Historical Stories

Ronald Reagan, From Actor to President

shutterstock_269422934Most politicians are bred from the get-go. Their path, serving one office and then moving up to another, is one that’s often paved before they even graduate from university. This is especially true for the men lucky enough to have held the highest position in the land – President of the United States. While many had similar occupations beforehand, being lawyers and Army Generals, only one turned from actor to president. This man was Ronald Reagan.

Family, childhood and life as a young adult

Ronald Reagan had a small family that wasn’t very well off. He grew up with one older brother named Neil, his father Jack and his mother Nelle. While Ronald was born in Tampico, Illnois, his childhood was truly molded as his family settled down in Dixon.

Both of Ronald’s parents were democratic and incredibly religious. He followed his mother’s footsteps, joining the church of the Disciples of Christ as his older brother Neil was raised as a Catholic just like their father. Some say that Ronald got his political chops from his father who was a dedicated Democrat. At a point in time he was appointed as director of “Works Progress Administration” for his contributions, an agency that gave jobs to the jobless under the Roosevelt administration.

Ronald had always been active throughout high school and college. He graduated from Dixon High School in 1928 and enrolled at Eureka College in the same year. Throughout his schooling he played various sports such as football and baseball. He was even president of the student council, wrote for the school paper, was editor of their college yearbook and did theatre. His first taste of politics was his stint representing students of Eureka as they held a strike to restore classes that was eliminated due to the college’s financial constraints. This led to the resignation of the college president.

A Career in Media

Reagan was a natural on radio. His inexperience did not hold him back as he did radio commercial. This soon progressed to being a staff announcer for a channel called WHO in Iowa.

Reagan had a stable career path by the time he was doing sportscasts of “Big Ten Football” and recreating “Chicago Cubs” baseball games. This proved Reagan had enough charisma and personality for a radio, but he was about to find out he was good looking enough for film, too.

He already had the acting chops from his theatre experience in high school, however him looking like an actor who recently passed away (one that Warner Brothers were trying very hard to replace) was pure luck. He met a Hollywood agent in California in 1937 by chance and that was it.

In the span of 20 years (1937-1957), Reagan was in 52 films. He became a huge Hollywood actor, noted for his works on films such as Knute Rockne—All American and Kings Row. His work was vast – from action films to light comedies. He was well loved in the industry for both his quality of work and his work ethic. Expectedly, he had the heart of Hollywood easily.

His Start in Politics 

Past his acting prime, Reagan was still both active and influential in the Screen Actors Guild as he fought for better benefits and pay for actors. Having said that, his real dip into politics didn’t start until he did speeches for Republican presidential nominee, Richard Nixon.

His real interest in policies had much to do with his financial stability. As he landed $1 million contract, he expressed resentment paying high taxes and shared the same sentiments with middle corporate middle managers. Reagan, at the time doing speeches for companies such as General Electric, slowly shifted his speech’s focal point from his Hollywood career to complete political ideology and importance of citizen’s individual freedom. This spurred his bid for Governor of California in 1966, which he won.

Reagan surprised his constituents by being reasonable and sensible. To address an inherited budget deficit he agreed to a tax increase. He worked with Democrats for property tax relief and welfare reform.

His success as governor fueled his bid for presidency – a bid that divided his supporters. While most agreed that he did well as a young politician, many felt that he needed more experience before gunning after higher office. Regardless, he won the Republican nomination and beat out President Jimmy Carter by a considerable amount.

His Presidency

Reagan was lauded for both his work in foreign and domestic affairs. His goals were clear – reignite the economy, lower taxes, reign in federal government, and address the Soviet Union by building up the military. With the threat of a nuclear war on their heads, he wanted to negotiate from a position of strength.

The unforgettable attempt at assassination of the president had his ratings soaring. Sadly, a little later on the United Stated suffered from a depression due to a poorly passed economic program. The fact that revenue cuts ran deep as military spending soared had the country suffer, however the economy rose again in 1983 that helped Reagan focus on foreign affairs once more.

Many milestones followed as his thrusts on foreign affairs became his worst and best legacies, however as he left office in 1989 it showed that he had the highest approval rating of any outgoing president since Roosevelt.

Reagan – a considerably simple man – ended up taking the highest office in the land and left on a high note. Men like Reagan further prove that with passion, effort and love, any man can truly make a change and achieve whatever they dream to achieve.

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