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Before Ronald Reagan became known as “The Great Communicator” in his political career, he gained recognition for another remarkable skill: lifeguarding. Reagan served as a lifeguard at the Rock River during his younger years, where he demonstrated his athleticism and physical prowess.

Over the course of several summers, Reagan’s quick thinking and strong swimming abilities enabled him to rescue an astounding 77 individuals from drowning in the river’s waters. His courageous acts were commemorated with a plaque at the park, serving as a testament to his heroism. Even today, visitors journey to the park to pay homage to Reagan’s remarkable lifeguarding achievements.

During his time as a lifeguard on the Rock River, Ronald Reagan found fulfillment and newfound confidence in his role as the protector of Lowell Park. Despite his initial shyness, Reagan flourished in his position, excelling in rescuing swimmers in distress and honing valuable leadership skills.

Reflecting on his experiences years later, Reagan recalled his challenges in persuading swimmers to leave the water at the end of his shifts. When his verbal commands went unheeded, Reagan devised a clever strategy.

Employing a bit of humor and quick thinking, he would playfully toss pebbles into the river and jokingly shout, “River rat!” The reaction was swift and comical as swimmers scrambled out of the water to avoid imagined encounters with the river’s resident rodents. This inventive approach showcased Reagan’s resourcefulness and demonstrated his ability to adapt and engage others effectively.

As Ronald Reagan’s seventh summer as a lifeguard drew to a close, he marked a significant milestone by rescuing his 77th person from the waters of the Rock River. With a sense of accomplishment, he etched one last notch into the wooden log he kept to record his lifesaving efforts. Reagan’s commitment to safeguarding others remained steadfast as he gathered his belongings and bid farewell to his lifeguarding duties.

Though he may have left his post by the river, Reagan’s innate sense of duty and vigilance persisted throughout his life. The experience of serving as a lifeguard instilled in him a lasting dedication to protecting and aiding others, a trait that would become emblematic of his leadership style in the years to come. Even as he transitioned to new roles and responsibilities, the spirit of the lifeguard within him continued to shape his actions and influence his approach to leadership.

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