Reagan | H.W. Brands

Summary of: Reagan: The Life
By: H.W. Brands


Welcome to the captivating life story of Ronald Reagan, one of America’s most influential presidents, as chronicled in H.W. Brands’ ‘Reagan: The Life’. This summary takes you on an enthralling journey through Reagan’s humble beginnings and his evolution into a charismatic leader fueled by his passion for performance. Witness his transformation from a charming Hollywood actor to a powerful political figure advocating for conservative America. Explore his commitment to reduce taxes, grow defense budgets, and fight the Cold War. Dive into the critical milestones that shaped Reagan’s vision and policies, which continue to impact the United States to this day.

The Rise of Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan’s journey to the silver screen and beyond started with his love for performing speeches at his mother’s church. Despite growing up with insecurities and financial challenges, he always had a talent for making people laugh. Reagan attended college in southern Illinois where he wasn’t the best student, but his good looks and prowess on stage led to a career in student politics. Ultimately, he found success in Hollywood after a screen test with Warner Bros.

Reagan’s Transformation to a Political Icon

In 1937, Ronald Reagan drove to Hollywood and became a successful actor despite his unremarkable looks. However, his acting career took a backseat when he contributed to the war effort as an actor in propaganda films. Following the war, Reagan’s anti-communist stance catapulted him to the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947. His political career started when he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, where he denounced communism in Hollywood and supported the studios.

Reagan’s Journey to Political Icon

After leaving acting, Ronald Reagan’s personal life and career took a different turn. He found a new career in Hollywood politics but at the same time grew apart from his wife. However, he wouldn’t stay single for long, as he got married to Nancy Davis in 1952. The soaring popularity of television led to Reagan’s transition from movies to TV, beginning his career as a host for General Electric, where he became a spokesman for conservative America. This made him realize that the party of Roosevelt, the Democrats, no longer reflected his beliefs, which ultimately led him to join the Republican party in 1962. Reagan’s impeccable speaking skills, honed over the years, won him over his audience during his speech on Goldwater’s behalf in 1964, which made him a name in the Republican party and a political icon.

Reagan’s Rise to Power

This summary tells the story of Ronald Reagan’s unexpected journey from actor to governor of California, and eventually to become the first actor to be elected President of the United States. The summary highlights Reagan’s campaign promises of small government and individual rights, which resonated with Californians who were feeling the effects of the civil rights and student movements of the 1960s. Despite some controversial actions during his tenure as governor, Reagan remained popular with the public and, after Nixon’s resignation, decided to run for president. He used his successful radio show to stay connected with his followers while building the foundation for his future political campaigns.

Reagan’s Rise to Presidency

In 1976, Ronald Reagan challenged Gerald Ford for the presidency but lost, and instead used his newfound visibility to urge for Ford’s loss to discredit Republican moderation. When Jimmy Carter won and was faced with foreign policy problems, Reagan announced his candidacy in 1979 with a tough-on-communism campaign, emphasizing the failing economy and weakness towards the Soviets. Reagan’s uncomplicated views, especially on the Cold War, helped him win by an overwhelming margin. His presidency reflected this broad simplicity, focusing on smaller government, a stronger defense budget, and viewing the CIA as critical to the Cold War effort.

Reagan’s Economic Plan

After taking office, Ronald Reagan presented his four-part economic plan, which included a 10% tax cut, $49 billion in government spending cuts, deregulation, and monetary policy reform. Despite the shooting incident that rattled Reagan, he recovered and rallied public support for his plan in a televised address. The result was the passing of the budget, which caused major cuts in education, food-stamp funding, public housing, and the arts, among others. Reagan considered it his greatest political win in half a century.

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