We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone
Ronald Reagan began his working life as a lifeguard, before becoming a radio announcer, mostly commentating on boxing matches and other sports events. The young Reagan left Illinois in pursuit of a Hollywood career. Soon, he was a middle ranking film star married to the actress Jane Wyman.
By the Fifties, Reagan and Jane had split and he had married another actress, Nancy Davis.
Ronald was already a leading figure in Hollywood trade union The Screen Actors Guild before entering politics, initially as a Democrat, before becoming a Republican in the 1960s.
In 1964, Reagan wowed audiences with a speech promoting a Republican candidate. The candidate lost but Reagan had impressed people. He gave up acting and began a course which would ultimately see him become Governor of California and in 1981, 40th president of the United States.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same,” he once said.
Reagan’s eight years in the White House were eventful. Two months after his inauguration, he came close to death in an assassination attempt. Recovering in hospital, he came out with boxer Jack Dempsey’s famous one-liner, joking to Nancy: “Honey, I forgot to duck.”
During his presidency, Reagan would become embroiled in the Iran-Contra scandal over Congress-prohibited arms sales, as the world watched the US and then-Soviet Union work towards thawing relations during the Cold War. The world collectively held its breath for a moment when it was revealed that, during a soundcheck before a radio broadcast he’d joked: “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
Reagan cut taxes for many. He had a charm and charisma that appealed to many ordinary people. The comforting and assured way in which he spoke to the nation in the wake of the Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster – millions of devastated people around the world had watched the spacecraft explode on live TV – was one of his finest moments.
Reagan was living with Alzheimer’s disease when he died, aged 93. Not long after his diagnosis, he had written an open letter to the nation, saying that he had begun “the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”