Ronald Wilson Reagan; became the 40th president of the United States in 1980 at the age of 69, the oldest man elected to the office.
He had a simple childhood; the son of an alcoholic shoe salesman from Illinois. His first significant job was as a radio sports commentator. He then decided to become an actor, by signing with Warner Brothers in 1937 and went on to make 50 films. The most memorable were “King's Row”, in which he played an accident victim who wakes up to find his legs had been amputated and “Knute Rockne, All American,” in which he portrays Notre Dame football legend George Gipp.
He married actress Jane Wyman in 1940, and daughter Maureen was born a year later. They adopted son Michael in 1945 and were divorced in 1949. Reagan married his second wife, actress Nancy Davis, in 1952. They had two children, Patti and Ron.
From 1966 to 1974, Ronald Reagan was a popular governor of California but throughout this time he had plans for the presidency. In 1968 he first tried to capture the Republican presidential nomination. He lost to President Nixon, but was happy with his showing. He tried again in 1976 but was defeated by President Ford. He finally succeeded in 1980 after Ford had lost the White House to Jimmy Carter.
He easily defeated Carter, who amongst other things, had failed to end the seizure of American diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. 52 hostages, held for 444 days, were finally released on the day of Reagan's inauguration, Jan. 20, 1981..
In 1980, Reagan took 51% of the popular vote, and carried 45 states, and the Republicans won control of the US senate for the first time since 1952. Reagan was re-elected in 1984 against Walter Mondale with a landslide, securing 59 per cent of the popular vote and all but one of the states
After only two months in office, he was shot in the chest by a lone gunman, John Hinckley. Throughout the ordeal he maintained his good humor famously joking that he hoped that the surgeons were Republicans, and explaining to his wife Nancy that he “forgot to duck.” Within a month of the assassination attempt, the president was back at work.
In 1985 he met the new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the “fireside summit” in Geneva where the two sides pledged to make the world a safer place. However, there was deadlock over Mr Reagan's dream of a space-based Strategic Defence Initiative, popularly known as Star Wars.
The most significant controversy of the Reagan administration was the Iran-Contra affair, when the White House staff conspired to sell arms to revolutionary Iran, in defiance of declared government policy, and use the money to support the rebel forces in Nicaragua, in defiance of congressional directives. The move was intended to win the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Islamic groups linked to Iran, but led to the fall of many senior White House aides.
Five years after leaving office he wrote an open letter to the American people. In it, he said: "I have recently been told I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease... I now begin a journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life."
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