August 9, 1974

Under the threat of impeachment, Nixon resigns; Ford becomes president.

November 5, 1974

Jerry Brown is elected governor of California, succeeding Reagan.

November 20, 1975

Reagan opens his presidential campaign. He faces an uphill battle against the incumbent, Gerald Ford, who is backed by the Republican party.

February 24, 1976

Ford squeaks by Reagan in the New Hampshire primary.

February 27, 1976

11 of 12 former chairs of the Republican National Committee endorse Ford.

March 3, 1976

Polls show President Ford leading in the potential race for nomination; Reagan is second.

March 17, 1976

The National Republican Conference of Mayors calls on Reagan to withdraw.

March 20, 1976

Republican governors call on Reagan to withdraw.

March 23, 1976

The Reagan campaign runs out of funds. Consensus among advisors is that he should quit. Reagan announces he won't. Instead, he gives a national speech attacking President Ford's and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's policy of detente. He wins the North Carolina primary, 53-46.

August 18, 1976

Reagan gets 47.4% of delegates at the Republican Convention in Kansas City.

August 19, 1976

Reagan addresses Kansas City convention delegates. His speech, about the tension between the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need to preserve freedom, electrifies the audience. For the next four years, Reagan divides his time betwen working in his ranch, giving speeches and writing a weekly column.

Jimmy Carter
National Archives

Jimmy Carter
November 1976

Democrat Jimmy Carter defeats Ford by a narrow margin to become president.

1978: 1978-1982

In Iran, the Islamic fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini leads a movement to topple Shah Reza Pahlevi, who has ruled Iran since 1953, when he came to power in a military coup backed by the CIA. In September, he imposed martial rule to stamp out antigovernment demonstrations.

July 19, 1979

President Anastasio Somoza is overthrown in Nicaragua. Under the auspices of Cuba, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) begins to consolidate a Marxist-Leninist regime in Nicaragua and help neighboring Communist-led insurgencies.

July 31, 1979

Reagan visits the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and is told the U.S. has no defense against nuclear attack, except the threat of retaliation.

November 4, 1979

Iranian militants seize the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two Americans are taken hostage.

December 29, 1979

The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.

February 26, 1980

Reagan wins New Hampshire primary, pulling 51% of the vote in a 7-way race. William Casey is hired as campaign manager. From New Hampshire on, Reagan is the frontrunner.

Reagan and George Bush
National Archives

Reagan and George Bush
July 17, 1980

Reagan accepts Republican nomination for president. In his acceptance speech, he says: "They say that the United States has had its day in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith. They expect you to tell your children that the American people no longer have the will to cope with their problems, that the future will be one of sacrifice and few opportunities. My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view."

July 19-August 3, 1980

More than 50 nations, including the United States, boycott the 22nd Olympic Games in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

September 9, 1980

Reagan unveils his vision at the International Business Council in Chicago. "We must balance the budget, reduce tax rates and strengthen our defenses."

October 14, 1980

Carter launches personal attacks against Reagan, calling him "dangerous" and "divisive." He moves slightly ahead of Reagan, but the strategy backfires; three days later, polls show that Reagan is ahead by 7 points. Reagan hammers away at Carter's record, calling his administration "a litany of broken promises." Double digit inflation, high interest rates, high unemployment rate, and the Iran hostage crisis are all blamed on Carter. The race is too close to call.

October 28, 1980

Reagan-Carter debate. When Carter claims that Reagan began his political career with a campaign against Medicare, Reagan responds, "There you go again," demolishing Carter’s campaign strategy of showing Reagan as dangerous. On October 29, the day after the debate, Reagan leads by 5-1/2 points. Three days later, Reagan leads by 9 points.

November 4, 1980

Reagan trounces Carter, winning 44 states in the general election, and Republicans gain control of the Senate for the first time since 1964.

November 5, 1980

New York Stock Exchange surges sharply. Defense, oil, and technology stocks lead the surge. In Poland, Lech Walesa leads an independent trade union, Solidarity. The democratic movement is forced underground after Poland declares martial law to squelch it. Reagan becomes an ardent supporter of Solidarity, imposing sanctions on Poland.

January 10, 1981

Marxist insurgents launch a "final offensive" in El Salvador.

January 20, 1981

Reagan is sworn in as the 40th president of the United States. On the same day, Iran releases the 52 remaining hostages who had been held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran for 444 days, while Carter was president.

January 29, 1981

Reagan's first formal act as president is to sign legislation making January 29 "A Day of Thanksgiving to Honor Our Safely Returned Hostages."

February 18, 1981

Reagan unveils his "program for economic recovery" to a Joint Session of Congress. Reagan calls for $41.4 billion in cuts from the Carter budget, mostly from "Great Society" programs to benefit the poor, and vows to maintain a "safety net" for the poor, the disabled, and the elderly. He also calls for a 30% tax cut over three years and an increase in defense expenditures, and vows not to cut Social Security.

February 1981

The White House launches all-out lobbying effort. Assuming every Republican in the House would vote for Reagan's program, the administration still needs 26 House Democrats for the bill to pass. Reagan lobbies hard. In the first 100 days of his presidency he meets 467 legislators, and phones scores more.

March 1981

Reagan enjoys a high approval rating, with two-thirds of Americans favoring his economic programs.

March 17, 1981

Senator Pete Domenici hammers out a bipartisan agreement to freeze Social Security cost of living increases (COLAs), in order to rein in Social Security growth and reduce budget expenditures. David Stockman, Reagan’s budget director, who has been planning (secretly) to cut $44 billion out of Social Security, opposes the proposal, hoping for deeper cuts. He is joined by Reagan aides James Baker, Edwin Meese III, and Michael Deaver, who convince Reagan that accepting the proposal could jeopardize congressional support for his economic program. Reagan reasons that he doesn't want to go back on his campaign promise not to touch Social Security, and rejects the bi-partisan proposal for cuts.

Assassination attempt
National Archives

Assassination attempt
March 30, 1981

Reagan is shot by John Hinckley, Jr., outside a Washington hotel. Hinckley says he is trying to attract the attention of actress Jodie Foster. Press Secretary James Brady is also hit, suffering brain damage. Reagan is more seriously injured than his short hospital stay and jaunty manner indicate. The bullet missed his heart by less than an inch; it lodged in his lung causing it to collapse.

April 1, 1981

Nancy seeks out advice of astrologer Joan Quigley at the recommendation of friend Merv Griffin. From then on Quigley will influence the President's schedule by pointing out "good and bad days. "

April 28, 1981

Reagan appears before Congress for the first time since the assassination attempt, receiving a hero's welcome and overwhelming support for his economic package. Despite optimism and support for Reagan's tax cuts and increased defense spending, the country plunges into recession, as the Federal Reserve Board raises interest rates to fight inflation. Soon, the United States will face the largest budget deficits in its history.

June 25, 1981

Congress passes Reagan's budget bill, known as "Graham-Latta II."

July 29, 1981

Congress passes Reagan's tax bill. Instead of a 30% tax cut, Reagan accepts 25%. Reagan predicts the nation will be "seeing some signs" of prosperity by end of the year.

August 3, 1981

Air traffic controllers (PATCO) go on strike. Reagan gives them 48 hours to return to work, and fires those who don't.

September 9, 1981

Budget Director David Stockman and Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger meet to decide whether the military budget can be reduced in order to shrink the deficit. Stockman wants a 7% increase over the Carter budget, Reagan sides with Weinberger, who wants 10%. Though he would have preferred a balanced budget, his priority is a strong defense.

Reagan and Sandra Day O'Connor
National Archives

Reagan and Sandra Day O'Connor
September 1981

Reagan appoints the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor.

October 1981

Anti-nuclear demonstrators gather in Hyde Park in London to protest deployment of Pershing II missiles in Europe. Demonstrations also take place in Germany.

October 18, 1981

Reagan admits to reporters that the nation is in "a slight recession," but predicts recovery by the spring. Several days later Reagan says a balanced budget in 1984 is "not probable."

November 6, 1981

Unemployment reaches a six-year high. Reagan redefines balanced budget as "a goal."

November 10, 1981

Budget Director David Stockman charges that the predicted growth rates of 5% which the Reagan program had assumed was a "rosy scenario," based on little more than faith, and that "supply side" was a Trojan horse designed to benefit the rich.

November 12, 1981

Reagan adopts "zero option" in Europe. The U.S. sets a date for deployment of Pershing II missiles, while promising to cancel it if the Soviets dismantle all intermediate weapons targeted at Western Europe. Daughter Patti Davis comes to the forefront of the nuclear freeze movement in the Hollywood Bowl on Survival Sunday. Her opposition to her father's policies is considered personal as well as political.

December 31, 1981

General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland.

January 6, 1982

Reagan sends his 1983 budget to Congress; there are big cuts, except on defense, which is slightly under $200 billion. The budget projects a deficit of $91.5 billion.

June 6, 1982

Israel invades Lebanon.

June 8, 1982

Reagan delivers a speech in front of British Parliament. He predicts the ultimate triumph of freedom over communism.

June 13, 1982

Nearly one million people join together for a peaceful nuclear freeze demonstration in Central Park in New York City.

My American Experience

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