Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989) and the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975). Born in Illinois, Reagan moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, where he became an actor, president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and a spokesman for General Electric. Reagan became involved in politics during his work for G.E. and switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in 1962. After delivering a rousing speech in support of Barry Goldwater's presidential candidacy in 1964, he was persuaded to seek the California Governorship, winning two years later and again in 1970. He was defeated in his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 as well as 1976, but won both the nomination and election in 1980.
As president, Reagan implemented new political initiatives as well as economic policies, advocating a laissez-faire philosophy, but the extent to which these ideas were implemented is debatable. The policies, dubbed "Reaganomics," included substantial tax cuts implemented in 1981. After surviving an assassination attempt and ordering controversial military actions in Grenada and Libya, he was reelected in a landslide victory in 1984.
Reagan's second term was marked by steps toward ending the Cold War, as well as the Iran-Contra Affair, one of a few administration scandals. The president ordered a massive military buildup in an arms race with the Soviet Union, rejecting the previous strategy of détente and directly confronting Communism. He portrayed the USSR as an "Evil Empire" and publicly supported anti-Communist movements worldwide. Despite his rejection of détente, he negotiated with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to shrink both countries' nuclear arsenals, and is regarded as a major driving force behind the end of the Cold War. Reagan left office in 1989 and disclosed he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994. He died ten years later at the age of ninety-three, and ranks today with a high approval rating among former U.S. presidents.
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