November 25, 1986

National Security Advisor John Poindexter resigns and Oliver North is fired. In press conference, Meese announces Iran-Contra: $10m to $30m of profits from sale of U.S. arms to Iran had been diverted to Swiss bank accounts for use by Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

December 1, 1986

Reagan appoints the Tower Commission to review Iran Contra.

December 2, 1986

In a "New York Times" poll, Reagan's approval drops from 67% to 46% in one month. Frank Carlucci replaces Poindexter as National Security Advisor.

December 18, 1986

C.I.A. Director William Casey undergoes surgery for a malignant brain tumor.

December 19, 1986

Independent counsel Lawrence Walsh is appointed to investigate Iran-Contra.

January 5, 1987

Reagan submits first-ever $1 trillion budget for fiscal year 1988. He undergoes prostate surgery; he is slow to recover.

January 6, 1987

100th Congress begins with a Democratic majority in both houses.

February 2, 1987

Reagan testifies to the Tower Board for a second time. His testimony is inconsistent and confused. The Board pointed out Reagan hadn’t known about August shipment of anti-tank missiles, but Reagan had said he DID know. When asked for an explanation, Reagan picked up a briefing memo he had been provided and read aloud: "If the question comes up at the Tower Board meeting, you might want to say that you were surprised."

February 20, 1987

A Reagan memo to the Tower Board reads: "I don’t remember, period." "I’m trying to recall events that happened eighteen months ago, I’m afraid that I let myself be influenced by others’ recollections, not my own.... The only honest answer is to state that try as I might, I cannot recall anything whatsoever about whether I approved an Israeli sale in advance or whether I approved replenishment of Israeli stocks around August of 1985. My answer therefore and the simple truth is, ‘I don’t remember, period.’"

February 26, 1987

The Tower Commission report is delivered to Reagan. The report could not link Reagan to diversion of funds from Iran to the Contras. But it concluded that Reagan, confused and unaware, allowed himself to be misled by dishonest staff members who organized the trade of arms to Iran for hostages held in Lebanon and pursued a secret war against the Nicaraguan government. The report charges that Reagan had failed to "insist upon accountability & performance review, "allowing the National Security Council process to collapse. Reagan’s approval rating is down to 42%.

February 27, 1987

Although reluctant at first, Reagan yields to pressure from his advisors and Nancy to fire Chief of Staff Donald Regan. Reagan calls Howard Baker to offer him the position of Chief of Staff. Donald Regan finds out through CNN -- only after Baker has accepted. He is furious.

March 4, 1987

On national television, Reagan acknowledges mistakes on Iran-Contra. "A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions tell me that’s true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower Board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages. This runs counter to my own beliefs, to administration policy, and to the original strategy we had in mind. There are reasons why it happened, but no excuses. It was a mistake." Reagan’s approval rating rebounds to 51%.

May 17, 1987

A missile from an Iraqi warplane hits the U.S.S. "Stark," killing the 37 sailors onboard. The frigate is part of a naval task force which was sent to the Persian Gulf to keep the waterway open during the Iran-Iraq war.

"Tear down this wall!"
National Archives

"Tear down this wall!"
June 12, 1987

Reagan, in a speech at the Brandenberg Gate, asks Gorbachev to raze Berlin Wall. "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

July 16, 1987

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visits Reagan, and praises his leadership. She says it is important that he continue to assert a leading role in the Western alliance. The trip is widely viewed as an attempt by Thatcher, Reagan's closest overseas ally, to help reinvigorate the Reagan administration, which has been damaged by the Iran-Contra affair.

August 3, 1987

Congress completes its public hearings on Iran-Contra. "We may never know with precision or truth why it ever happened." Meanwhile, Reagan’s close aides Lyn Nofziger and Michael Deaver are convicted of influence peddling. Meese is investigated and cleared. Nofziger’s conviction is overturned on appeal.

October 17, 1987

Nancy Reagan has left breast removed after a biopsy reveals a cancerous tumor.

October 19, 1987

The stock market drops 500 points. The drop is partially blamed on rising deficits.

December 7, 1987

Gorbachev arrives in Washington, D.C. for a summit.

December 8, 1987

The Washington Summit opens; Reagan and Gorbachev sign the INF treaty, which only eliminates 4% of the superpowers’ nuclear arsenals. It is the first U.S.-Soviet treaty to provide for destruction of nuclear weapons and to provide for on-site monitoring of the destruction. Leading Conservatives are critical of the treaty.

March 16, 1988

Oliver North, John Poindexter, and two others are indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by secretly providing funds and supplies to the Contra rebels fighting the government of Nicaragua.

April 14, 1988

Soviets agree to begin pulling troops out of Afghanistan, beginning May 15, 1988, and finishing by Feb 15, 1989.

May 5, 1988

Donald Regan’s memoir, "For the Record" is published. In it he reveals that Nancy Reagan relied on an astrologer to dictate her husband's public appearances.

May 27, 1988

The Senate ratifies the INF treaty. The INF pact is the first arms-control agreement since the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) to receive Senate approval.

In Moscow
National Archives

In Moscow
May 29, 1988

Reagan is in Moscow for a summit. Muscovites line the streets to greet his motorcade with cheers. When people on the street heard the Reagans were there on the Arbat, a street market, the crowd surged forward; and the KGB charged the crowd, hurled people aside and threw punches at them. Reagan muttered that this "is still a police state."

May 30, 1988

Reagan holds dinner for dissidents at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He also visits Danilov Monastery, the seat of Russian Orthodox religion.

May 31, 1988

Reagan gives a speech to students at Moscow State University beneath gigantic bust of Lenin. "We do not know what the conclusion will be of this journey, but we’re hopeful that the promise of reform will be fulfilled. In this Moscow spring, this May 1988, we may be allowed that hope: that freedom, like the fresh green sapling planted over Tolstoy’s grave, will blossom forth at last in the rich fertile soil of your people and culture.

June 1988

U.S. unemployment hits a 14-year low.

June 29, 1988

Reagan makes his first campaign appearance on behalf of President Bush in Miami.

George Bush
National Archives

George Bush
November 8, 1988

Vice President George Bush defeats Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis to become the 41st President of the United States.

December 7, 1988

Last Reagan-Gorbachev meeting in presidency. Gorbachev, Bush, Reagan, and top aides lunch at Governor's Island in New York Harbor.

December 21, 1988

A Pan Am plane explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 people onboard are killed, as are 11 people on the ground. An investigation revealed that the explosion was the result of a Libyan terrorist attack.

January 22, 1989: 1989-2000

In his farewell address, Reagan states: "They called it the Reagan revolution. Well, I’ll accept that, but for me it always seemed more like the great rediscovery, a rediscovery of our values and our common sense."

January 20, 1989

George Bush is inaugurated; Ronald and Nancy Reagan fly to California. Reagan leaves office with the highest approval rating of any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

March 1989

Soviet citizens are allowed to vote in nationwide elections for the first time. The following month, newly elected President Gorbachev announces that the U.S.S.R. will become democratic.

April-June 1989

Pro-democracy student protests are held in Tiananmen Square in China. Confrontations between students and police turn deadly after the Communist government declares martial law.

June 1989

Lech Walesa is elected president of Poland. Shortly thereafter, the Eastern European Soviet Bloc countries -- Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Rumania -- also forsake communism for democracy.

November 1989

The Berlin Wall, physically separating East Germany from West Germany is opened. Reagan is awarded honorary knighthood (Knights Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath) by Queen Elizabeth II. He also publishes his life story, "An American Life."

February 1990

The Marxist Sandinistas are voted out of power in Nicaragua. Gorbachev wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

November 4, 1991

The Reagan Library and Museum, located in Simi Valley, California, is dedicated. It is the only presidential library in California, and only one of ten in the country.

December 15, 1991

Mikhail Gorbachev dissolves the Soviet Union.

July 24, 1992

Reagan is questioned for one day after former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger is subpoenaed in the ongoing Iran-Contra trial. Reagan's poor memory is evident during questioning; not only is he unable to recall facts and figures, it is difficult for him to name his Secretary of State.

November 1992

Democrat Bill Clinton defeats incumbent Republican George Bush.


After recurring episodes of confusion and forgetfulness, Reagan flies to the Mayo Clinic for tests. Doctors there diagnose him as having Alzheimer's Disease.

February 6, 1994

At his 83rd birthday tribute, Reagan falters publicly.

November 1994

Republicans win the House of Representatives for first time in history.

November 5, 1994

Reagan addresses a letter to the American people in which he discloses that he is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. He no longer appears in public.

February 4, 1998

The Senate passes a hotly contested proposal to rename Washington National Airport Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Opposing Democrats believed the renaming, which would involve increased government spending as well as federal involvement in an airport run by local authorities, was not in keeping with Reagan's politics or spirit.

February 4, 2000

Reagan celebrates his 89th birthday. The press widely reports that his physical deterioration has escalated, and he is unable to recognize anyone except Nancy.

June 5, 2004

Ronald Reagan dies peacefully at his home in California. At age 93, he is the longest-lived president in American history.

My American Experience

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