“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”
Widely recognized as the driving force behind the nation’s realignment with conservatism in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s considerable success in office has cemented him as an icon for conservative-leaning politicians today.
Though he is mostly known for his achievements in California and D.C., Ronald Reagan was born in a small town in rural Illinois. Reagan grew up in a working-class family and put himself through school; his childhood experiences inculcated in him a strong belief in the value of dedication and hard work. In 1937, Reagan relocated to California and began working as a sports announcer and actor; years later, he starred in several notable pictures and was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild. In this position, Reagan took strides against the influence of communism in Hollywood and utilized his influence as a significant figure in show business to springboard his entry to political office.
As an actor, Reagan was expressly forbidden from involving himself in party-specific politics; in 1945, he was even asked to surrender leadership of an anti-nuclear rally by his employer, Warner Brothers Studios. The restrictions eventually became too much, leading to Reagan’s decision to drop acting and pursue a career in politics. In 1967, he successfully challenged two-time Governor Edmund Brown for California’s governorship and promptly set about fulfilling his campaign promises to balance the state’s budget and quell student protests. His notable successes in office led to his reelection to office in 1970.
But the governorship wasn’t enough for Reagan; he knew that he could do more good from higher ground. In the years following his second term, he expressed his interest in the Presidency and even went so far as to enter a race himself twice. In 1981, he achieved his reach for the Presidency by overcoming incumbent Jimmy Carter. While in office, Reagan espoused a philosophy of creating “Peace through Strength,” and pressed against Soviet influence. His communications abroad eventually led to the INF treaty with the USSR, which effectively ended the Cold War and lessened nuclear stockpiles. Domestically, President Reagan implemented supply-side policies (later called “Reaganomics”) and called for greater economic deregulation and a reduction in government spending. Over the course of his two-term tenure in the Oval Office, inflation dropped from 12.5% to 4.4, while real GDP growth increased to 3.4. Upon leaving the Presidency following his second term, Reagan had a near-unprecedented approval rating of 68%.
Ronald Reagan’s past influence on the United States cannot be understated. He lived a long, influential life, passing away in 2004 at the age of 94. However, his standing as a symbol for conservatism and the importance of his achievements remain strong in his absence.