Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Key Events in the Presidency of Ronald Reagan


January 20, 1981

Reagan is inaugurated as the fortieth President of the United States.

January 20, 1981

Fifty-two American hostages held in Iran since November 1979 are released.

February 18, 1981

Reagan proposes increased defense spending, and decreased taxes and domestic spending in speech to Congress.

March 10, 1981

Reagan sends budget proposal for fiscal year 1982 to Congress. The budget calls for spending $695.3 billion with a projected deficit of $45 billion. It includes funding cuts for 200 programs in addition to those cuts already proposed by President Carter.

March 30, 1981

Reagan is shot in the chest by John Warnock Hinckley Jr.

April 11, 1981

Reagan leaves the hospital after recovering from a gunshot wound.

April 24, 1981

Reagan lifts a grain embargo imposed on Soviet Union by President Carter.

July 7, 1981

Reagan nominates Sandra Day O'Connor to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, making O'Connor the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court.

August 5, 1981

Reagan orders the dismissal of 13,000 PATCO air traffic controllers out on strike, citing their violation of a federal law against industry strikes.

August 13, 1981

Reagan signs the tax cut into law.

October 2, 1981

Reagan declares that the United States will produce the B-1 bomber and MX missiles as part of military buildup.

November 18, 1981

Reagan states that he will not deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe if the Soviet Union agrees to dismantle similar weapons already in place.

December 28, 1981

Reagan imposes economic sanctions on Poland following that government's imposition of martial law.


January 26, 1982

Reagan calls for "New Federalism" in his State of the Union address, advocating less federal spending and more state initiative to solve social and economic problems.

June 6, 1982

Reagan becomes the first U.S. President to address the combined Houses of Parliament, taking Britain's side in the Falkland Islands conflict with Argentina.

June 11, 1982

Reagan visits West Berlin.

June 30, 1982

Reagan establishes the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control through Executive Order 12369.

September 3, 1982

Reagan signs the Tax Equity & Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA).


January 5, 1983

Reagan signs into law a five cents per gallon gasoline tax increase.

January 25, 1983

In his State of the Union address, Reagan calls for a freeze on domestic spending and increases in military outlays.

March 23, 1983

Reagan urges development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), an attempt to create a high-technology anti-ballistic missile shield to protect the United States from nuclear attack.

April 20, 1983

President Reagan signs the Social Security Reform Bill into law.

April 20, 1983

The U.S. GNP shows dramatic growth for the first quarter of 1983, signaling the end of the recession.

June 18, 1983

Reagan nominates Paul Volcker to a second term as head of the Federal Reserve Board.

July 1, 1983

The final phase of the tax cut goes into effect.


January 25, 1984

Reagan delivers State of the Union message, calling on Congress to cooperate to reduce the deficit.

April 30, 1984

Reagan signs scientific and cultural exchange accords with the Beijing leadership while on six-day visit to China.

August 22, 1984

The Republican Party re-nominates Reagan and Bush for 1984 presidential election.

September 21, 1984

Congress and Reagan work out a compromise on the MX missile.

November 6, 1984

Reagan is reelected President, defeating Democratic candidate Walter Mondale.


January 20, 1985

Reagan is inaugurated for a second term as President of the United States.

February 6, 1985

Farm credit crises pose serious a threat to U.S. agriculture. The Reagan administration eases rules on a loan-guarantee program, but rejects provisions for additional funding.

May 1, 1985

The Reagan administration announces trade embargo against Nicaragua.

May 5, 1985

Reagan attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Bitburg military cemetery in West Germany, the gravesite of 200 German soldiers including 49 members of Adolf Hitler's SS. Responding to criticism of the visit, Reagan visits and lays a wreath at a nearby concentration camp earlier in the day.

July 13, 1985

Reagan has a malignant polyp removed from his colon; Vice President Bush serves as acting President for eight hours.

September 9, 1985

The Reagan administration announces limited economic sanctions against South Africa after the South African government declares martial law.

November 19-21, 1985

Reagan and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev hold a summit meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. It is the first such meeting between U.S and Soviet heads of state since 1979.

December 12, 1985

Reagan signs the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction bill.


June 17, 1986

Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger announces his retirement; Regan elevates Justice William Rehnquist to the position of chief justice and nominates Anthony Scalia as an associate justice.

October 11-12, 1986

Reagan and Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik, Iceland.

October 22, 1986

Reagan signs a revision of the tax code into law.

November 4, 1986

The Democrats win control of Senate, the first time during Reagan's tenure that both houses of Congress are in Democratic hands.

November 13, 1986

The White House informs Congress that the United States secretly sold arms to Iran in violation of federal laws prohibiting arms deals with Iran. The administration denies that the sales were part of an attempt to secure the release of American hostages held by Iranian-backed forces.

November 25, 1986

The administration admits that between $10 and $30 million had been diverted from Iranian arms sales and funneled to the Nicaraguan contras.

November 26, 1986

The Tower Commission is appointed to investigate the Iran-Contra affair. Reagan forgoes any claim of executive privilege and orders his administration to cooperate fully with the investigation. Lawrence Walsh is appointed special prosecutor to investigate criminal wrongdoing.


February 3-4, 1987

Congress overrides Reagan's veto of the Water Quality Control Act.

February 26, 1987

The Tower Commission releases its report, finding no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the White House but remaining critical of the administration nonetheless.

March 4, 1987

In televised address, Reagan accepts responsibility for actions in Iran-Contra affair that occurred without his knowledge.

November 18, 1987

Congress issues its Iran-Contra report, declaring that Regan must assume "ultimate responsibility" for the affair.

December 7-10, 1987

Gorbachev and Reagan meet in Washington, D.C., and sign the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.


January 29, 1988

The administration prohibits federally funded family-planning centers from providing assistance to women seeking abortions.

May 29-June 1, 1988

Reagan visits the Soviet Union for the first time.

August 15-18, 1988

The Republican Party nominates George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle for President and vice president.

November 8, 1988

Vice President George H.W. Bush is elected President of the United States, defeating Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis.


January 11, 1989

Reagan delivers his farewell address.

January 20, 1989

Reagan leaves office with public opinion casting him as the nation's most popular President since Franklin D. Roosevelt.