By Kaleena Fraga
Today, February 6th, 2018, would have been the Gipper’s 107th birthday. In celebration, here are ten of History First’s favorite Reagan facts:
- Reagan earned his nickname “the Gipper” from his time as an actor in Hollywood. In the film Knute Rockne: All American, Reagan played a football player named George Gipp who, upon becoming ill, urges his teammates to “win one for the Gipper.” Somewhat ironically given recent events, the film is about a Norwegian immigrant who reinvents football at Notre Dame, and later returns to the school to coach.
2. Reagan won a landslide victory in 1984; his opponent, Walter Mondale, carried only Washington D.C. and his home state of Minnesota.
3. Disunity in the Democratic party in 1980–incumbent Jimmy Carter faced an intraparty challenger in Ted Kennedy-prompted one party operative to declare that the Dems had to take their “unity medicine”: turn around three times and say President Ronald Reagan.
4. Reagan-Bush ran a slogan in 1980 that will sound familiar to many Americans today: “Let’s Make America Great Again.”
5. Reagan was known for his quips. After he survived an assassination attempt in 1981, he famously said to his wife, Nancy, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” When Reagan met his team of surgeons he’s reported to have remarked, “I hope you’re all Republicans.” Facing accusations of growing too old for the office during his reelection campaign in 1984, Reagan averred during a debate: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
6. At the time of his second inauguration, Reagan was 74–making him the oldest president at the beginning of his term.
7. Some found Reagan’s endorsement of his successor, George H.W. Bush, less than enthusiastic. The New York Times called the run up to the endorsement “one of Washington’s longest-running and least suspenseful political dramas,” after Reagan insisted on waiting for the end of the Republican primary to announce his pick. Despite his nickname as the “Great Communicator” and Bush’s eight years of service as VP, Reagan flubbed Bush’s name during the endorsement, pronouncing it George Bosh.
8. Reagan appointed the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor. Her nomination fulfilled one of Reagan’s 1980 campaign promises. O’Connor was confirmed by a Senate vote of 99-0.
9. Famous for loving Jelly Beans, Reagan hated brussel sprouts (maybe never tried roasting them!)
10. Reagan shares a birthday with Aaron Burr, infamous for his role in the death of the first Secretary of the Treasury (and current Broadway star) Alexander Hamilton.