July 1978

Senator Kennedy visits Carter at the White House in a last-ditch effort to resolve their differences over national health insurance. Carter wants to phase the program in and make it contingent on the budget. The meeting goes badly and Kennedy accuses the president of a "failure of leadership."

August 5, 1978

Carter sends Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to the Middle East with invitations to Sadat and Begin to meet with Carter at Camp David. They immediately accept.

The Camp David summit
Jimmy Carter Library

The Camp David summit
September 4, 1978

The Camp David summit begins.

September 17, 1978

Begin and Sadat sign the historic Camp David accords.

October 15, 1978

Congress passes a version of Carter's energy package.

December 1978

The Democratic Party holds a mid-term conference in Memphis, Tennessee. The Carter administration comes under fire from the liberal wing of the party for its effort to balance the budget at the expense of domestic social programs.

Carter at the podium
Jimmy Carter Library

Carter at the podium
December 15, 1978

The Carter administration announces that it will normalize relations with the People's Republic of China, completing a process begun by the Nixon administration.

January 16, 1979

The Shah flees Iran after a year of growing public unrest. Conservative Muslim cleric Ayatollah Khomeini, who had led the popular movement against the Shah, will return triumphantly from exile two weeks later.

Deng Xaoping
National Archives

Deng Xaoping
January 29, 1979

Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping arrives in the U.S., where he is warmly received. President Carter warns him against a move into Vietnam, but the Chinese will invade less than a month later.

March 8-14, 1979

President Carter journeys to the Middle East in a last-ditch attempt to save the unraveling Camp David agreement. He succeeds after it appears all hope is lost.

March 26, 1979

Sadat and Begin sign the historic Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty on the White House lawn.

Three Mile Island
National Archives

Three Mile Island
March 28, 1979

A nuclear reactor accident at the Three Mile Island power plant in Pennsylvania causes widespread alarm. Within days, former nuclear submarine officer Carter visits the damaged reactor to assess the situation and calm fears. The next month, 65,000 demonstrators march on Washington and demand a shutdown of America's nuclear plants. Carter issues a statement saying that it is "out of the question."

June 18, 1979

President Carter and Soviet Premier Brezhnev sign the SALT II arms control agreement in Vienna.

July 3-12, 1979

Carter holds a "domestic summit" at Camp David to address the energy crisis and figure out how to rescue his presidency from record low approval ratings.

July 15, 1979

In a dramatic, nationally televised address, Carter addresses what he calls a "crisis of confidence" in America. Though initially well-received, many object to the tone of what is soon dubbed the "malaise speech."

July 17, 1979

President Carter asks his entire cabinet to resign, eventually accepting five.

July 1979

Truckers blockade expressways and set off the nation's first energy riot in Levittown, Pennsylvania, resulting in two nights of violence. One hundred people are injured and more than 170 arrested.

August 15, 1979

U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young resigns after a private meeting with a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the latest in a series of controversies.

September 2, 1979

Carter welcomes Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega and other Sandinista leaders, who have just toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza, to the White House. He provides them with $118 million in aid.

September 15, 1979

Carter collapses during a road race near Camp David, contributing to a growing public perception that he is weak.

October 22, 1979

Carter allows the ailing Shah of Iran to enter the U.S. for medical treatment.

An American hostage

An American hostage
November 4, 1979

Outraged by the Shah's welcome in America, militant students overrun the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, seizing 66 hostages. The 444-day Iranian hostage crisis begins.

November 6, 1979

Surrounded by his family at Massachusetts' historic Faneuil Hall, Senator Ted Kennedy formally announces he is running for president.

November 14, 1979

President Carter issues an executive order freezing all Iranian assets in the U.S.

November 17, 1979

The Iranians release 13 black and female hostages, keeping 53 captive.

December 4, 1979

Carter officially announces his candidacy for re-election.

December 25, 1979

The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.

Carter speaks to Senate
Jimmy Carter Library

Carter speaks to Senate
January 3, 1980

In response to the Soviets' Afghanistan invasion, Carter asks the Senate to table the SALT II Treaty and recalls Ambassador Thomas Watson from Moscow.

January 21, 1980

Carter crushes Kennedy in the Iowa caucuses, carrying 98 of 99 counties.

January 23, 1980

The president announces the "Carter Doctrine" in his State of the Union message. Any Soviet military intervention in the Middle East will be treated as a direct threat to U.S. national security.

February 1980

Carter beats Kennedy in the New Hampshire primary.

February 20, 1980

The president urges a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

March 25, 1980

Carter loses the New York primary to Kennedy by 16%.

April 24, 1980

A hostage rescue mission, called "Desert One," ends in disaster when two helicopters fail, and a third crashes into a plane during takeoff. Several days earlier, Secretary of State Vance had resigned over the decision to proceed with the mission.

May 18, 1980

The Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington State erupts, killing 57. It is the most destructive eruption in U.S. history.

July 28, 1980

Republicans nominate former California Governor Ronald Reagan for president. Moderate Illinois congressman John Anderson has already dropped out of the Republican race and entered the presidential contest as a third-party independent.

August 4, 1980

Carter holds a news conference on "Billygate," the controversy over his brother Billy Carter's dealings with the Libyan government.

August 13, 1980

Early September, 1980

The Iranian government indicates they are willing to discuss the release of the hostages.

September 21, 1980

Ronald Reagan and independent candidate John Anderson debate in Baltimore. Carter refuses to participate because of Anderson's presence.

September 22, 1980

Iraq invades Iran.

Carter and Reagan debate
Jimmy Carter Library

Carter and Reagan debate
October 28, 1980

The one and only debate between Carter and Reagan takes place in Cleveland. Reagan effectively brushes aside Carter's attacks by saying, "There you go again," and seals his dominance of the evening with his closing question to voters: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

November 2, 1980

The Iranian parliament issues a statement making it clear the hostages will not be released before the election.

November 4, 1980

Reagan defeats Carter 51% to 41% in the popular vote, and in a landslide of 489 electoral votes to 49.

Carter meets with the hostages
Jimmy Carter Library

Carter meets with the hostages
January 20, 1981

The hostages are released moments after Ronald Reagan takes the oath of office.

January 21, 1981

Carter meets the released hostages in Germany.

August 9, 1981

Egyptian president Sadat visits the Carters in Plains.

September 15, 1981

Israeli Prime Minister Begin visits Plains.

October 6, 1981

President Sadat is assassinated. Former president Carter will travel to Cairo with former president Gerald Ford to attend his friend's funeral.

July 1982

Carter meets with advisers at Sapelo Island to plan the Carter Center.

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

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