On March 30th, 1981, barely nine weeks after he took office, President Ronald Reagan was shot as he left a meeting at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The would-be assassin fired six shots, wounding three people, but missing the President. One of the shots ricocheted off the limo as Reagan was hustled inside, wounding him in the lung, and missing his heart by one inch. Reagan was close to death as he underwent emergency surgery, but he survived and recovered quickly, returning to applause at the Oval Office within four weeks. Had he not survived, history would have been very different.
Without Reagan there might not have been the tax cuts that revitalized the American economy and ushered in a period of steady growth that saw the average US citizen's standard of living rise. Had he not had his eight years in office, America might not have seen 16 million new jobs created. It might not have seen the inflation rate drop to 2.5 percent.
Surely no other president would have embraced the Strategic Defence Initiative, raising the prospect that deterring Soviet aggression might be replaced by a defensive capability, with the technological ability to intercept and destroy Soviet missiles. Ultimately it precipitated the collapse of the Soviet empire, which could not compete technologically nor militarily with the US.
Reagan was thought to be something of a hawk on foreign policy, giving evil its proper name and standing up to it. To counter the Soviet's SS-20 missiles, he deployed Pershing II and Ground Launched Cruise Missiles in Europe, to bring the USSR to the negotiating table to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. His strengthening of the US military with modern weapons and equipment is believed to have played a key role in bringing about the final collapse of the Soviet Union and ending the tyranny of Communism. He won the Cold War.
His personality played no small part in reinvigorating and uniting America after years of discord. He was known as the "Great Communicator" for his ability to put ideas across in a jargon-free, non-patronizing way that ordinary Americans could relate to. He unashamedly championed the ideals of the Founding Fathers, including patriotism, and his optimism restored to Americans their faith in themselves and their country.
Had one of the six shots fired that March day been more accurate, the world would have been different. But Reagan was saved, and so was the world's future.