the United States to cut off aid to the Guatemalan government, but the Reagan administration appealed to Congress to restart military aid. Although unsuccessful with that, the administration was successful in providing nonmilitary assistance such as USAID.
With the approval of Congress, Reagan sent forces to Lebanon in 1983 to reduce the threat of the Lebanese Civil War. The American peacekeeping forces in Beirut, a part of a multinational force during the Lebanese Civil War, were attacked on October 23, 1983. The Beirut barracks bombing killed 241 American servicemen and wounded more than 60 others by a suicide truck bomber. Reagan sent in the USS New Jersey battleship to shell Syrian positions in Lebanon. He then withdrew all the Marines from Lebanon.
On October 25, 1983, Reagan ordered U.S. forces to invade Grenada (codenamed "Operation Urgent Fury") where a 1979 coup d'état had established a Soviet-Cuban supported Marxist–Leninist government led by Maurice Bishop. A week before the invasion, Bishop was overthrown and executed following a coup d'état by Bernard Coard. A formal appeal from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) led to the intervention of U.S. forces; President Reagan also cited a regional threat posed by a Soviet-Cuban military build-up in the Caribbean nation and concern for the safety of several hundred American medical students at St. George's University as adequate reasons to invade. Operation Urgent Fury was the first major military operation conducted by U.S. forces since the Vietnam War. Several days of fighting commenced, resulting in a U.S. victory, with 19 American fatalities and 116 wounded American soldiers. In mid-December, after a new government was appointed by the governor-general, U.S. forces withdrew.
Reagan accepted the Republican nomination in the Republican convention in Dallas, Texas. He proclaimed that it was "morning again in America", regarding the recovering economy and the dominating performance by the American athletes at the 1984 Summer Olympics on home soil, among other things. He became the first U.S. president to open an Olympic Games. Previous Olympics taking place in the United States had been opened by either the vice president (three times) or another person in charge (twice).
Reagan's opponent in the 1984 presidential election was former vice president Walter Mondale. Following a weak performance in the first presidential debate, Reagan's ability to win another term was questioned. Reagan rebounded in the second debate; confronting questions about his age, he quipped: "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience". This remark generated applause and laughter, even from Mondale himself.That November, Reagan won a landslide re-election victory, carrying 49 of the 50 states. Mondale won only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Reagan won 525 of the 538 electoral votes, the most of any presidential candidate in U.S. history. In terms of electoral votes, Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1936 victory over Alf Landon, in which he won 98.5 percent or 523 of the then-total 531 electoral votes, was the most-lopsided presidential election. Reagan won 58.8 percent of the popular vote to Mondale's 40.6 percent. His popular vote margin of victory—nearly 16.9 million votes (54.4 million for Reagan to 37.5 million for Mondale)—was exceeded only by Richard Nixon in his 1972 victory over George McGovern.
Reagan was sworn in as president for the second time on January 20, 1985, in a private ceremony at the White House. At the time, the 73-year-old Reagan was the oldest person to take the presidential oath of office; this record was later surpassed by Joe Biden, who was 78 at his inauguration in 2021. Because January 20 fell on a Sunday, a public celebration was not held but took place in the Capitol rotunda the following day. January 21 was one of the coldest days on record in Washington, D.C.; due to poor weather, inaugural celebrations were held inside the Capitol. In the weeks that followed, Reagan shook up his staff somewhat, moving White House Chief of Staff James Baker to Secretary of the Treasury and naming Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, a former Merrill Lynch officer, Chief of Staff.
In response to concerns about the increasing crack epidemic, Reagan began the war on drugs campaign in 1982, a policy led by the federal government to reduce the illegal drug trade. Though Nixon had previously declared war on drugs, Reagan advocated more aggressive policies. He said that "drugs were menacing our society" and promised to fight for drug-free schools and workplaces, expanded drug treatment, stronger law enforcement and drug interdiction efforts, and greater public awareness.In 1986, Reagan signed a drug enforcement bill that budgeted $1.7 billion (equivalent to $4.2 billion in 2021) to fund the war on drugs and specified a mandatory minimum penalty for drug offenses. The bill was criticized for promoting significant racial disparities in the prison population, and critics also charged that the policies did little to reduce the availability of drugs on the street while resulting in a tremendous financial burden for America. Defenders of the effort point to success in reducing rates of adolescent drug use which they attribute to the Reagan administrations policies: marijuana use among high-school seniors declined from 33 percent in 1980 to 12 percent in 1991. First Lady Nancy Reagan made the war on drugs her main priority by founding the "Just Say No" drug awareness campaign, which aimed to discourage children and teenagers from engaging in recreational drug use by offering various ways of saying "no". Nancy Reagan traveled to 65 cities in 33 states, raising awareness about the dangers of drugs, including alcohol.
According to AIDS activist organizations such as ACT UP and scholars such as Don Francis and Peter S. Arno, the Reagan administration largely ignored the AIDS crisis, which began to unfold in the United States in 1981, the same year Reagan took office. They also claim that AIDS research was chronically underfunded during Reagan's administration, and requests for more funding by doctors at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were routinely denied.By the time President Reagan gave his first prepared speech on the epidemic, six years into his presidency, 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS, and 20,849 had died of it. By 1989, the year Reagan left office, more than 100,000 people had been diagnosed with AIDS in the United States, and more than 59,000 of them had died of it.Reagan administration officials countered criticisms of neglect by noting that federal funding for AIDS-related programs rose over his presidency, from a few hundred thousand dollars in 1982 to $2.3 billion in 1989. In a September 1985 press conference, Reagan, answering a related question, said: "This is a top priority with us, yes, there's no question about the seriousness of this and the need to find an answer." Gary Bauer, Reagan's domestic policy adviser near the end of his second term, argued that Reagan's belief in cabinet government led him to assign the job of speaking out against AIDS to his Surgeon General of the United States and the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.
From the late 1960s onward, the American public grew increasingly vocal in its opposition to the apartheid policy of the white-minority government of South Africa, and in its insistence that the U.S. impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on South Africa. The strength of the anti-apartheid opposition surged during Reagan's first term in office as its component disinvestment from South Africa movement, which had been in existence for quite some years, gained critical mass following in the United States, particularly on college campuses and among mainline Protestant denominations. President Reagan was opposed to divestiture because, as he wrote in a letter to Sammy Davis Jr., it "would hurt the very people we are trying to help and would leave us no contact within South Africa to try and bring influence to bear on the government". He also noted the fact that the "American-owned industries there employ more than 80,000 blacks" and that their employment practices were "very different from the normal South African customs".As an alternative strategy for opposing apartheid, the Reagan Administration developed a policy of constructive engagement with the South African government as a means of encouraging it to move away from apartheid gradually. It wa
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