Ronald Reagan was rare among the Presidents elected to a second term for his temperament and character. Like so many, he sought the applause and love and adulation that come with the office. But unlike Grant, Wilson, and Johnson, for whom the need for public praise became overwhelming, Reagan quietly and with unusual self-confidence played upon the public support that was awarded him. Without distress, with grace and with acumen. In his second term, the Iran Contra Affair threatened this source of sustenance, briefly diminishing his leadership, but he persevered and survived an ordeal that might have destroyed the effectiveness of others. During his terms in office, and more particularly in his second term, he was willing to spend that popularity for the fulfillment of his visions for disarmament. He conveyed a self-confidence about the support he had with the public, to stand firm for his program. He presumed he knew best. As with Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Andrew Jackson, he believed he was the best man for the job. He at least overtly did not pander to the masses to maintain his popularity: he was a leader who fought for what he believed with an inner self-confidence and vision that placed him among the most courageous of those who achieved a second term. To what effect was his courage and vision and what was the measure of his Presidency?
Ronald Reagan, following the tradition only of his most stalwart predecessors, came through the ordeals of his second term relatively unscathed. Many of the two term Presidents did battle with events during their second term which were of their own making, some were beyond their control. For some the events were overwhelming, for other victory and popularity prevailed. What qualities of character and temperament allow a President to be the master of his destiny despite adversity? To what extend has the office of the Presidency changed? How has television, the growth of staff and the movement of America into predominance in the world scene altered the Presidency? The terms of Ronald Reagan serve well to answer these questions.