Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) was the 40th President of the United States, serving from 1981 to 1989. He was a [conservative Republican](https://doctorparadox.net/mental-self-defense/the-conservative-mind/) known for his optimistic vision of America, strong anti-communist stance, and supply-side economic policies, often referred to as [trickle down economics](https://doctorparadox.net/gop-myths/trickle-down-economics/), or "Reaganomics."
## Early life
Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois, to John Edward "Jack" Reagan and Nelle Clyde (Wilson) Reagan. He graduated from Eureka College in 1932 with a degree in economics and sociology. Reagan began his career as a radio sports announcer before moving to Hollywood, where he acted in over 50 films. During World War II, Reagan served in the Army Air Force, though poor eyesight prevented him from serving overseas. He was assigned to the First Motion Picture Unit, where he helped produce training and [propaganda](https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/authoritarianism/propaganda/) films.
## Political career
Reagan's political career began in the late 1940s when he became involved with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), eventually serving as its president from 1947 to 1952 and again from 1959 to 1960. Initially a Democrat, Reagan gradually shifted to the right and became a Republican in 1962.
Reagan's political career took off in 1964 when he delivered a televised speech in support of Republican presidential candidate [[Barry Goldwater]]. This speech, known as "A Time for Choosing," highlighted Reagan's conservative principles and helped launch him into the national political spotlight. In 1966, Reagan was elected Governor of California and served two terms, from 1967 to 1975.
## Reagan presidency
In 1980, Reagan was elected President of the United States, defeating incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter. As president, Reagan pursued a number of key policies:
1. **Economic Policy**: Reagan implemented supply-side economic policies, which emphasized tax cuts, deregulation (including the repeal of the [[Fairness Doctrine]] in media), and reduced government spending. These policies were designed to stimulate economic growth and are often credited with contributing to the economic expansion of the 1980s -- as well as the ballooning of the deficit and [[national debt]], and the Savingd and Loan Crisis of the late '80s.
2. **Foreign Policy**: Reagan took a strong stance against [[Communism]] and increased military spending, especially in the development of strategic defense initiatives, such as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or "Star Wars." He also played a significant role in bringing an end to the [Cold War](https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/cold-war-dictionary/) by engaging in diplomacy with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which ultimately led to a series of arms reduction treaties.
3. **Social Policy**: Reagan's administration pursued conservative social policies, including opposition to abortion, promotion of "[traditional family values](https://doctorparadox.net/dictionaries/authoritarianism/strict-father-morality/)," and a tough-on-crime approach that was criticized then and now for its racialized approach to criminal justice.
## Iran-Contra scandal
Reagan was re-elected in 1984 in a landslide victory over Democrat Walter Mondale. He continued to pursue his policy agenda during his second term, but his administration was also marred by the Iran-Contra scandal, which involved the covert sale of arms to Iran and the funneling of profits to anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua.
The major scandal involved two separate covert operations: the illegal sale of arms to Iran and the diversion of profits from those sales to fund anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua. The scandal emerged in 1986 when it was revealed that the Reagan administration had secretly sold weapons to Iran, despite an arms embargo, in an effort to secure the release of American hostages held by Iranian-backed militants in Lebanon. At the same time, it was discovered that some of the proceeds from the arms sales had been funneled to the Contras, in violation of a [[Congress]]ional ban on military aid to the group.
The Iran-Contra affair raised serious questions about the legality and transparency of the Reagan administration's actions, and it led to several investigations, including the appointment of an independent counsel. The investigations revealed that key administration officials, including National Security Advisor John Poindexter and Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, were directly involved in the planning and execution of the operations.
Although President Reagan maintained that he was unaware of the diversion of funds to the Contras, the scandal tarnished his legacy and resulted in the convictions of several high-ranking officials. However, many of the convictions were later overturned on appeal or pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. The Iran-Contra scandal remains a significant episode in American political history, highlighting the importance of government accountability and the potential consequences of covert foreign policy operations.
After leaving office in 1989, Reagan retired to his home in California. In 1994, he revealed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He passed away on June 5, 2004, at the age of 93. Reagan is remembered as a transformative figure in American politics, and his presidency marked a significant shift in the country's political and economic landscape.