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Ronald Wilson Reagan was an American actor and politician who served as the 40th President of the United States. Before Reagan became the president, he was a Hollywood actor, a union leader, and the Governor of California for two terms from 1967 to 1975. Reagan became the President of the United States in 1981 and served for two terms until 1989 (Mann & Massie, 2009). During his tenure as the president, on January 28, 1986, Reagan gave a speech regarding an event that had occurred earlier in the day and resulted into the whole nation mourning. As a result of the country’s interest in space programs, seven individual set on a journey to the space, but their space shuttle broke apart 73 seconds after takeoff (Pemberton, 2015). Consequently, President Reagan gave the speech to console the families of those who were lost in the accident as well as to joining the whole country in mourning the loss of those heroes. Clearly, the nation did not expect for the accident to occur and hence expected the president to share some light on the issue and provide a reassurance to the public on the same matter (Anderson & Anderson, 2015).
Ronald Reagan Biographical Information
Born on February 6th, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois, Ronald Wilson Reagan initially pursued a career in entertainment and as a consequence appeared in more than 50 films. It was while he was in the entertainment industry that Reagan met his future wife (Nancy Reagan). Reagan later served as the Governor of California for two terms. He entered the politics as a liberal Democrat. However, he run for presidency as a Republican. Reagan won two terms, which he served until 1989 and became a conservative icon in the following decades. In his later years, Reagan suffered Alzheimer disease which eventual took his life on June 5th, 2004.
Childhood and Education
Ronald Reagan was born on 6th February, 1911, to John Edward Reagan and Nellie Wilson Reagan. During his early life, his family lived in different towns, moving from one town to another, and finally settled in Dixon, Illinois. Reagan family was relatively poor. His father operated a shoe store to provide for the family. Reagan joined Dixon High School and took part in different activities including athletics, school plays, and also served as the student body president in the final year. He graduated from the high school in 1928 and joined at Eureka College through an athletic scholarship to pursue economics and sociology. While in college, Reagan played football, captained the swim team, ran track, acted in college productions, and worked as a student council president. He graduated in 1932.
Hollywood Career and Marriage
Reagan joined the movie studio Warner Bros on a seven year contract in 1937. The following three decades saw him appear in more than fifty movies including Knute Rockne, All American. Reagan married Jane Wyman, an actress, and later had a daughter and adopted a son. The couple did not last for long as it divorced in 1948. He later married Nancy Davis, also an actress, through a wedding in 1952 and they were blessed with two children, Patricia and Ronald. In 1954, Reagan participated in television drama series (The General Electric Theater) and, as part of his responsibility, he traveled across the country acting in the capacity of public relations representative for General Electric (GE). It was during this period in Reagan history that he developed an interest in politics. He started speaking out against wasteful spending and excessive government regulation.
Governorship and Presidential Bid
Reagan enter national politics in 1964 after giving a well-received speech for the then Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Two years later, Reagan became the Governor for California beating the incumbent. He again run for same office in 1970 and won a second term. Reagan took part in the 1968 and 1976 presidential nomination on a republican ticket, failing to get the nomination in both occasions. It was until 1980 that he received the nomination and later defeated President Jimmy Carter in the presidential elections.
Inauguration and Assassination Attempt
Reagan was inaugurated in January 20th, 1981. In his inauguration speech, President Reagan emphasized that he was going to change the government was run to ensure citizens benefited from his tenure. On March 30th, 1981, an assassination attempt was made on Reagan’s life but he survived this with a bullet injury.
Domestic Agenda and Foreign Affairs
During his term, President Reagan introduced different conservative policies including tax cuts, increased military spending, reduced spending in certain social programs, and implemented different measures aimed at deregulating business. Regarding foreign affairs, Reagan was praised for ending the Cold War. He also sanctioned the sending of American troops to different countries including Lebanon and Beirut for peacekeeping missions.
Reagan was reelected as the US President in 1984 with a landslide win. During the second term, Reagan managed to forge new diplomatic relationship with the Soviet Union. His efforts also led to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.
Later Years and Death
Reagan left the White House in 1989 and returned to his home in Los Angeles, California. Two years later, the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs was established in Simi Valley, California. In 1994, the retired president (Reagan) revealed to the public that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Reagan died on June 5th, 2004 at age 93.
Pressing Issues and Events prior to the Speech
The ‘address to the Nation on the Challenger” occurred at a time when the United States was on the quest to explore the space. The country was racing against time to beat its bitter rivals in the space programs such as Russia. The country had hopped the Challenger could complete its journey to the space and back. However, this did not happen as the space shuttle broke apart shortly after leaving the ground (Mann & Massie, 2009).
Rationale for Examining the Speech
The speech is very significant as it is based on a time in American history when the country was committed to making the impossible possible. This was not the first time such an accident had happened as a result of the country’s commitment to exploring the space. For example, in the president’s speech, he mentioned that a similar accident had occurred 19 years before killing three astronauts (Reagan, 2004). The speech is unique considering the president had to postpone the speech he was going to give on the state of the Union. This was the first time a president ever postponed this important speech (state of Union). Despite the accident, President Reagan emphasized that the country was going to continue with the space program regardless. It is worth examining the speech to understand the reasons behind the president’s sentiments (Anderson & Anderson, 2015).
Anderson, M., & Anderson, A. G. (2015). Ronald Reagan: Decisions of Greatness. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.
Mann, J., & Massie, S. (2009). The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: a History of the End of the Cold War. New York, NY: Penguin.
Pemberton, W. E. (2015). Exit with Honor: The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan. New York, NY: Routledge.
Reagan, R. (2004). Speaking My Mind: Selected Speeche. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
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