Ronald Reagan Term Paper

This essay has a total of 1960 words and 9 pages.

Ronald Reagan

Reckoning with Reagan:
America and its President in the 1980s
Michael Schaller
Oxford University Press: New York, 1992



Ronald Reagan was more than a president. He was a phenomenon. Since he left office in
1989, many authors have tried to effectively identify who this man really was. He was an
icon to some, and an enigma to others. He stood up to the worst economic, domestic, and
international threats of the time and yet, took naps in the middle of cabinet meetings. At
the height of his popularity in 1986, he had, as Time magazine put it, "found America's
sweet spot. " Reagan had ideals of what he felt America should be like, and made it his
number one goal to share his unrelenting optimism with every person in the country. He
pledged to bring Americans a "little good news." and created a strong bond with the
public. Throughout his eight years in office, he continually motivated and energized his
supporters while at the same time, confounded and mystified his detractors. Reagan stood
tall among the thirty-nine presidents that preceded him, and was one of the most popular
leaders of the twentieth century. In his book, Reckoning with Reagan, Schaller attempted
to reconcile the facts and myths that surrounded Reagan during his entrance into public
service, his back to back terms as governor of California, and his eight years as
President of the United States. Although, he briefly outlined Reagan's earlier years as a
Hollywood actor, corporate spokesperson and motivational speaker, Schaller concentrates on
the presidency and how Reagan impacted America to such a degree, that it would be felt for
years to come. And for the first time since Kennedy, an era would be defined by a single
man: Ronald Reagan.

Though he would stop short of saying that he was born in a log cabin, Ronald Reagan grew
up in humble beginnings. The son of an alcoholic father whom couldn't hold down a job and
a religious mother, Reagan was encouraged at an early age by his mother to act in school
plays. An activity in which the young Reagan showed much promise. Because of a difficult
home life, Reagan created a distance between the reality of his troubled surroundings and
the fantasy of how things should be. Many believed that such mental redirection at this
early age played a big role in his vision and ideals for America years later.

After he graduated high school in 1932, Reagan went to work as a radio broadcaster. The
sincerity and warmth in his voice won instant popularity with listeners, and he rapidly
excelled in the entertainment industry. Earning a promotion to sports announcer, he
narrated baseball games that came into the station via telegraph. His colorful details and
folksy stories intrigued his audiences so much, that many preferred to listen to him
rather than the actual game broadcast.

While in California to cover spring training with the Chicago Cubs, Reagan auditioned for
Warner Bothers Studios and won an acting contract. Reagan continued to be seen on the
silver screen in many movies, including several war time morale films during his
enlistment in the U.S. Army during World War II until his career stagnated in 1946.

Over the next few years, Reagan's ability to captivate his audience was honed as his
career transposed into corporate spokesman and motivational speaker. This only solidified
his most famous moniker as, "The Great Communicator."

Reagan's rise into politics started with his candidacy for governor of California in 1966.
He ran on a platform of reducing the size of state government and throwing the rascals
out. He claimed to be just an ordinary citizen who opposed high taxes, government
regulation, waste and abuse. Reagan capitalized on Californian's resentment of Pat Brown
because of high taxes and the Watts Ghetto Riots of 1965.

In 1967, during his first few months as governor, Reagan had no real agenda and had
difficulty defining his goals for his administration. But after settling in, he began to
stress a moderate tax reform policy and criticized public programs as inferior to those in
the private sector. Reagan insisted that California was built by rugged individualists
like ranchers and railroad builders and not big government. This appealed to many in
California and set the stage for presidential aspirations in the next decade.

After losing the Republican nomination to Gerald Ford in 1976, Reagan went on to win the
1980 nomination and defeat incumbent, Jimmy Carter. He continued his platform of lower
taxes, smaller government and a stronger defense. During the first few years on his
presidency, Reagan embraced the newly formed religious right, headed by Moral Majority
leader, Jerry Fawell and it's stances against affirmative action, detente, and social
movements like feminism and gay rights.

Reagan also took bold strides in the nation's economic policies. In 1980, he met with
economists, including Arthur Laffer. Laffer had presented an economic theory that stated
federal revenue would decline with too much or too little taxation. Reagan was sold on the
"Laffer Curve, " and the theory would soon be the foundation for his supply-side trickle
down economic policy.

During his eight years as president, Reagan's administration worked to cut back the
network of social programs that had become bloated monstrosities. He also sought to limit
the role of federal courts in promulgating judicial fiat and fought to eliminate
government regulation of business, banking and the environment.

Regan scoffed at those who spoke of a national malaise. Reagan saw himself leading a great
country filled with great people doing great things. He emphasized the same rugged
individualist spirit that he did as governor of California. It was his goal to shift the
American mindset away from the attitude of the Carter Administration where everyone,
including the president, needed to sacrifice and do with less, to a belief that in
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