Friday, December 26, 2008

RONALD REAGAN, 41ST PRESIDENT - Ronald Reagan was sworn in as our nation's 41st President on January 20, 1981. Minutes later, Iran announced that they had released the American hostages that they had held ever since President Carter had allowed the former Shah of Iran into the United States in order to receive medical treatment for his cancer. Reagan's swearing-in was the first time that a Presidential inauguration was held on the West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol. Known as the "Great Communicator", Reagan along with John Kennedy often tops public opinion polls as the best U.S. President. This is compared to polls of historians that typically list George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt as the top three presidents. Reagan assumed the office of President at a time of low public morale because of high inflation, frustration over the Iran hostage situation, and the recent Arab oil embargo which had caused gas rationing in America. Reagan was elected based upon his promise of renewed optimism in America along with a shift towards conservative values and restraining the spending of government. Ironically, while Reagan's foreign policies helped bring about the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, his military spending on the Star Wars and other programs caused government spending and the federal deficit to skyrocket. Reagan is the only movie star to be elected President. He survived an assassination attempt shortly after his election to his first term in office that almost cost him his life, but went on to serve to two terms as President. After he publicly took responsibility for the trading of arms for hostages in his second term in office, or what is known as the Iran-Contra scandal, the publicly forgave him. As a result, the media often referred to Reagan as having a "teflon factor" where the public so liked him that he could overcome criticisms that other President would have difficulty in dealing with. Part of this ability can be attributed to the way that Reagan seemed able to talk directly to the public in moments of shared celebration, such as the bicentennial of the Statue of Liberty, or in moments of tragedy, such as the Challenger space shuttle disaster.