Ronald Reagan, the United State’s 40th president, was an influential figure in many ways. While his presidency has been both widely praised and criticized, even his harshest critics cannot deny the significance of his influence both domestically and abroad. Here are just a few of the reasons:
Reagan’s motto in foreign policy was to achieve “peace through strength.” While many criticized his increased defense spending, he also sought to improve relations with the Soviet Union. He met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev many times in dramatic meetings as he negotiated a treaty that would eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Reagan got Gorbachev to meet in four summit conferences around the world: the first in Geneva, Switzerland, the second in ReykjavÃk, Iceland, the third held in Washington, D.C., along with the fourth summit in Moscow, Russia. Reagan hoped that if he could persuade the Soviets to look at the prosperous American economy, they would embrace free markets and a free society. Gorbachev, after realizing the severe economic problems at home, was convinced. Reagan really became the final catalyst in ending the Cold War that had stymied American politicians for decades.
Reagan also declared war against international terrorism. He was direct about it in sending American bombers against Libya after evidence came out that Libya was involved in an attack on American soldiers in a West Berlin nightclub.
He was also direct when ordering naval escorts in the Persian Gulf. He maintained that this was the only way to maintain the free flow of oil during the Iran-Iraq war. He gave support to anti-Communist insurgencies in Central America, Asia, and Africa in accordance with his personal beliefs.
He was unwavering in the belief that all people could be free. He continued to wage his ideology using his words with his most famous quote possibly being, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the world rejoiced and President Reagan became nearly immortalized.
President Reagan believed fervently in a strong national defense. He rearmed the country and built up the U.S. military. He felt this was the best way to send the message to the Soviets and the world that America was still a strong military presence to be reckoned with. He did this to keep up the pressure on the Soviets at a time when they were beginning to fail internally. He continually pushed for SDI, the strategic defense missile system that was rightly understood by the Soviets as both a financial challenge and an intimidating expression of the power of U.S. scientific innovation.
President Reagan was relentless in dealing with Congress. He pushed for legislation that stimulated economic growth, helped curb inflation, increased employment and strengthened the national defenses. He worked for an overhaul of the tax code that resulted in the cutting of taxes. While he may have increased defense spending, he quite literally cut needless government expenditures.
He continued to speak out on school prayer and abortion. He was a new kind of president who seemed unafraid of how polls could affect his political future. One of the highlights of his terms of presidency was appointing the Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day Oâ€™Connor as the first woman justice to the Supreme Court.
President Ronald Reagan was significant in the fact that long before he even ran for president, he embraced an ideology vastly different from those of his peers. He stood alone on many issues but never seemed to let that deter him from what he saw as right. While many critics maintained that he was detached, his supporters saw his determination.
Overall, the Reagan years saw a restoration of prosperity, and the goal of peace through strength seemed to be within grasp. President Reagan left office with a popularity that few presidents have ever seen.