an 'American Life'
Ronald Wilson Reagan
February 6, 1911
June 5, 2004
Just as she has bravely done for the past
decade, Nancy Reagan spoke on behalf of her family,
informing citizens of this country and the world with
an update on her husbands condition. On Saturday,
her words marked the end of an era and the beginning
of a very public period of mourning for America.
My family and I would like the world
to know that President Ronald Reagan has passed away
after ten years of Alzheimers, at 93 years of
age, the former first lady said in a statement.
We appreciate everyones prayers over the
Reaction to the news was heartfelt and
swift. World and local leaders wired their condolences
to Mrs. Reagan as more than 40,000 citizens headed to
the Reagan Library in Simi Valley to pay their last
respects to a man many credit with restoring pride and
optimism in America after a period of doubt.
In France for a commemoration of the World
War II D-Day invasion in France, President
George Bush issued a proclamation that declared June
11 as a National Day of Mourning and directed that all
American flags be flown at half-mast for a period of
Ronald Reagan won Americas
respect with his greatness, and won its love with his
goodness. He had the confidence that comes with conviction,
the strength that comes with character, the grace that
comes with humility, and the humor that comes with wisdom.
He leaves behind a nation he restored and a world he
helped save, Bush remarked. During the years
of President Reagan, America laid to rest an era of
division and self-doubt. And because of his leadership,
the world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny. Now,
in laying our leader to rest, we say thank you.
In Missouri, Governor Bob Holden issued
an executive order honoring Bushs proclamation
and announced that state-run offices would close on
Friday. Holden said the measure was in keeping
Missouris tradition of honoring our presidents
in this fashion. Missouri closed state offices
at the time of President Lyndon Johnsons death
in 1973 and President Harry Trumans passing in
Missouri Congressman Sam Graves issued
a statement that said he was saddened by Reagans
He made us laugh and made us think
about the role of government in our lives, often at
the same time, Graves wrote. Very few leaders
can claim the kind of accomplishments that he can. He
grew the economy, strengthened the military, brought
back Americas confidence, won the cold war and
was an outstanding husband and father. He was one of
our greatest presidents. The shining city on the hill
will continue on, but for now with a heavy heart.
Platte County Commissioner Steve Wegner
reflected on what Reagan meant to him.
I grew up in the era of Vietnam,
then we rolled into Watergate and then we rolled in
the Carter era of high interest rates, high inflation
and the Iran hostage crisis. We had lost our vision.
Ronald Reagan made me proud to be an American again.
That was by far his greatest achievement for me.
An American life
The man that was destined to become the
40th president of the United States was born in 1911
at Tampico, Illinois. As a child, the young Reagan excelled
at football, track and basketball. A renowned lifeguard,
he was credited with saving more than 70 lives from
drowning in a local river swimming spot. His father,
John Reagan, was an Irish immigrant that suffered from
alcoholism. As a result, Reagan rarely drank throughout
Reagan graduated from Eureka College in
1932 with a degree in economics and pursued a radio
career, announcing spring training baseball games for
the Chicago Cubs under the moniker of Dutch
Reagan. He acquired an agent and after a successful
screen test, signed a seven-year contract with Warner
Brothers in 1937. In 1940, Reagan married actress Jane
Wyman and starred in what is his most memorable movie,
Knute Rockne: All-American, playing the
role of George The Gipper Gipp.
During World War II, Reagan was kept out
of active combat due to poor eyesight. Reagan instead
joined the Air Force Motion Picture unit where he performed
in training films for the bombing units. After the war,
Reagan became the member of the Screen Actors
Guild of America, a position he would hold for six terms,
retiring in 1960. It was here that Reagan became known
as a staunch anti-communist, testifying before the House
Un-American Activities Committee about Communist infiltration
of the movie industry.
Wyman and Reagan divorced in 1948, but
later that same year, Reagan met Nancy Davis. Davis
was sent to meet Reagan after she learned her name was
on a Communist blacklist. With his help, Davis
name was cleared (after it was discovered there were
two Nancy Davis in Hollywood). The two become
fast friends and they married in 1952.
In 1980, Reagan won 44 states to beat
then President Jimmy Carter in a landslide for the presidency.
One year later, Reagan survived an assassination attempt
and his mixture of humor and courage throughout the
ordeal saw his popularity rise to record highs. Reagan
capitalized on his popularity, passing his economic
recovery plan through a Democrat congress something
all pundits thought couldnt be done. The program
lowered taxes and increased defense spending. In addition,
Reagan completely revamped the American tax code, lowering
the top-rate dramatically and exempting millions of
the lowest income Americans. Under Reagan, more than
19 million jobs were created in what was considered
the largest peacetime expansion in American history.
Reagan also put terrorists on alert after
being sworn in, promising to strike back if Americans
were ever threatened. Reagan invaded Grenada and attacked
Libya for such reasons. After the smoke cleared, Reagan
remarked at the time that terrorists had counted
on America to be passive
they counted wrong.
Despite warnings to temper his rhetoric,
Reagan stuck with his long-forged principles of fighting
communism, once going so far as to call them the Evil
Empire. His hard-line negotiations with the Soviet
Union produced some of the largest nuclear treaties
between the two countries.