Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Key Events in the Presidency of James Carter


January 20, 1977

Carter is inaugurated the thirty-ninth President of the United States.

January 21, 1977

Carter pardons Vietnam War draft evaders.

February 2, 1977

Congress passes Emergency Natural Gas Act, authorizing the President to deregulate natural gas prices due to a shortage in supply. Carter signs the bill and announces plans to present an energy program to Congress. He later proposes the establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Energy.

February 15-21, 1977

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance travels to the Middle East in an attempt to reconvene the 1973 Geneva Conference.

February 17, 1977

Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov receives a written letter of support from President Carter.

April 18, 1977

In an address to the nation, Carter calls his program of energy conservation the "moral equivalent of war."

May 22, 1977

Carter speaks at Notre Dame University, presenting a new direction in foreign policy which takes the focus off anti-Communism and emphasizes support for fundamental human rights.

June 20, 1977

Carter announces opposition to production of the B-1 strategic bomber.

July 19, 1977

Newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin meets with Carter in Washington.

December 29-31, 1977

Carter meets with Polish First Secretary Gierek in Warsaw.

December 31-January 1, 1977

Carter visits the Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, in Tehran, calling Iran "an island of stability" in the Middle East.


January 1-6, 1978

Carter travels to India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, and Belgium.

March 9, 1978

Carter invokes the Taft-Hartley Act to end a strike by coal miners.

March 17, 1978

Carter warns of the Soviet threat in a foreign policy address at Wake Forest University.

June 7, 1978

Carter graduation speech at Annapolis emphasizes the importance of human rights in foreign policy.

September 5-17, 1978

Carter mediates talks between Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Camp David, resulting in a peace treaty between the two nations.

October 15, 1978

Congress passes a revised energy bill eighteen months after Carter proposed it. Congress also passes the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill.

December 15, 1978

The Carter administration grants full diplomatic status to the People's Republic of China.


April 5, 1979

Carter announces his "phase two" energy plan calling for conservation and phasing out price controls on oil.

April 20, 1979

President Carter claims a rabbit tried to attack him during a fishing trip in Georgia, and the Washington Post runs a front page story with the headline: "President Attacked by Rabbit."

June 7, 1979

Carter approves development of the MX missile.

June 18, 1979

Carter signs the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II) with the USSR. The U.S. Senate never ratifies the controversial treaty, although both nations voluntarily comply with its terms.

July 15, 1979

Carter delivers what becomes known as his "malaise speech," blaming the problems of the nation on "a crisis of spirit."

July 18-19, 1979

Carter accepts the resignations of five cabinet members and names Hamilton Jordan chief of staff.

September 14, 1979

A Washington Post poll gives Carter the lowest approval rating of any President in three decades.

September 15, 1979

Carter collapses in 10K race, leading the press to depict the event as representative of the strength of his presidency.

October 17, 1979

Carter signs a bill establishing the Department of Education and appoints Shirley Hufstedler as its secretary.

November 4, 1979

Iranian students take sixty-six Americans hostage at the American embassy in Tehran.

December 4, 1979

Carter officially announces his candidacy for reelection.


January 3-4, 1980

Due to the invasion of Afghanistan, Carter asks the Senate to table its consideration of SALT II. He also placed an embargo on grain sales to the Soviet Union and suggests the possibility of boycotting the Summer Olympics in Moscow.

January 23, 1980

Carter announces the "Carter Doctrine" in his State of the Union address, asserting that threats to the Persian Gulf region will be viewed as "an assault of the vital interests of the United States."

March 14, 1980

Carter announces his anti-inflation program which includes a proposal for a balanced budget for fiscal year 1981.

April 17, 1980

Carter announces that the economy is in recession, with the inflation rates hitting ten percent and interest rates climbing to eighteen percent.

April 22, 1980

The U.S. Olympic Committee votes to boycott the Moscow summer Olympics, supporting Carter in protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

April 25, 1980

Carter announces the failure of "Desert One," the mission to rescue the Iranian-held hostages, and that several American military personnel had been killed.

June, 1980

Carter's approval rating reaches the lowest mark of any President since 1945.

July 25, 1980

Carter signs Presidential Directive 59 advocating a strategy for fighting a "limited" nuclear war.

November 4, 1980

Carter loses election to Ronald Reagan, winning only 49 electoral votes to Reagan's 489.


January 20, 1981

Ronald Reagan is inaugurated President, and Carter leaves Washington, D.C.