Ronald Reagan / Ronald Reagan - Key Events

Ronald Reagan - Key Events

Fifty-two American hostages held in Iran since Nov…

Fifty-two American hostages held in Iran since November 1979 are released, ending a 444 day hostage situation which began in Carter’s presidency.

Reagan inaugurated

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

Spending speech

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

Reagan sends budget to Congress

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.

Reagan shot in chest

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

President Reagan Shot

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John W. Hinkley, Jr., while leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel after giving a speech. The President was hit under his left arm by a bullet that ricocheted off his limousine. Once the sound of shots rang in the air, Secret Service agent Jerry Parr shoved Reagan into his limousine, and then, after noticing the President had been shot, directed the car to the George Washington University Hospital. Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy, and Washington, D.C., police officer Thomas Delahanty were also shot and seriously wounded.

Parr's quick-witted diversion of the presidential limousine to the hospital was a move that probably saved Reagan's life. The bullet had missed Reagan's heart by a mere inch. Although not believed to be serious at the time, Reagan's wounds were in fact life-threatening. He underwent surgery to remove the bullet and repair a lung that had collapsed.

Still President Reagan, ever the trouper, walked into the hospital before he collapsed. Later he won the heart of the nation when the stories of his courage and humor disarmed critics and endeared him to the public. When he arrived at the hospital, he reportedly joked with the medical staff, “Please tell me you're Republicans,” and he quipped to an anxious Nancy, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” One of the older Presidents when elected, Reagan was 70 years old when he took the oath of office; questions about his stamina and energy were commonplace during the early months of his presidency. His quick recovery from the assassination attempt, however, helped to brush those concerns aside.

President Reagan appeared before a joint session of Congress a few months after the assassination attempt to thunderous support. The attempt on his life and speedy recovery from his wounds helped establish his reputation for toughness, humility, and strength-a far cry from the public perception of his predecessor, Jimmy Carter. Press Secretary James Brady, however, suffered permanent brain damage from his wounds, and later advocated the passage of gun control laws. The “Brady Bill,” named in his honor, limited handgun purchases and required background checks on gun purchasers.

In 1982, a District of Columbia jury tried John W. Hinkley, Jr., and found him not guilty by reason of insanity. He was then committed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital for treatment of his mental illness.

Reagan recovers

Reagan leaves the hospital after recovering from a gunshot wound.

Soviet grain embargo lifted

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

Sandra Day O’Connor, first woman on Supreme Court

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.

Reagan dismisses strikers

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

Cutting taxes

Reagan signs a tax cut into law.

Military buildup

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

Negotiating with Soviet Union

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.

Sanctions on Poland

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

Reagan delivers State of the Union

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.

Reagan addresses Parliament

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.

Reagan visits West Berlin

Reagan visits West Berlin.

Private Sector Survey

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

Tax Equity & Fiscal Responsibility Act

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

Gas tax increase

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

Reagan’s second State of the Union

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

Strategic Defense Initiative

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.

Recession ends

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

Social Security reform becomes law

President Reagan signs the Social Security Reform Bill into law.

Volcker heads Federal Reserve

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

Final tax cut

The final phase of the tax cut goes into effect.

Suicide bombers attack Lebanon

U.S. Marines in the capital city of Lebanon, Beirut, are attacked by suicide bombers.

Bombing of Lebanon Barracks

On October 23, 1983, suicide bombers crashed a truck bearing more than 2,000 pounds of explosives through protective barricades at U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Since the attack took place early on a Sunday morning, it found most of the troops asleep in their beds. The explosion devastated the compound, collapsing the floors of the building on top of each other, killing 241 U.S. servicemen.

President Ronald Reagan had sent American troops to Lebanon earlier in 1983, hoping to stabilize a country ravaged by years of civil war. Their mission was to support a government friendly to U.S. interests and to Israel, and to help end the cycle of violence. The United States was supposed to play the part of an “honest broker” between competing interests.

Hezbollah, the militant Islamic group, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The ability of the United States to remain detached and play the role of honest broker became more difficult after the attack. American military ships shelled Lebanese positions, and the United States was drawn into supporting certain factions against others in the Lebanese civil war. The surviving Marines were withdrawn to U.S. vessels waiting offshore, and just two years after the bombing, President Reagan withdrew all U.S. military forces from the area at the request of the Lebanese government. The experience in Lebanon was devastating one for the President, and it altered his administration's policy in the Middle East; he never again sent ground troops into Lebanon or any other place in the Middle East.

Invasion of Grenada

U.S. forces invade the island nation of Grenada to overthrow the military government that had carried out a government coup days before. Grenada, a small country, was no match for U.S. military force, and the U.S. forces subdued the opposing forces within a few days. 

Reagan urges deficit reduction

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

Exchange with China

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

Reagan renominated

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

Congressional compromise

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

Reagan reelected

Reagan is reelected President, defeating Democratic candidate Walter Mondale.

Reagan inaugurated

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

Farm credit crises

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.

Embargo on Nicaragua

The Reagan administration announces trade embargo against Nicaragua in an attempt to undermine the Sandinista government. This embargo was later found to be in violation of international law.

Regan attends cemetery ceremony

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.

Bush acting president

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

South African sanctions

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

Reagan, Gorbachev hold summit

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.

Gramm-Rudman Bill

Reagan signs the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction bill.

Chief Justice Warren Burger retires

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.

Reagan and Gorbachev meet in Iceland

Reagan and Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Tax code revised

Reagan signs a revision of the tax code into law.

Democrats gain seats

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

U.S. illegally sells arms to Iran

Reagan 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.

Funds from illegal arms deal diverted

Regan admits that between $10 and $30 million had been diverted from Iranian arms sales and funneled to the Nicaraguan contras. This becomes known as the Iran-Contra affair.

Commission appointed to investigate Iran-Contra

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.

Water Quality Control Act

Congress overrides Reagan's veto of the Water Quality Control Act, allowing the EPA to regulate pollutants in U.S. waters.

Tower Commission concludes report

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

Reagan takes responsibility

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

Congress issues Iran-Contra report

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

Gorbachev, Reagan sign treaty

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

Reagan prohibits abortion assistance

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

Reagan visits Soviet Union

Reagan visits the Soviet Union for the first time.

Republicans nominate Bush, Quayle

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

Bush elected

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

Reagan says farewell

Reagan delivers his farewell address.