Ronald Wilson Reagan is born in Tampico, Illinois, the second of two sons to John (Jack) and Nelle Reagan.
After years of moving from town to town, the Reagan family settles in Dixon, Illinois.
Reagan is baptized at his mother's Disciples of Christ Church.
Reagan enters Dixon's Northside High School.
Reagan takes a job as lifeguard in Lowell Park, two miles away from Dixon, on the Rock River.
"Dixon Daily Telegraph" front page headline reads: "Ronald Reagan saves drowning man." By the time he leaves his job, after seven summers, the count of those he has pulled from the water is 77.
Reagan enrolls in Eureka College, a small Christian college near Peoria, Illinois. Although never a model student (he graduated with a "C" average), Reagan is successful as both an actor and a football player.
Within six weeks of graduating from Eureka, Reagan finds work at WOC radio in Davenport, Iowa.
Reagan becomes a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Officers Reserve Corps of the Cavalry. A Warner Brothers agent discovers him and offers him a seven-year studio contract. After his first film, "Love Is on the Air," in which Reagan plays a radio personality who uncovers corruption, Reagan will go on to star in more than 50 more films.
Reagan marries actress Jane Wyman.
Reagan stars as Notre Dame football legend George Gipp in "Knute Rockne, All American." He earns the nickname "the Gipper" from this role.
Reagan's father Jack dies of heart attack at age 58.
Daughter Maureen is born.
Appointed to the board of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). He had joined in 1937.
U.S. at war. Reagan drafted into the army. Nearsighted vision keeps him away from the front. He is assigned to the Motion Picture Army Unit in Culver City to make training and propaganda films.
"King's Row" opens. Reagan's performance as Drake McHugh is the highlight of his film career.
Michael Edward Reagan is adopted.
SAG asks Reagan to mediate a dispute between rival unions. One, the Conference of Studio Unions, is lead by Herb Sorrell, a suspected Communist. It is while battling Sorrell that he learns to mistrust Communists.
Wyman gives birth to a baby girl, born four months premature. The baby dies the next day. Elected president of SAG for the first of five consecutive terms, Reagan testifies as a friendly witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. As a result of the hearings, "the Hollywood Ten" are imprisoned and many writers and directors thought to have ties to the Communist Party are blacklisted.
Reagan and Wyman divorce. Wyman alleges "mental cruelty." Speculation about reasons for the break-up ranges from Reagan's obsession with politics to allegations of Wyman's affair with Lew Ayres, her co-star in "Johnny Belinda."
Reagan campaigns in support of California Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas in her race against Richard Nixon for U.S. Senate.
Marries Nancy Davis, an actress under contract with MGM.
Daughter Patricia (Patti) is born.
Reagan leads a movement of Democrats for Eisenhower during both of Eisenhower's presidential campaigns, in 1952 and 1956.
Reagan's movie career falters. Financially strapped, Reagan is forced to take a job as an emcee in Vegas, introducing singing quartet "The Continentals."
Reagan is hired by General Electric. For the next eight years he will host "G.E. Theater" on television every Sunday evening. The job also requires him to make celebrity appearances at G.E. plants. Reagan receives a political education rarely available to politicians. He hones his political ideas, as his speeches increasingly discuss government’s encroachment on individual freedom.
Son Ronald Prescott (Ron) is born.
Fidel Castro's "revolution" topples the right-wing Batista government in Cuba.
During his last term as president of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan fights for, and achieves, better benefits and working conditions for actors.
As a "Democrat for Nixon," Reagan champions Nixon's candidacy for president, delivering more than 200 speeches in his support.
G.E. fires Reagan as a political liability when he takes on the Tennessee Valley Authority, as an example of "big government." G.E. has contracts worth millions of dollars. Reagan switches his political affiliation to the Republican party. Nelle, Reagan's mother, dies. Although Alzheimer's Disease had not yet been identified, his mother suffered from this condition, as did his older brother, Neil. Reagan himself will be diagnosed with the disease in 1993.
Reagan makes his final film appearance, in "The Killers," where for the first time in his career, and rather unconvincingly, Reagan plays a villain. Becomes host of "Death Valley Days."
As co-chair of California Republicans for Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona for President, Reagan gives speech: "A Time for Choosing." The speech, a blistering attack on "big government" and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs, is an instant success. As Goldwater fades from leadership after losing to Lyndon Johnson, Reagan emerges as the leader of the conservative movement.
Reagan's publishes his autobiography, "Where's the Rest of Me?"
Reagan announces candidacy for governor of California. He promises to reduce the waste in government and to "clean up the mess at Berkeley."
Reagan elected by almost 1 million votes more than incumbent Democratic governor Edmund G. ("Pat") Brown.
Reagan is sworn in as governor of California. He inherits a $200 million deficit in a state where the governor is required by Constitution to submit a balanced budget. Reagan proposes a 10% across-the-board cut. There are both needed cuts and unnecessary, unpopular ones, such as cuts in the mental health system and for the University of California.
Students stage an orderly demonstration in front of the California State Capitol protesting budget cuts and the governor's request that a tuition be imposed for the first time in the University's history. Two days later a much louder demonstration takes place with groups carrying signs reading "Tax The Rich."
Reagan signs a bill liberalizing California's abortion law. He will later regret the decision.
Reagan calls for a harder line on war protestors.
Reagan draft movement for the 1968 presidential nomination takes off, initiated by aide Lyn Nofziger, with the support of Reagan's "millionaire backers."
Reagan announces his candidacy for the presidential nomination at the Miami Republican Convention.
Richard Nixon is inaugurated for his first term as president.
Reagan sends in the National Guard to break up a student strike at University of California at Berkeley. Armed with bayonets and tear gas, the National Guard occupies Berkeley for 17 days. The event establishes Reagan as a peace-restoring hero for some, a trigger-happy extremist for others. In spite of campaign promises, California's state budget increases during Reagan's first term as governor.
Reagan wins re-election as governor, beating the leader of the California Assembly, Democrat Jesse Unruh. He calls welfare the biggest single outlay of public funds at the federal, state, and local levels of government. He will have to negotiate with the Democrat-controlled California Assembly for his welfare reform bill to pass.
California legislature enacts a compromise welfare reform. The resulting law and the process which brought it about are widely regarded as a success.
Despite arrests that signal the beginning of the Watergate affair, Nixon is reelected in a near-record landslide, but Democrats win majorities in both houses of Congress.
Reagan submits $9.258 billion budget with a $1.1 billion surplus, and gives taxpayers a rebate.
Reagan defends President Richard Nixon in the midst of Watergate.
A longtime Nixon defender, Reagan admits Nixon deceived the country.
Under the threat of impeachment, Nixon resigns; Ford becomes president.
Jerry Brown is elected governor of California, succeeding Reagan.
Reagan opens his presidential campaign. He faces an uphill battle against the incumbent, Gerald Ford, who is backed by the Republican party.
Ford squeaks by Reagan in the New Hampshire primary.
11 of 12 former chairs of the Republican National Committee endorse Ford.
Polls show President Ford leading in the potential race for nomination; Reagan is second.
The National Republican Conference of Mayors calls on Reagan to withdraw.
Republican governors call on Reagan to withdraw.
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.
Reagan gets 47.4% of delegates at the Republican Convention in Kansas City.
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.
Democrat Jimmy Carter defeats Ford by a narrow margin to become president.
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.
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.
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.
Iranian militants seize the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two Americans are taken hostage.
The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.
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 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."
More than 50 nations, including the United States, boycott the 22nd Olympic Games in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Reagan unveils his vision at the International Business Council in Chicago. "We must balance the budget, reduce tax rates and strengthen our defenses."
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.
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.
Reagan trounces Carter, winning 44 states in the general election, and Republicans gain control of the Senate for the first time since 1964.
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.
Marxist insurgents launch a "final offensive" in El Salvador.
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.
Reagan's first formal act as president is to sign legislation making January 29 "A Day of Thanksgiving to Honor Our Safely Returned Hostages."
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.
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.
Reagan enjoys a high approval rating, with two-thirds of Americans favoring his economic programs.
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.
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.
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. "
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.
Congress passes Reagan's budget bill, known as "Graham-Latta II."
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.
Air traffic controllers (PATCO) go on strike. Reagan gives them 48 hours to return to work, and fires those who don't.
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 appoints the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor.
Anti-nuclear demonstrators gather in Hyde Park in London to protest deployment of Pershing II missiles in Europe. Demonstrations also take place in Germany.
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."
Unemployment reaches a six-year high. Reagan redefines balanced budget as "a goal."
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.
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.
General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland.
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.
Israel invades Lebanon.
Reagan delivers a speech in front of British Parliament. He predicts the ultimate triumph of freedom over communism.
Nearly one million people join together for a peaceful nuclear freeze demonstration in Central Park in New York City.
Reagan agrees "in principle" to send a small number of troops to Beirut as a "peace keeping force" between warring Christian and Muslim factions.
John Hinckley, Jr. is sentenced to be indefinitely committed to a mental hospital.
U.S. Marines arrive in Lebanon.
The nation sinks into its worst recession since the Great Depression. Reagan fears budget deficits as high as $200 billion. On November 1, more than 9 million Americans are officially unemployed.
Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev condemns the U.S. for arms buildup. In a speech to Soviet generals and Defense Ministry officials, he says that the U.S. is pursuing policy of "adventurism, rudeness, and undisguised egoism" that threatens "to push the world into the flames of nuclear war."
In congressional elections, Democrats pick up 26 seats in the House of Representatives. The GOP manages to hold on to its majority in the Senate.
Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev dies and is succeeded by Yuri Andropov.
The official unemployment rate reaches 11.5 million. Hardest hit is "rustbelt." In Milwaukee, 20,000 wait in 20 degree weather to apply for 200 jobs at auto-frame factory.
Reagan's approval rating plummets to 35%.
Reagan submits his fiscal 1984 budget to Congress; $189 billion deficit. A combination of the recession, tax cuts, and an increase in defense spending are to blame. Advisors urge Reagan to either raise taxes or cut defense, Reagan rejects the advice and vows to "stay the course."
In a speech to National Association of Evangelicals meeting in Orlando, Florida, Reagan says that U.S.S.R. is the "focus of evil in the modern world."
The official Soviet news agency TASS says Reagan is full of "bellicose lunatic anti-communism."
Reagan unveils his proposal for a Space Defense Initiative (SDI) in a national speech: "I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete." Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin says SDI would "open a new phase in the arms race."
First signs that the economy is recovering. It will soon take-off with dramatic force. Lasting 93 consecutive months, it will be the biggest peace time economic expansion in U.S. history.
Soviet Premier Yuri Andropov's letter to Reagan suggests elimination of nuclear threat. Reagan sends cordial reply suggesting that U.S.-Soviet negotiators pursue this goal in Geneva.
Korean Air Lines jet (KAL 007) downed by Soviet fighter. All of the 269 people aboard perish. Sixty-one are U.S. citizens. Reagan denounces it as a "crime against humanity."
Andropov accuses Reagan of risking war. "To turn the battle of ideas into military confrontation would be too costly for the whole of mankind."
James Watt steps down as Secretary of the Interior.
Reagan appoints William Clark as Secretary of Interior. Deputy National Security Advisor David MacFarlane takes over as National Security Advisor.
A suicide truck bomber kills 241 members of the U.S. peacekeeping force stationed in Beirut, Lebanon, when he crashes into the Marines barracks.
To protect against a perceived Communist threat in Grenada, and to protect U.S. medical students from growing unrest, 5,000 U.S. troops invade the island nation.
Reagan says in a televised address that all the ills of the world are to be blamed on the Soviets.
One hundred million Americans, including the president, watch the television movie "The Day After," a frightening look at the aftermath of a nuclear war.
The first Pershing II missiles are deployed in West Germany. U.S.S.R. breaks off International Nuclear Forces (INF) talks in Geneva.
"Time" magazine chooses Reagan and Andropov as "Men of the Year."
The U.S. launches Operation Staunch, advising the international community not to sell weapons to Iran to force a negotiated settlement to Iran-Iraq War.
The Kissinger Commission issues a report on Central America. The report accepts Reagan's premise that Communism must be resisted in the region.
Reagan's speech on U.S.-U.S.S.R. relations calls for a return to arms talks and to parallel sets of nuclear arms talks in Geneva and in Vienna on reducing conventional forces in Europe. The speech reflects a considerable shift in tone from his previous statements on the Soviet Union.
Secretary of State Charles Shultz designates Iran as sponsor of international terrorism.
Reagan formally announces he will seek reelection.
Reagan sends 1985 budget to Congress; $180.4b deficit.
Yuri Andropov dies of kidney failure. A hard-liner himself, he paved the way for more liberal Russian leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev. He is succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko. Poll shows 38% approve Reagan's foreign policy; 49% disapprove.
High-ranking CIA agent William Buckley is kidnapped by terrorists in Lebanon.
Reagan signs directive for aggressive posture to terrorism. The new policy is set forth in a document officially designated National Security Decision Directive 138.
In a televised speech, Reagan makes a case for helping Contras in Nicaragua. "The Sandinista rule is a Communist reign of terror. Many of those who fought alongside the Sandinistas saw their revolution betrayed. They were denied power in the new government. Some were imprisoned, others exiled. Thousands who fought with the Sandinistas have taken up arms against them and are now called the Contras. They are freedom fighters."
Shultz meets secretly with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in Managua. Ortega told Shultz that Nicaragua's internal affairs are not the business of the U.S.
Reagan delivers a speech at Pointe du Hoc, where he stood on the dramatic rock cliff jutting into sea that U.S. Army rangers had climbed during invasion of Normandy. The veterans of this invasion were his audience.
Army successfully tests the interceptor missile, the kingpin of a space defense system.
Saudis begin paying $1 mil/month secretly to Contras. The money is deposited into Cayman Islands account owned by Contra leader Adolfo Calero.
Walter Mondale accepts the presidential nomination at the Democratic convention. "I mean business. By the end of my first term, I will cut the deficit by two-thirds. Let's tell the truth. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did."
The Soviet Union boycotts the 23rd Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
During a check prior to a radio broadcast, Reagan jokes into mike that he's ordered U.S.S.R. bombed. "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." The gaff cut into Reagan's margin over Mondale by 7 points, signaling that Americans are still uncomfortable with Ronald Reagan's Soviet hardline.
At the Republican Convention at Dallas, Reagan's huge popularity becomes evident. His "Morning in America" celebratory campaign strategy is unveiled. Campaign ads celebrate accomplishments of his 1st term -- the economy is booming and there is a resurgence of patriotic pride. Campaign is seen as lacking focus in terms of a plan for a 2nd term.
Reagan meets with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko at White House. Talk lasts for three and a half hours. Little progress is made, but Reagan demonstrates that U.S.-Soviet relations had his personal attention and high priority.
The Reagan-Mondale debate in Louisville. Reagan's performance is so bad that press questions his ability to continue serving. Raises the "age issue."
Congress passes the 2nd Boland Amendment which outlaws solicitation of 3rd-party countries to support Contras. The amendment bars the use of funds available to C.I.A., defense, or intelligence agencies for "supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization or individual."
The second debate between Reagan and Mondale. Answers age question with a quip "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience."
Reagan defeats Mondale in landslide. Reagan carries 49 states -- 525 electoral votes to Mondale's 10, and 59% of the popular vote. One fourth of registered Democrats voted for Reagan.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl arrives in Washington for a 2-day visit; he suggests Reagan visit a cemetery in Germany. This is the beginning of the "Bitburg affair."
Changes in White House Staff. Chief of Staff James Baker swaps jobs with Treasury Secretary Donald Regan. Edwin Meese becomes Attorney General. Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Deaver will resign soon thereafter. Reagan's "troika" which helped him govern in his first term is gone.
Reagan is sworn in for a second term. At 73 years of age, he is the oldest president ever to be sworn in. In surprise announcement he says he will meet with Konstantin Chernenko.
The U.S. space shuttle "Challenger" explodes only 73 seconds after takeoff. The shuttle had launched to great ceremony; in addition to the six astronauts onboard, teacher Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian to go into space, also perished.
Gallup poll shows Reagan's approval rating 62%, disapproval 29%.
Konstantin Chernenko dies and is succeeded by Mikhail Gorbachev, 54 years old, and referred to by Andrei Gromyko as "decisive, intelligent and capable in foreign affairs."
Reagan visits Bitburg Cemetery and Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The visit is intended to honor the victims of World War II and the Holocaust, and to celebrate the reconciliation between the U.S. and West Germany. A great deal of controversy surrounds Reagan's visit to the German military camp at Bitburg, which contains graves of Nazi soldiers of the Waffen SS. On the same day, the Reagan Administration admits policy of sponsoring armed insurgencies against Soviet-backed governments in the Third World, which is called the "Reagan doctrine."
William Buckley, who has been held hostage in Lebanon since March of 1984, dies of medical neglect. His death is kept secret.
The Senate authorizes nonmilitary aid to Contras. A 55-42 vote authorizes $38 million over two years.
TWA Flight 847 from Athens is hijacked by terrorists. There are 153 passengers aboard, including 135 Americans. The pilot is forced to fly to Beirut, where hijackers beat and kill Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, then dump his body on the tarmac. The plane is flown back to Algiers then back to Beirut again. Most passengers are released; 39 are held captive in Lebanon.
At a press conference dominated by the hostage crisis, Reagan vows that the U.S. will never give in to terrorists' demands.
The 39 hostages who were aboard the hijacked TWA jet are freed after 17 days.
Gorbachev agrees to meet with Ronald Reagan at a summit. Reagan had issued the invitation earlier in the year to Konstantin Chernenko.
Reagan has cancer surgery on large intestine.
From his hospital bed, Reagan approves National Security Advisor William McFarlane's plan to reach out to Iranian Foreign Minister Ghorbanifar. MacFarlane is interested in an opening with Iran through influence with moderates by helping Iran in war against Iraq. Reagan is more interested in using any influence gained through better relations to free hostages being held in Beirut by extremist Iranian terrorists.
Reagan checks out of Bethesda Navy Medical Center.
Israeli representatives meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Ghorbanifar for first time on arms deal. Israel will sell arms to Iran, U.S. will replace Israeli stocks.
96 anti-tank missiles are sent to Iran by Israel. No hostages are released in return.
Israel ships 508 anti-tank missiles to Iran.
Rock Hudson, a friend of the Reagans, dies of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Since the virus was first identified in 1983, Reagan has largely ignored the growing epidemic. After Hudson's death, Reagan called AIDS research a "top priority" for his administration; however, he immediately proposed spending levels that would cut funds for this research.
"The Washington Post" prints a letter by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to Reagan urging him not to compromise SDI at the upcoming Geneva Summit with Gorbachev. The letter exposes a growing rift between "moderates" and "hardliners" in the Reagan Administration.
Reagan arrives in Geneva for summit with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Colonel Oliver North is put in charge of the shipment of HAWK anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.
Geneva Summit. A scheduled 15-minute private meeting between Gorbachev and Reagan turns into a one-hour conversation, a "fireside chat" by the lake. In the afternoon, the two leaders argued about SDI -- Reagan reassured Gorbachev that SDI would not be used to launch a first strike against the U.S.S.R. Gorbachev responds, "It's not convincing.... It opens up an arms race in space." The meeting ends with disagreement on SDI, but with mutual invitations to Washington and Moscow, a pledge to seek a 50% reduction in nuclear arms, and a statement that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought."
Reagan receives a hero's welcome in Congress when he comes to report about Geneva.
McFarlane quits his post as National Security Advisor. His deputy, John Poindexter, steps up to the position.
Shultz, Weinberger, and Donald Regan advise Reagan to stop Iran arms sales.
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a coalition of Soviet and American doctors, wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
Reagan signs legislation making Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, birthday a national holiday to be celebrated on the third Monday of January.
Reagan undergoes surgery for three "very small polyps" on his colon.
Reagan submits his 1987 budget -- deficit of $143.6b. Cumulative deficits reach one trillion.
Reagan defends his budget, and says he will veto any tax increase.
The U.S. ships 1000 anti-tank missiles to Iran.
Reagan asks Congress for $100 million in aid for Contras. The House rejects appeal; the Senate approves his request. Bill returns to the House.
In retaliation for the bombing of a West Berlin night club where a U.S. serviceman was killed, U.S. Air Force Navy bombers hit Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya.
Explosion at Chernobyl nuclear power station in Kiev, U.S.S.R.
Colonel Oliver North tells McFarlane that profits of weapons sales to Iran are being diverted to the Contras.
The House finally passes the Contra aid package by 12 votes. Reagan calls it "a step forward in bipartisan consensus in American foreign policy."
Liberty Weekend. $80 million extravaganza celebrating the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. With a 68% approval rating, he is at the height of his popularity. The economy is booming and Americans feel prosperous and strong.
Father Jenco, one of the hostages held by Muslim extremists, is released in Damascus.
Reagan signs an anti-terrorism law that bans arms sales to nations that support terrorism, and strengthens U.S. anti-terrorist measures.
Former National Security Advisor William McFarlane takes 23 tons of weapons to Iran.
Frank Reed is kidnapped in Beirut.
Reagan announces the he will meet Gorbachev at another summit in Iceland.
Reykjavik Summit opens. Gorbachev proposes drastic cuts in all classes of nuclear weapons. Reagan agrees. Then Gorbachev tells Reagan this is provided U.S. confines SDI to the laboratory. Reagan walks away from Summit. At the time Reykjavik is considered a failure.
American writer Edward Tracy is taken hostage.
500 anti-tank missiles shipped to Iran.
American hostage David Jacobsen is released in Beirut.
Lebanese magazine "Al Shiraa" reports that the U.S. has sold arms to Iran. The Iranian government confirms the story. This marks the beginning of Iran-Contra.
In a nationally televised speech to defend against charges concerning arms sales to Iran, Reagan admits sending some defensive weapons and spare parts to Iran, but denies it was part of an arms for hostages deal. "Our government has a firm policy not to capitulate to terrorist demands.... We did not -- repeat, did not -- trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we." Polls show that the American people do not believe Reagan.
Attorney General Meese is asked to conduct an inquiry of the Iran affair to get facts straight.
Meese's office discovers the Iran-Contra connection. When searching North’s office, they found a memo dated 4/4/86 from North to Poindexter, which included an amount that was to be sent to the Contras from the profits of the Iran sales. North, who had spent the night shredding papers, later called the diversion of funds, "a neat idea."
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.
Reagan appoints the Tower Commission to review Iran Contra.
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.
C.I.A. Director William Casey undergoes surgery for a malignant brain tumor.
Independent counsel Lawrence Walsh is appointed to investigate Iran-Contra.
Reagan submits first-ever $1 trillion budget for fiscal year 1988. He undergoes prostate surgery; he is slow to recover.
100th Congress begins with a Democratic majority in both houses.
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."
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.’"
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%.
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.
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%.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
Nancy Reagan has left breast removed after a biopsy reveals a cancerous tumor.
The stock market drops 500 points. The drop is partially blamed on rising deficits.
Gorbachev arrives in Washington, D.C. for a summit.
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.
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.
Soviets agree to begin pulling troops out of Afghanistan, beginning May 15, 1988, and finishing by Feb 15, 1989.
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.
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.
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."
Reagan holds dinner for dissidents at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He also visits Danilov Monastery, the seat of Russian Orthodox religion.
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.
U.S. unemployment hits a 14-year low.
Reagan makes his first campaign appearance on behalf of President Bush in Miami.
Vice President George Bush defeats Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis to become the 41st President of the United States.
Last Reagan-Gorbachev meeting in presidency. Gorbachev, Bush, Reagan, and top aides lunch at Governor's Island in New York Harbor.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
The Marxist Sandinistas are voted out of power in Nicaragua. Gorbachev wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
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.
Mikhail Gorbachev dissolves the Soviet Union.
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.
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.
At his 83rd birthday tribute, Reagan falters publicly.
Republicans win the House of Representatives for first time in history.
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.
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.
Reagan celebrates his 89th birthday. The press widely reports that his physical deterioration has escalated, and he is unable to recognize anyone except Nancy.
Ronald Reagan dies peacefully at his home in California. At age 93, he is the longest-lived president in American history.
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A revealing portrait of one of America's most paradoxical leaders.
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The six-part story of a frontiersman farmer and a wealthy Confederate slave-owner's daughter.
General Douglas MacArthur led American troops in World Wars I and II before being fired by President Harry Truman during the Korean War.
Eleanor Roosevelt supported the President's New Deal and advocated for civil rights, becoming one of the 20th century's most influential women.