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Ronald Reagan 1911-2004

lemoLiving Museum Online
  • Ronald Reagan, President of the USA, giving a speech to the German Bundestag in Bonn, 1982.

    Photo credit: REGIERUNGonline; B 145 pic-00000544

  • February 6: Ronald Wilson Reagan is born in Tampico, Illinois, the youngest of four children to John Edward Reagan and his wife Nelle.

  • After high school, Reagan studied economics, sociology and theater studies at Eureka College in Dixon, Illinois.

    He plays on the college football team and performs in theatrical performances.

    He finances his studies with a scholarship, waiter jobs and as a coach of the college swimming team.

  • Upon graduation, Reagan began his professional career as a sports reporter for a local radio station in the Midwest.

    He made his first contacts in Hollywood.

  • Actor with various film companies in Hollywood. First role in the film "Love is in the Air".

    Reagan starred in 53 films over the next two decades.

    During the Second World War he produced training films for the Air Force.

  • Marriage to actress Jane Wyman. Two children emerge from the connection.

  • Marriage to actress Nancy Davis, with whom he has two children.

  • Actor on a General Electric television show and spokesman for General Electric headquarters.

  • Reagan, who until then tended towards the Democratic camp, becomes an active member of the Republicans. Democrats like Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) remain his role models. Reagan sees their ideals watered down in modern America.

    The expansion of the federal bureaucracy, the nationalization of railways and banks as well as high taxes lead in his view "into a disguised form of socialism".

    He advocates greater state and community autonomy.

  • California Governor.

    He tries to contain protests against the Vietnam War with the help of the secret service.

    Reagan is having some of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution as well as freedom of the press and postal secrecy override.

  • His attempt to run as the Republican presidential candidate fails.

  • His second attempt to be run as a presidential candidate by his party also fails.

  • Reagan prevails as the Republican presidential candidate against incumbent President Jimmy Carter by an overwhelming majority and becomes the 40th President of the United States. His deputy is George Bush Sr.

  • March 30th: Reagan is seriously injured in an assassination attempt.

    The assassin, John Hinckley Junior, is considered insane and is admitted to a mental hospital.

    With the support of Democratic MPs in Congress, Reagan succeeds in pushing through his economic program ("Reaganomics"): lowering taxes, fewer barriers to industry, cuts in social spending and expanding armaments.

    The economy is recovering and unemployment is falling.

    However, as a result of high military spending, the US budget deficit increased in the following years.

    In the East-West conflict, Reagan appears as a hardliner, determined to fight the influence of the Soviet Union, which he describes as the "Empire of Evil". This is also served by a new round of the arms race initiated by Reagan. To what extent Reagan's armaments policy - in the arms race, the countries in the communist sphere of power cannot keep pace - contributed to the end of communism in Eastern Europe is still controversial today.

  • American troops occupy Grenada to forestall the allegedly imminent establishment of a Cuban-Soviet base on the Caribbean island.

    Reagan proposes a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) with the aim of protecting the US against enemy nuclear missiles through a space-based missile defense system. The project is not implemented, but is taken up again by George W. Bush.

  • Reagan wins the presidential election clearly over the Democratic candidate Walter Mondale (born 1928).

  • April: Two US soldiers are killed and more than 200 people injured in the attack on the La Belle discotheque in Berlin by the Libyan secret service.

    The American air force then bombs the Libyan capital Tripoli. A large part of the world public disapproves of the attacks.

    October: The sale of anti-tank missiles to Iran and the subsequent use of the proceeds to support the right-wing opponents of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua become the biggest scandal of the Reagan era, known as the Iran-Contra affair.

    Military support for the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the mujahideen in Afghanistan is also controversial both nationally and internationally.

  • Reagan and Gorbachev sign the treaty to abolish American and Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe.

    June 12th: During a visit to the Brandenburg Gate, Reagan Gorbachev asks: "Come to this gate! Open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" (Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! ")

  • At the end of his second term, Reagan proposes his Vice President, George Bush Sr., to succeed him.

    November 8: Bush is elected 41st President of the United States.

  • Establishment of the non-profit foundation "Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation", which among other things maintains a library and a museum in Simi-Valley, California.

  • Official announcement of his Alzheimer's disease.

  • June 5: Ronald Reagan dies of pneumonia at his home in Bel Air, California, aged 93.

    His body is presented in a grand ceremony at the Capitol in Washington D.C. laid out and later buried in California.

    Ronald Reagan is the first US president after whom a warship was named while he was still alive.

    The capital's national airport also bears his name.


(reh / sw) © Foundation House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany
Status: April 8, 2016
Text: CC BY NC SA 4.0

Recommended citation:
Haunhorst, Regina / Wirtz, Susanne: Biography Ronald Reagan, in: LeMO-Biographies, Lebendiges Museum Online, Foundation House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany,
URL: http://www.hdg.de/lemo/biografie/ronald-reagan.html
Last visited on 22.05.2021