Ronald Wilson Reagan ( RAY-gən; February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. A member of the Republican Party from 1962 onward, he also served as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975 after having a career as a Hollywood actor and union leader.
Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois. He graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and began to work as a radio announcer in Iowa. In 1937, Reagan moved to California, where he found work as a film actor. From 1947 to 1952, Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, working to root out alleged communist influence within it. In the 1950s, he moved to a career in television and became a spokesman for General Electric. From 1959 to 1960, he again served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. In 1964, his speech "A Time for Choosing" earned him national attention as a new conservative figure. Building a network of supporters, Reagan was elected governor of California in 1966. During his governorship, he raised taxes, turned the state budget deficit into a surplus, and challenged protesters at UC Berkeley by ordering in National Guard troops.
After challenging and nearly defeating sitting president Gerald Ford in the 1976 Republican presidential primaries, Reagan easily won the Republican nomination in the 1980 presidential election and went on to defeat incumbent Democratic president Jimmy Carter. At the time of his first inauguration, Reagan was the oldest person to become president of the United States. Early in his presidency, he began implementing new political and economic initiatives. His supply-side economics policies, dubbed "Reaganomics", promoted economic deregulation and reductions in both taxes and government spending. In his first term, he survived an assassination attempt, spurred the war on drugs, ordered an invasion of Grenada, and fought public-sector labor unions. Reagan ran for reelection in 1984, defeating Carter's vice president, Walter Mondale, in an electoral landslide.
Foreign affairs dominated Reagan's second term, including the bombing of Libya, Iran–Iraq War, Iran–Contra affair, and ongoing Cold War. In a speech in 1987, four years after he publicly described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire", Reagan challenged Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to open the Berlin Wall. He transitioned Cold War policy from détente to rollback by escalating an arms race with the Soviet Union while engaging in talks with Gorbachev. The talks culminated in the INF Treaty, which shrank both countries' nuclear arsenals. Over Reagan's two terms, the American economy saw a reduction of inflation from 12.5 percent to 4.4 percent and an average real GDP annual growth of 3.6 percent. He had enacted cuts in domestic discretionary spending, cut taxes, and increased military spending, which contributed to a near tripling of the federal debt.
Reagan had planned an active post-presidency, but he disclosed in November 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier that year. His public appearances became more infrequent as the disease progressed. On June 5, 2004, Reagan died at his home in Los Angeles. His tenure constituted a realignment towards conservatism in the United States, and he is often considered a conservative icon. Evaluations of Reagan's presidency among historians and the general public place him among the upper tier of American presidents.