On March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, and three others were shot and wounded by John Hinckley Jr. in Washington, D.C., as they were leaving a speaking engagement at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Hinckley's motivation for the attack was to impress actress Jodie Foster, over whom he had developed an obsession after seeing her in the 1976 film "Taxi Driver".

On March 28, Hinckley arrived in Washington, D.C. by bus and checked into the Park Central Hotel. He noticed Reagan's schedule that was published in The Washington Star and decided it was time to act. Hinckley knew that he might be killed during the assassination attempt, and he wrote but did not mail a letter to Foster about two hours prior to his attempt on the President's life. In the letter, he said that he hoped to impress her with the magnitude of his action and that he would "abandon the idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you."

The attempt had great influence on Reagan's popularity; polls indicated his approval rating to be around 73%. Reagan believed that God had spared his life so that he might go on to fulfill a greater purpose and, although not a Catholic, meetings with Mother Teresa, Cardinal Terence Cooke, and fellow shooting survivor Pope John Paul II reinforced his belief. One of the Secret Service agents came to believe that God had directed his life to save Reagan, and became a pastor.

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