A celebrated actor turned influential statesman, Ronald Reagan’s life and presidency were filled with fascinating twists and heartfelt moments. The 40th President of the United States, Reagan’s legacy reverberates far beyond politics, revealing intriguing anecdotes and hidden layers of his persona that continue to surprise and inspire.
1. Known for his compassionate heart, Ronald Reagan was not just an iconic statesman, but also a generous soul. He would often write personal checks, sometimes to the tune of $4,000 or $5,000, to individuals burdened with financial hardship. Beyond his personal giving, Reagan also utilized military resources for humanitarian causes, calling upon the Air Force to aid in transporting children in urgent medical situations.
2. While revered as a Republican icon, Reagan was not always a member of the party. Interestingly, he was a Democrat up until 1962, when he was 52. In the 1984 presidential election, Reagan broke records by winning 49 states and securing a whopping 525 electoral votes, a feat unrivaled in history.
3. In 1981, when an assassination attempt landed Reagan in the hospital, his humor never wavered. After being shot by John Hinckley Jr., he joked to the attending medical team, “Please tell me you’re all Republicans.” A liberal democrat surgeon replied in the spirit of the moment, “We’re all Republicans today.”
4. Reagan’s leadership skills were evident long before he entered politics. From 1947 to 1959, he led the Screen Actors Guild, a major American labor union. During this period, Reagan also served as an FBI informer, reporting any suspected subversive activities among his Hollywood peers.
5. Like many, Reagan had his vices and his unique ways of overcoming them. To quit smoking, he took to eating Jelly Belly candies, a habit he continued during his presidency. This affection led to over 300,000 jelly beans being shipped to the White House each month.
6. Even as the President, Reagan enjoyed a good joke. When he first saw the film ‘Back to the Future,’ he was so amused by a joke about himself being president that he had the theater projectionist replay the scene for him.
7. Jerry Parr, the secret service agent credited with saving Reagan’s life during the assassination attempt, had been inspired to join the service by watching “Code of the Secret Service”. Who was the star of that film? None other than Ronald Reagan himself.
8. A coincidental twist of names occurred during Reagan’s tenure when Donald Regan, distinct from the President only by a vowel, served as the US Treasury Secretary.
9. Reagan was known for his humorous outlook, often making light of serious situations. During a soundcheck for his weekly radio address, he jokingly announced, “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.”
10. Another curious detail about Ronald Reagan’s presidency was his reliance on astrological guidance for making significant governmental decisions. An astrologist from California was privy to confidential information, and her interpretations were taken into consideration in Reagan’s decision-making process. There’s some debate over the extent of her influence: Reagan claimed her role was limited to advising on scheduling, while a former staffer alleged that “almost every major move and decision … was cleared in advance” by the astrologist. The idea that astrological guidance could play a role in governmental affairs remains an intriguing and somewhat controversial aspect of Reagan’s presidency.
11. In his twilight years, as Alzheimer’s disease began to take its toll, Reagan displayed a heartbreaking innocence. He would clean his pool for hours, oblivious to his Secret Service agents’ repeated replenishment of leaves in the water. One poignant moment came when Nancy, his wife, found him gazing at a model of the White House. He confessed to her, “I don’t know what this is but it used to be part of my life, right?” A touching reminder of a life lived in service, remembered and forgotten.