Ronald Reagan’s life wasn’t the greatest growing up. He had some extreme difficulties with his parents and his childhood. His family wasn’t categorized in a social class; they didn’t own anything like a farm, store, bank or industry. Ronald Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 in Illinois, in a town called Tampico, in a one-bedroom rental over a bank building. His mother named him Ronald, but he didn’t like it so he asked people to start calling him what his father called him, Dutch. His father called him that because on the day he was born, his dad ran up the stairs, looked at him and said that he looked like a fat little Dutchman.
He had an older brother named Neil who was two years older than him. His father’s name was Jack. He was tall with thick, dark hair. He was Irish Catholic, a salesman and a chain-smoker who loved to tell stories. Ronald wanted a father who was idealistic, because it would have made it easier for him to be what he was, hopeful. During the Great Depression, Ronald hitchhiked to Chicago to look for a job and didn’t tell his father because he knew what he would have said: Don’t bother, no one is going to hire you.
His father somehow always let you know he didn’t except the best from people, didn’t think the right thing would happen. He was funny when he was in the mood and always joked around, but he had a sarcastic side, especially when he drank, which was quite often. When Ronald spoke about his parents, he didn’t say much about his father. He didn’t hide that he was an alcoholic but referred to it like his mother taught him to- as a disease from which his father suffered. His father’s alcoholism made it very hard on his family.
During Christmas, Ronald wouldn’t be too excited because I meant Dad would start drinking and the fights would come. His mother’s name was Nelle Wilson Reagan; she was his lifesaver. Ronald was truly influenced by his mother, who was extremely religious but also very kind. Ronald and his brother were brought up to be very independent. They moved a lot when Ronald was just a child. They didn’t really eat very good meals, especially not like the ones we get today. They ate oatmeal hamburgers, and his mother made it possible sometimes to make soup last a week.
Ronald was never proud of his childhood; he didn’t want to look back at it. He wanted to leave those tough times in the past. When Ronald was just six years old, World War I came to America. He knew about everything; he saw the flags, heard the songs and he visited the soldiers when they came to town. Dutch couldn’t really keep friends so he learned not to need them too much. He became more of a reader and someone who spent hours drawing and imagining. Ronald went to Eureka College, which was a very small school in a small town in northern Illinois.
It was extremely inexpensive for tuition, room and board but he couldn’t afford it even if they’d accept him. He fell in love with the Illinois architecture, Georgian-style buildings covered in ivy, acres of land surrounded by trees. He went to Eureka College one day to convince the president of the school and football coach’s that he was terrific football player, a lifeguard and a very good swimmer. They actually let him in, with a student scholarship and a job that would pay for his meals and books. He played football and decided to go into campus politics.
He became the leader of a student revolt against deep and sudden campus cutbacks. He was chosen as speaker for the cause, which made him feel that he could really hold an audience for the first time in his life. Ronald didn’t have the natural talents or mind set of a businessman or economist or political figure; his natural talents were of an artist. The Great Depression hit when he was eighteen. His dad lost another job and his mom got work as a seamstress. They moved too places that didn’t have any bedrooms for the children. His dad got laid off from a new job on Christmas Eve, and soon became a traveling salesman.
His mom had to borrow money from Ronald for food for the family. Ronald enjoyed acting, loved watching movies and actually wanted to become an actor, but never wanted to tell anyone. He loved broadcasting, which Chicago had. He was twenty-two years old and his life was completely coming together. He was making seventy-five dollars a week, which was a lot of money to them in that time period. Ronald got the job as a sports announcer at World of Chiropractic and then went on to WHO, which was a very popular NBC station. He moved to Hollywood in 1937.
He was twenty-six years old and starring in his first movie called Love Is on the Air. He played a radio announcer. He had the worst stage fright of his life, but somehow got over it because other movies followed and the Warner Bros. renewed his contract and gave him a raise. Ronald brought his parents to California and brought them the first house they’d ever owned. He came up with the plan of his dad taking care of his mail and other demands of his career. He became his assistant. Ronald soon fell in love with actress Jane Wyman. They met on the set of the comedy, Brother Rat.
She got to be an important celebrity as well as Ronald. They got married on January 16, 1940, in Beverly Hills and he knew it was forever. He felt like his life was really coming together, like he put something together and it worked. Jane was a wonderful actress and just as ambitious as Ronald and when they were together, they brought the best out. They moved to Los Angelos and were working two good jobs and Ronald didn’t drink and they became something. They soon had a daughter, Maureen, and then adopted a son, Michael. After Ronald’s acting career, he was thirty years old and World War II soon began.
He was an officer in the United States Cavalry Reserves, and three months after Pearl Harbor, he was called to active duty at Fort Mason, outside San Francisco. He was in noncombat service and then transferred to the Army Air Force intelligence back to Los Angelos. There he worked under General Hap Arnold making air force training films and documentaries. He was a 2nd lieutenant, and he helped bring up a new method for briefing pilots and bombardiers before their bombing missions. When the war was over, he soon became a movie actor again, but he’d missed four years of the industry.
It was a lot harder for Ronald to start back up. He didn’t get a lot of the big parts that he was hoping for, while Jane was becoming a very big celebrity. Now in Ronald’s life he was busy with the talk of politics and public policy, and he gave more time to the after-dinner speeches to groups that wanted to say something in the World War II world. Ronald wanted to change the world. He wanted to introduce people to neofascism and communism. There was a meeting at Ida Lupino’s house one night and Reagan and his close friend actor, William Holden agreed to go.
It was a meeting about all of the strike commotion, but Reagan could see that it was not sincere; it was in fact extremely biased. Holden held him back from him saying something to the speaker. When Reagan stood up, it was a harsh audience. He told them the real history of the strikes. When he was done speaking, he was beat with questions, boos and mostly name-calling. Reagan told Holden about what he’d seen, and they talked about calling John Garfield to discuss it but they never did and he regretted it for the rest of his life.
By 1950, Ronald Reagan was dead set in becoming in politics. He still believed in the power of government, and the responsibility of government to serve the people. The years 1947-1950 were the most difficult years of Ronald’s life, or at least the worst since the worst of his childhood. He almost died, his career almost died, and his marriage died. Shortly after making one of his last films, Ronald became ill. He had viral pneumonia. In 1980, there was a law forbidding federal employee strike and each member of the union had signed a sworn affidavit agreeing not to strike.
The employees weren’t moving against a business, but they were professionals who were providing a very important government service. The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization took 70 percent of the nation’s seventeen thousand employees walked out. This strike was the first immediate national emergency Ronald has ever faced. He told reporters about the measures that had been taken to make sure the nonstriking employees and supervisory personnel could keep the skies open and operating safely with lesser flights.
What he did not tell reporters is that a strike by American air traffic controllers carried real national security implications. I think that Ronald is quite simply the man who defeated the Soviet Union. His decision to concentrate huge resources on building up America’s armed forces and building the military with updating its weapons systems that threw down the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan was a very bold man who deserves credit for recognizing the moral bankruptcy of the government and putting pressure on the Soviet leadership.
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