America’s 40th president, Ronald Wilson Reagan, died 14 years ago this month after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. In many ways, Reagan defined our nation’s political landscape more than any other president in recent history, laying the groundwork for subsequent U.S. presidencies and setting the gold standard for the modern Republican party.
Reagan’s two-term presidency, which spanned the tumultuous 1980s, witnessed the end of the Cold War, the loosening of inflation’s grip on the nation and a dramatic reduction in federal taxes. An incredibly popular leader, Regan earned one of the highest approval ratings of any U.S. president.
A staunch conservative, Reagan was elected governor of California in 1967. During his tenure as governor, he reversed California’s budget deficit and defined himself as a die-hard Republican.
A populist at heart, Reagan ran for president as an outsider who would restore traditional family values to a nation experiencing cultural upheaval in the wake of the social changes that defined the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout his political career, his wife, Nancy, always stood by his side, eventually becoming his primary caretaker in his final years.
As president, Reagan implemented a wide range of economic and political reforms, nicknamed “Reaganomics,” that included significant cuts in government spending as well as reductions in federal income tax, capital gains tax and government regulations. His supply-side economic policies were founded in the belief that reducing taxes would spark economic growth in the U.S. During his eight-year tenure, inflation decreased from 12.5 percent to 4.4 percent.
Above all, Reagan was a master politician who expanded the reach of the Republican party at home and abroad.
A proponent of government deregulation, Reagan once remarked, “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”
Sadly, one of Reagan’s most enduring achievements was raising awareness of Alzheimer’s. He officially acknowledged that he had the disease in 1994 and began a long, slow decline that eventually culminated in his death in 2004.
May America’s 40th President rest in peace and may his legacy in American politics, both on the public stage and in the private sphere, endure.