Ronald Reagan

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Ronald Reagan (1981)
Reagan Signature.svg

Ronald Wilson Reagan [ ˈreɪgən ] (born February 6, 1911 in Tampico , Illinois - † June 5, 2004 in Bel Air , Los Angeles , California ) was an American actor and Republican politician . From 1967 to 1975 he was the 33rd governor of California ; from 1981 to 1989 the 40th President of the United States .

Life to the presidency


Ronald Reagan's birthplace in the center of the picture (2007)

Ronald Reagan came from a modest background, his father Jack Reagan (1883–1941) was a descendant of Irish immigrants . Ronald was born at 111 Main Street in Tampico to Nelle Wilson Reagan (1883–1962). After high school he attended Eureka College in Eureka , Illinois, which is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) . In addition to economics and sociology, Reagan also studied theater studies and graduated in 1932.

Radio and film career

As a sports commentator for the radio stations WOC (AM) in Davenport and WHO (AM) in Des Moines , he commented on baseball games only on the basis of ticker reports in the 1930s . When he accompanied the Chicago Cubs on a trip to California as a reporter, he came to a casting in Hollywood. In 1937, Reagan was awarded a seven-year actor contract by Warner Brothers . By 1939 alone he made 19 films.

Ronald Reagan in the Army Air Force

While Reagan took leading roles in smaller films, he mostly played supporting roles in larger films, for example as a sidekick of Errol Flynn in Land of the Godless and Sabotage Order Berlin . Perhaps his best role was in the drama Kings Row (1942) as a wealthy orphan who lost his fortune and then his leg in an accident at work. However, he was appointed to military service in the Air Force directly after Kings Row , so that a positive career boost failed to materialize. Often, Reagan embodied elegant and respectable personalities with solid morals and principles. In the early 1950s he earned a reputation as " James Stewart for the Poor" with leading roles in several smaller westerns . In addition, he also worked regularly as a narrator and narrator for films, such as the Oscar-winning short film Beyond the Line of Duty .

From the 1950s, Reagan was also regularly seen on increasingly popular television. From 1954 to 1962 he hosted 260 episodes of the weekly anthology series General Electric Theater , named after the electrical company General Electric . In one episode from 1954 he starred with James Dean . Until the mid-1960s he worked on around 80 film and television productions.

From 1947 to 1952 and from 1959 to 1960 he was president of the actors' union SAG , which is seen as the beginning of his political commitment. During this time he was an informant for the FBI and named names of fellow actors whom he assigned to a group with communist ideas. Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, however, he gave a high-profile speech in which he spoke out against public persecution of communists. Rather, American institutions are very much in a position to successfully defend themselves against attempts at infiltration.

During his time as president of the actors ' union , Reagan greatly preferred the then largest media company, MCA : In 1952, he tacitly and exclusively allowed the MCA's SAG facilities to act as an artist agency as well as a producer of entertainment, for example TV shows. Up until then, the two functions were strictly separated, as the interests of the actors and producers are in some cases opposing. This contract enabled MCA to operate extremely successfully. MCA, with which Reagan was also under contract, thanked him by repeatedly helping him out of financial bottlenecks, for example by arranging engagements and advertising appearances. Connections to the Mafia were established through the MCA, which helped him to come to power. In 1962 there was a trial in which Reagan was also charged with corruption. Reagan referred to memory lapses several times. Ultimately, he was acquitted for lack of evidence. However, MCA had to restore the separation and sold the artist agency. After the beginning of his political presidency, ongoing proceedings against the Mafia / MCA were closed.

Reagan married his wife Nancy in 1952, with his best man William Holden and his wife
Brenda Marshall at their sides

His first marriage in 1940 to the film star Jane Wyman (1917-2007) ended in 1948 with a divorce. From 1952 until his death he was married to Nancy Reagan (1921-2016) for about 52 years , who also worked briefly as an actress. Nancy and Ronald Reagan also stood together in front of the camera, for example in the leading roles in the war film The Hellhounds of the Pacific (1957) by Nathan Juran .

Reagan's closest friend was the actor Robert Taylor , for whom he gave the eulogy in 1969.

Reagan has received and cultivated various nicknames : "The Gipper" refers to a film role from 1940 in which he played football star George Gipp . The nickname "The Great Communicator" referred to an attributed ability to develop a personal relationship with citizens and to communicate his political concerns through them.

General Electric and turning to conservatism

His moderation of the anthology series General Electric Theater between 1953 and 1962 brought him further employment as a corporate representative of General Electric (GE), which sponsored the show. Reagan made numerous speeches to the workforce over the past six years as corporate representative.

At the time, the company had over 250,000 employees in 40 states. Reagan's contract included a duty to talk about current Hollywood gossip - but instead he toured the United States and talked about free enterprise, state medicine and a state pension system. About his trip through the United States, Reagan said:

"I don't meet 'the masses', not any 'ordinary people', no, I meet individual people, each with their own hopes and dreams and a quiet moral courage that makes this country work better than any other."

During his time at GE, Reagan's political demeanor changed dramatically. He now publicly announced that he had changed from a leftist (“liberal”) to a conservative. He said:

"I didn't leave my party, she left me."

Reagan said his political views had changed while he was chairman of the actors' union when, at a union meeting during a communist-agitated strike in California, an official declared that he would prefer the Constitution of the USSR to that of the United States.

Reagan was eventually fired from GE because of his political involvement, but at the same time was offered the opportunity to continue working, provided he limited himself to promoting GE products in the future. He refused.

Entry into politics

Ronald Reagan became a member of the Republican Party in 1962, having previously been more inclined to the Democrats . In the presidential campaign in 1964 supported Reagan the candidate of the Republicans, the arch-conservative and also parteiintern controversial Barry Goldwater , who in particular against the civil rights policy turned: By a federal law that racial segregation was banned, they had unconstitutionally in the rights of individual states (state's rights) intervened . Reagan gave him a widespread keynote address, A Time for Choosing , which, while not winning Goldwater to defeat President Johnson , raised at least $ 1 million in donations for his campaign. In the speech, Reagan's future program became visible, he advocated the liberation of "millions of people, enslaved behind the Iron Curtain" in foreign policy and in domestic politics for the greatest possible suppression of state influence.

Governor of California

Governor Reagan with his wife Nancy (left) and President Richard Nixon with his wife Pat in California in July 1970

On November 8, 1966, Reagan won the election to governor of California with a 57 percent share of the vote against incumbent Edmund G. Brown and was sworn in on January 3, 1967 as the 33rd governor of California. His victory in the Republican Party primaries for this office already attracted a lot of media interest. Shortly after the beginning of his term of office, Reagan signed a new - for the time very liberal - abortion law, from which he later distanced himself more and more until he finally took a strict " pro-life " position. In 1968 Richard Nixon's internal party opponents brought him into play for the first time - unsuccessfully - as a possible Republican presidential candidate. As governor, he supported the California economy with his politics, which took a considerable boom in the late 1960s. The resulting additional tax revenue and spending cuts enabled him to balance the state's budget. In 1968 there was an unsuccessful recall against Reagan ; At that time, opponents of his policy tried to vote him out of office prematurely, but this failed because of the high hurdles (it was not until 2003 that a California governor was voted out of office for the first time, Gray Davis ). In the gubernatorial election on November 3, 1970, Reagan was re-elected with 52.8 percent of the vote; the Democrat Jesse M. Unruh received 45.1 percent. His second term began in January 1971. During his time as governor, especially in the second half of the 1960s, protests against the Vietnam War increased, particularly at universities in California. As governor, Reagan was known for his tough stance on protesters and was not afraid to verbally attack them in public statements. In 1969 he had student protests at the University of California, Berkeley with troops of the California National Guard forcibly broken up.

For the gubernatorial election in November 1974, Reagan did not run for re-election, although a third term under the constitution would have been possible then (until 1990). In January 1975 he resigned from the governorship and was replaced by the Democrat Jerry Brown , the son of his predecessor. Reagan was already considering running for the presidency after retiring from Sacramento . So he remained publicly present. In addition to regular appearances in political television programs, he was also a member of the so-called Rockefeller Commission , which investigated illegal activities of the US secret services in 1975 under the direction of American Vice President Nelson Rockefeller .

1976 presidential candidate

Reagan at his Rancho del Cielo ranch, California, 1976

Reagan began criticizing incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford in the summer of 1975, who assumed the presidency in August 1974 after Richard Nixon's resignation in the wake of the Watergate affair . He accused the president of foreign policy weakness during the final phase of the Vietnam War; the already initiated by Nixon détente he refused. Domestically, Reagan stood for a conservative course, while Ford was seen as much more moderate. At the end of the year, the former governor launched a formal election campaign. However, he was given little chance of being nominated for the party against an incumbent president. With the start of the primary elections in the spring of 1976, Reagan suffered several defeats in the northern states. However, as the primaries shifted more to the more conservative southern states , he managed to rack up several victories; among others in populous Texas. When the Republican Nomination Congress began in August 1976 , Ford's lead in delegate votes was too narrow to foresee victory. In the first round of the election, Ford narrowly prevailed with 1187 to 1070 votes. However, Reagan made a sovereign impression with what he considered to be strong (and improvised) party conference speech. In the actual election campaign, he then spoke out in favor of Ford, who in the end lost in a narrow decision to Jimmy Carter .

The 1980 election

In 1980, Reagan ran again for the Republican presidential nomination. Internal party competitors included Senator Bob Dole and former CIA director George HW Bush . Reagan was already the favorite for the candidacy at the beginning of the primary campaign and clearly prevailed against his internal party competitors. On July 15, 1980, in Detroit , Michigan, he was named an official Republican candidate. Reagan contemplated challenging Jimmy Carter with former President Gerald Ford as vice presidential candidate. Ford had proposed a "split presidency" to Reagan, with Reagan responsible for domestic affairs and Ford and Kissinger for foreign affairs. However, after Ford made these considerations public, Reagan chose George Bush as the vice-presidential candidate. Bush had won the second largest number of states in the primary after Reagan.

Reagan succeeded in forging a coalition of evangelicals , economic liberals (see neoliberalism ) and conservative voters. It was particularly noticeable that, similar to Richard Nixon, he was pursuing a Southern Strategy that aimed to bind white voters in the southern states to the Republicans. Reagan opened his main election campaign on August 3, 1980, of all places , at the Neshoba County Fair near the small town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, where the Mississippi civil rights activist murders by the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 took place. In his speech, he advocated strengthening the rights of the individual states (state's rights) , which has been the cipher since Barry Goldwater that the southern states should also have the right to overturn the civil rights laws of 1964. Among other things, Reagan said: I believe in states' rights and I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves ... I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to the federal establishment. ("I believe in state rights and that people should regulate as much as possible ... I believe that we have upset the balance in our government these days by giving the federal government a power that it has after Constitution was never intended. "). Paul Krugman interpreted this appearance as a racist message from Reagan to the white Suprematists in the southern states that he was on their side. His thesis was subsequently discussed controversially in several articles in the New York Times .

The presidential election on November 4, 1980 , Reagan won by a clear majority against the unfortunate president of the Democrats, Jimmy Carter. He received almost 51% of the vote, while only around 41% of the electorate voted for Carter. In the Electoral College , Reagan's victory was even more pronounced with 489 votes to 49, as he gained a majority in 44 states. In addition, for the first time since 1955, the Republicans secured a majority of the seats in the Senate , which would last until 1987, and recorded significant gains in the House of Representatives . In addition to the economic aspects, the election victory was helped by the Cold War : at the end of 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan , with Reagan's predecessor Carter being accused of weakness in foreign policy.

Presidency (1981–1989)

January 20, 1981: Reagan and wife Nancy at the inauguration ceremony for President
Reagan on June 11, 1982 with the Governing Mayor of Berlin Richard v. Weizsäcker and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt at Checkpoint Charlie in West Berlin
Margaret Thatcher and Reagan, 1986

On January 20, 1981, Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States. His inauguration sparked optimism in the business world. The dollar and stock prices rose. Reagan pursued a consistently neo-liberal economic policy, reduced income tax by 30 percent by July 1981, eased industrial depreciation for new plants and appeared as a hardliner in the East-West conflict ; he was also an advocate of the ideals of the American family, Christianity and freedom. Domestically, as the oldest president, Reagan had particularly high approval ratings from younger voters when he took office.

In the 1984 presidential election he successfully ran for a second term. He won by a clear margin over the Democratic candidate Walter Mondale , who had held the post of Vice President under Carter. Reagan won more than 58 percent of the vote and received 525 of 538 votes in the deciding electoral college. Reagan had only failed to gain a majority in Mondale's home state of Minnesota and in the federal capital Washington, DC , which is not a state. On January 20, 1985 he was sworn in again as president. George Bush remained vice president.


On March 30, 1981, Reagan was injured in an assassination attempt . Even Secret Service -Agent Tim McCarthy , the policeman Thomas Delanty and Reagan's press secretary James Brady were shot; Brady suffered severe brain damage and paralysis. Mentally deranged assassin John Hinckley, Jr. was declared insane by a Washington court in June 1982 and admitted to a mental hospital. Reagan returned to the White House on April 25, 1981. Hinckley was released on September 10, 2016.

Foreign policy

Reagan in one-on-one conversation with Mikhail Gorbachev at the 1985 Geneva Summit
Reagan at the National Security Council meeting on the air strikes on the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi in April 1986 ( Operation El Dorado Canyon )

Reagan's foreign policy was understood as a policy of strength and was shaped by its anti-communism , especially towards the Eastern Bloc . Reagan wanted to lead the world to his ideas about freedom and democracy. He was telegenic and with outstanding rhetoric was able to win the hearts and feelings of many Americans for his goal of ideologically and militarily challenging the Soviet Union , what he called the " Empire of Evil " at the time, and the Soviet-Communist influence in the Third World with everyone Means to combat ( Reagan Doctrine ).

He gave up the détente policy of his Republican predecessors Nixon and Ford, as the massive superiority of the Soviet Union with regard to conventional weapon systems made it necessary, in his opinion, to restore the same military strength of the two superpowers at the time. During the election campaign, he called for an increase in military spending. Furthermore, Reagan was determined to work with almost every regime in the Third World that claimed to be fighting communists ( see Kirkpatrick Doctrine ), which led, among other things, to consistent support for anti-communist military dictatorships . The US supported the right-wing military government of El Salvador against considerable domestic and foreign policy resistance . This waged a dirty war against insurgents and political opponents and murdered around 40,000 opposition members in the early 1980s. The relative domestic political calm in El Salvador, which followed the mass murder of the opposition, which was officially denied or played down by the US government, the Reagan administration explained to the American public that the successful land reform of the government there had led to general pacification .

Part of the additional armaments expenditure flowed into the so-called Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which was not implemented at the time, but was taken up again under George W. Bush . The aim of this program was to protect the USA against attacks by enemy nuclear missiles and thus to undo the classic balance of terror in favor of the USA. Likewise, under Reagan, the Navy of 600 Ships program was implemented, which increased the strength of the US Navy to almost 600 units.

Reagan on June 12, 1987 in his Berlin speech with the appeal to Gorbachev to tear down the wall and open the Brandenburg Gate

After Reagan ushered in a new round of the arms race in his first term in office, which the Soviet Union was ultimately unable to follow due to its economic difficulties, he launched several disarmament initiatives in his second term. In 1985 he met Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva summit conference , as well as at the 1986 summit in Reykjavík . With him he agreed in the INF Treaty in 1987 to disarm the medium-range nuclear missiles deployed in Europe.

The assessment of the extent to which Reagan's armaments policy contributed to the end of real socialism in Eastern Europe depends on the research interests that guide the research. In any case, it is certain that, for example, his speeches, which he made famous in the Eastern Bloc through Radio Free Europe , filled people with a new hope for change. Reagan is revered by many there to this day.

With the official justification of having to combat communist influence in Latin America , the Reagan administration waged a covert war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua throughout its term in office . Former members of Nicaragua's dreaded National Guard were recruited for the Contras organized by the CIA . It was financed through arms deals with Iran (see Iran-Contra affair ) and drug deals. The Contra War, waged from 1981 to 1990, ruined Nicaragua's economy and infrastructure, terrorized the population and killed around 60,000 people - mostly civilians. An American commission of inquiry reprimanded the president; several senior officials were forced to resign. The United States was sentenced on June 27, 1986 by the International Court of Justice in The Hague for its direct and indirect military participation in the Contra War to end the "unlawful use of force" against Nicaragua and to pay reparations. In response to the US refusal to recognize the verdict, the UN Security Council tried to pass a resolution calling on all states to obey international law. However, the US vetoed the resolution.

In 1983, American troops occupied the Caribbean island of Grenada on the grounds of forestalling a Cuban intervention . At the time of the invasion, according to the Cuban government, there were 784 Cubans in Grenada, most of them construction workers, but also doctors, nurses, teachers and 44 people assigned to the military. This information has been confirmed by several American and British journalists. Cuba was indeed asked for military assistance by Maurice Bishop , Grenada's Prime Minister. However, due to fears of providing the US with an excuse to invade Cuba, the Cuban government rejected it. Code-named Operation Urgent Fury , the invasion involved 7,000 Marines. After a week, the fighting ended with the deaths or injuries of 84 Cubans, 135 Americans and about 400 grenadians. The invasion was condemned by all Latin American countries with the exception of the military dictatorships of Chile , Guatemala and Uruguay . On October 28, 1983, the UN Security Council voted by a large majority for a resolution calling the US invasion a blatant violation of international law and expressing the United Nations' grave regrets. The US immediately vetoed the resolution. Reagan's response to the resolution was: One hundred nations in the UN have not agreed with us on just about everything that's come before them where we're involved, and it didn't upset my breakfast at all.

On August 11, 1984, during a microphone rehearsal, Reagan allowed himself a macabre joke that he had ordered the bombing of the Soviet Union. The media published this sound sample ( We begin bombing in five minutes ) , which was not intended for the public , which led to severe criticism worldwide.

"We begin bombing in five minutes."

After Reagan visited the Federal Republic of Germany in June 1982, he returned to Germany in 1985 on the 40th anniversary of the end of the war. The visit to a military cemetery in Bitburg sparked a broad debate (see Bitburg controversy ). In 1985 and 1986, Reagan met with the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev for disarmament negotiations under the name START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks), but initially they did not make any progress. In 1987, however, he was able to sign the treaty to abolish American and Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe ( INF treaty ) with Gorbachev . On June 12, 1987, Reagan gave a speech from a wooden scaffolding that had been erected in front of the Berlin Wall barriers at the Brandenburg Gate , in which he asked Gorbachev to tear down the wall: “Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! ". It was on November 9, 1992 - exactly three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall for - an honorary citizen of Berlin appointed.

Economic policy

Reagan at his desk in the Oval Office , 1982
Reagan at a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room

By the late 1970s, the economic situation in the United States had deteriorated. The US Federal Reserve's expansive monetary policy had led to inflation of 10–15%. At the same time, economic growth stagnated with rising unemployment figures. The term stagflation was coined for stagnation of the economy with simultaneous inflation .

While the governments of Nixon, Ford and Carter relied on demand-driven economic policies, Reagan made a paradigm shift towards supply-side economic policies . Such a supply-oriented economic policy attempts to sustainably strengthen the economic situation with the help of better production and growth conditions. In 1981, Congress passed tax reforms and minor reforms of the social security systems. This policy was also known as Reaganomics .

An important principle behind Reagan's reforms was the trickle-down theory that wealth which is assumed in the lower strata of society transpires . The principle of his tax policy corresponded roughly to that of the Laffer curve . According to this, tax cuts are particularly beneficial for companies, as they then invest more and thus reduce unemployment, which ultimately even leads to higher tax revenues.

In early 1981, when Ronald Reagan took office, the US national debt was $ 930 billion. The tax cut policy and the sharp increase in government spending, especially for armaments, initially had undesirable effects: the US economy threatened to overheat, and the inflation rate rose to 5.8 percent in 1982. The US Federal Reserve responded by increasing interest rates, which led to a recession . The unemployment rose to twelve million people, corporate profits declined. After that the economy recovered, unemployment fell and inflation was curbed again. Even so, the United States' budget deficit rose , largely due to enormous military spending and tax rebates for corporations and capital gains. Funding for social programs such as those from the times of the New Deal or the Great Society were therefore drastically cut under Reagan. Under Reagan, national debt rose 179.6 percent to $ 2.6 trillion by the end of 1988. The Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman has therefore accused Reagan of having drastically reduced the competitiveness of the USA with his economic policy: The national debt for which he was responsible led to high interest rates, which led to a large amount of foreign capital flowing into the USA, which in turn overvalued the US Dollars that made American products more expensive on the world market and thus destroyed jobs.

Appeals to the Supreme Court

Reagan with Sandra Day O'Connor in July 1981, whom he appointed first female Supreme Court Justice

Reagan appointed four judges to the US Supreme Court during his presidency :

Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman to be appointed a judge in 1981. She remained as a Supreme Court judge until 2006. Until 2018, Reagan's last appointed Kennedy was the Supreme Court Justice. Further appeals were made to lower federal courts.

Reagan's symbolic power

As hardly anyone else, Reagan understood as a great communicator that the presidency was based on the power of symbols and that in addition to absolute power he always needed hegemony in order to take everyone with him. His argument that Washington was not the solution to the problem, but part of the problem, called for strong symbolism. For example, Reagan could use the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as an example of his approach that the private initiative raised money, while the state-funded 1976 Summer Olympics had only amassed debt. He also had the Californian cult band Beach Boys play at his second inauguration in order to symbolically underline his relationship to free , self-organized youth. Reagan's speeches also show that he was aware of the power of words and symbolism and was able to take the American people with him.

End of the presidency

For the 1988 presidential election , Reagan was excluded from running for the White House due to the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution . In the election campaign he proposed his Vice President George HW Bush as his successor, who should continue the previous policy. On November 8, 1988, Bush triumphed over the Democrat Michael Dukakis . Bush was sworn in as the new president on January 20, 1989, replacing Reagan after eight years in the White House.

Retirement and death

Reagan (right) with his wife and Newport News Shipbuilding Chairman and CEO Bill Fricks with a model of the USS Ronald Reagan , May 1996

After his presidency ended in early 1989, Ronald Reagan moved to California with his wife Nancy . In May 1994, he and his two predecessors Carter and Ford signed a letter to Congress in which the three former presidents spoke out in favor of banning semi-automatic weapons . Here Reagan took a different political position than many of his Republican party colleagues.

In November 1994, Reagan wrote a personal letter to the US population that confessed that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease . The first symptoms of the affliction had probably already shown towards the end of his presidency. After that he was only mentioned sporadically in the media, mostly about the worsening of his condition. Until 1998, Reagan regularly visited his office in the presidential library in Simi Valley , where he still worked on various projects, at least in the early stages of his illness. He later suffered a broken hip in a fall, from which he quickly recovered despite his old age. Most recently, however, his dementia had progressed so far that he was no longer able to do basic activities himself.

On June 5, 2004, Ronald Reagan died at home in Bel Air at the age of 93 of pneumonia . He left behind his wife and three children Michael Reagan , Patti Davis and Ron Reagan ; his daughter Maureen had died of cancer in 2001 . His body was in a grand ceremony in the Capitol of Washington, DC on a catafalque laid and later in California in the erected for him Presidential Library buried. At 93 years and four months, he reached the hitherto highest age of a former president of the United States, overtaking John Adams , who had turned 90. Reagan was surpassed as oldest former president on November 12, 2006 by Gerald Ford . In addition, at the age of 69, he was the oldest president when he took office; in the meantime, Donald Trump , who was 70 when he took office in 2017 , replaced him in this regard.

Tomb of Ronald and Nancy Reagan

Reagan was one of the few US citizens after whom a US warship was named during their lifetime , the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) . And the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport , the Ronald Reagan Freeway and the missile defense station on the Air Force Base Vandenberg are named after him.

"Shining City upon a Hill": American exceptionalism

Throughout his political career, Reagan used various terms to highlight the role of the United States in the world. As early as 1964 he described the USA as the "last best hope of man on earth", later (1989) with the biblical image of the "heavenly city on the mountain" (" City upon a Hill "). In essence, it was about a description of the US role in world politics. Although John F. Kennedy had used the term "City upon a Hill", it was Reagan who made the term one of his trademarks. In his farewell speech as President, he said:

“I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still ... "

Like no other president before him, Reagan emphasized his fear of God and staged his Christian faith very effectively in the media. He interrupted his speeches to invite the assembled people to silent prayer and reintroduced the long-forgotten "God Bless America". He also appointed confessing evangelicals to his cabinet for the first time , and Christian groups such as the Moral Majority , which is part of the religious right , played an important role, at least in the first years of his presidency.

Aftermath and evaluation

Portrait of Reagan in the Oval Office (1985)

Conservative Americans consider Reagan (as of February 2009) the best president ever or the best president after the Second World War. His idealization is particularly pronounced among Republicans. On the one hand, this is due to its domestic policy, with which, it is assumed, the welfare state was dismantled and taxes were lowered; Many of today's Republicans consider this policy to be a positive alternative to Barack Obama's social and health policy, which they have branded as “socialist” . Reagan's neoliberal economic policies , together with high military spending , led to a temporary economic upswing, which was generated on a record budget deficit as large corporations received substantial tax cuts. Reagan's apparent commitment to Christianity is also considered exemplary by many conservatives.

On the other hand, they consider Reagan's foreign policy a success, as it is often claimed that his tough stance towards the Eastern Bloc led to its collapse and the fall of the Berlin Wall . However, many historians consider this a myth and argue that the Soviet Union would have disintegrated even without Reagan's intervention. He is sometimes accused of having negligently led the world to the brink of nuclear war through aggressive policies from 1981 to 1985. Military interventions in violation of international law such as those in Grenada , covert CIA operations such as Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan or the support of dictators such as Suharto in Indonesia , like the Iran-Contra affair, undermined the moral authority of the USA.

Large parts of the Republican Party, however, still refer to Reagan's legacy today.

Liberal and progressivist Americans criticize Reagan's domestic policies, which have promoted racism , led to growing poverty rates by cutting funding for social programs and in favor of the armed forces, and worsened social injustice. For example, the prominent Democrat Elizabeth Warren takes the view that Reagan initiated a policy that "made the rich richer and the powerful more powerful". However, the welfare state as such was not abolished by Reagan, as many of the New Deal or Great Society programs continued under him, albeit in drastically abridged form.

Ronald Reagan was remembered by many Americans as a "great communicator" who managed to get some of his legislative initiatives through a democratically dominated Congress by promoting them in public and putting pressure on Senators and MPs. However, US domestic policy at that time was determined far more than later by a willingness to compromise constructively, which made Reagan's task much easier.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation was founded in the USA, which honors Reagan's work as president worldwide and makes it accessible to posterity, and uses its money to support the creation and erection of monuments, for example.

Filmography (selection)


Awards and monuments

Reagan receives the
Presidential Medal of Freedom from his successor, George Bush , in 1993.

See also


Secondary literature
  • Jens Schöne, Ronald Reagan in Berlin. The President, the State Security and the Divided City, Berlin: bebra Verlag 2017, ISBN 978-3-95410-084-2 .
  • HW Brands : Reagan: The Life. Doubleday, New York 2015, ISBN 978-0-385-53639-4 .
  • Doug Rossinow: The Reagan Era: A History of the 1980s. Columbia University, New York 2015, ISBN 978-0-231-53865-7 .
  • The Reagan Diaries. Complete diary entries of Ronald Reagan. HarperCollins, New York 2007, ISBN 978-0-06-087600-5 (in English).
  • Carolyn McGivern, Fred Landesman: Ronald Reagan: the Hollywood years. Bracknell: Reel Publ., 2005, ISBN 0-9540031-9-5 .
  • Steven F. Hayward: The Age of Reagan.
    • Volume 1: The fall of the old liberal order: 1964-1980. Forum, Roseville 2001, ISBN 0-76151-337-X .
    • Volume 2: The conservative counterrevolution: 1980-1989. Crown Forum, New York 2009, ISBN 978-1-4000-5357-5 .
  • Robert Dallek : Ronald Reagan: The Politics of Symbolism. 2nd Edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1999, ISBN 978-0-674-77941-9 .
  • Lou Cannon: President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. Simon & Schuster, New York 1991, ISBN 0-671-54294-X .
  • Michael Staack : Change of course in Washington. Anti-détente and arms control under the Ronald Reagan presidency. (= Research reports on international politics. Vol. 4). Quorum-Verlag, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-88726-105-4 .
  • Dan E. Moldea: Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, McA, and the Mob Viking Pr, 1986, ISBN 978-0-670-80903-5 .
  • Tony Thomas : Ronald Reagan and his films. (OT: The Films of Ronald Reagan. ) Citadel-Filmbücher , Goldmann, Munich 1981, ISBN 3-442-10215-4 .

Web links

Commons : Ronald Reagan  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
 Wikinews: Ronald Reagan  - on the news

Official sites


Other media

Individual evidence

  1. Ronald Reagan Timeline. Retrieved June 19, 2018 .
  2. Ronald Reagan | Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos | AllMovie. Retrieved April 24, 2018 .
  3. Biography at Life Time ( Memento from July 2, 2014 in the Internet Archive ).
  4. a b c d e f Documentary Ronald Reagan - Beloved and Hated by Eugene Jarecki, USA 2011.
  5. Documentary: Ronald Reagan - A Tailored President , arte, France 2015.
  6. ^ Dan E. Moldea: Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, McA, and the Mob , ISBN 978-0-670-80903-5 .
  7. New York Times: REAGAN WAS A SUBJECT OF 60's SCREEN INQUIRY. Retrieved on 2017-03-14.
  8. ^ 'The Great Communicator' strikes chord with public , CNN. Accessed January 8, 2008.  .
  9. Ronald Reagan article in the Washington Post .
  10. ^ The A-Time for Choosing Speech. ( August 16, 2013 memento on the Internet Archive ) University of Virginia website.
  11. Los Angeles Times : Recall Idea Got Its Start in LA in 1898 .
  12. ^ Robert C. Smith: Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same. State University of New York Press, Albany 2010, ISBN 978-1-4384-3233-5 , p. 108 .
  13. ^ Dionne, EJ: Political Memo; GOP Makes Reagan Lure Of Young a Long-Term Asset . In: The New York Times , October 31, 1988. Retrieved on July 2, 2008  .
  14. ^ Would-be Reagan assassin John Hinckley Jr. to be freed after 35 years in The Washington Post, July 27, 2016.
  15. a b Benjamin Schwarz: Dirty Hands. The success of US policy in El Salvador - preventing a guerrilla victory - was based on 40,000 political murders. Book review on William M. LeoGrande: Our own Backyard. The United States in Central America 1977-1992. In: The Atlantic. December 1998.
  16. ^ Anthony Lewis: Abroad at Home; Fear Of the Truth. The New York Times, April 2, 1993.
  17. William Blum: Killing Hope - US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Black Rose Books, Montreal / New York / London, ISBN 1-55164-097-X , pp. 290-305.
  18. Ursula Niebling / Kriege-Archiv Universität Hamburg: Nicaragua (Contra, 1981–1990) ( Memento from November 12, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) .
  19. International Court of Justice: Case concerning military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua ( Memento of March 9, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) June 27, 1986.
  20. List of UN Security Council resolutions vetoed by the USA, 1972–2002. ( Memento of May 12, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) .
  21. ^ Hugh O'Shaughnessy: Grenada: Revolution, Invasion, and Aftermath. London 1984, pp. 15, 16, 204.
  22. Chris Searle: In Nobody's Backyard: Maurice Bishop's Speeches 1979-1983. London 1984, see Bishop's April 13, 1979 speech.
  23. US Vetoes UN Resolution “Deploring” Grenada Invasion . New York Times, October 29, 1983.
  24. ^ Subjects of UN Security Council Vetoes. .
  25. ^ New York Times, Nov. 4, 1983, p. 6.
  26. ^ Wiebke Junk: Five minutes to the third world war , , August 10, 2009; accessed November 11, 2016.
  27. official German translation .
  28. John Kornblum , who was the US envoy at the time, describes his contribution to the creation of the speech in his contribution " Reagan's Brandenburg Concerto ". Further sources on the controversial genesis in the WP-en .
  29. ^ Berlin honorary citizen: Ronald W. Reagan. ( Memento of March 11, 2013 in the Internet Archive ).
  30. ^ Brian R. Farmer, American Conservatism: History, Theory and Practice. Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle 2005, ISBN 1-904303-54-4 , pp. 413, 414.
  31. Historical Debt Outstanding - Annual 1950–2000 .
  32. ^ Stuckey, Mary E. Playing the game: The presidential rhetoric of Ronald Reagan . Praeger Publishers, 1990.
  33. ^ Ronald Reagan: The Politics of Symbolism: with a New Preface ; Google books .
  34. Arnd Krüger : Between politics and commerce. It happened 15 years ago. Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In: Damals 31 (1999), 5, pp. 8-11.
  35. ^ Beach boys touching tribute to Nancy Reagan , accessed January 24, 2017.
  36. ^ Bates, Toby Glenn: The Reagan rhetoric history and memory in 1980s America. DeKalb, Ill .: Northern Illinois Univ. Press, 2011; ISBN 978-0-87580-654-9 .
  37. ^ Ford, Carter, Reagan Push for Gun Ban. Los Angeles Times , May 5, 1994.
  38. The Truth that Set Michael Reagan Free. In: (beta). Retrieved June 3, 2016 .
  39. ^ Transcript of the speech A time for Choosing. .
  40. Video of A time for choosing at 3:49 .
  41. a b C-SPAN : Video of the Farewell Address and transcription of the speech , Oval Office, January 11, 1989; accessed November 11, 2016.
  42. Nina Merl: The Outing of the Unbelievers ,
  43. Best President? Lincoln on Par With Reagan, Kennedy February 2009
  44. Ronald Reagan Seen as Best President since World War II from February 13, 2008 (PDF; 114 kB).
  45. Christof Mauch: The American Presidents. CH Beck Munich ISBN 978-3-406-58742-9 , p. 406 f.
  46. American President: Ronald Reagan: Impact and Legacy ( Memento October 11, 2014 in the Internet Archive ).
  47. Homepage of the RR Foundation , accessed on November 8, 2019.
  48. a b The gate in the back . In: Berliner Zeitung , (print edition) November 8, 2019, p. 40.
  49. ^ Berlin honorary citizen: Ronald W. Reagan ( Memento of March 11, 2013 in the Internet Archive ).
  50. Süddeutsche Zeitung. July 6, 2011, p. 12.