The making of a president
Inside the White House
'The Great Communicator'
A Life in Photographs

Inside the White House

Reagan is sworn in for his first term as president in 1981 as wife Nancy looks on  

When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, the country was tired and torn. It faced an economic crisis at home -- 13 percent inflation, a national oil shortage and stubborn unemployment. And it was being humiliated abroad with 52 Americans held hostage in Iran.

Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in an electoral landslide. On Inauguration Day in 1981, Iran released the U.S. hostages it had held for 444 days, and the "Reagan revolution" was launched. Its main enemies were big government and high taxes.

An attempt was made on Reagan's life outside a Washington hotel March 30, 1981  

Reagan's presidency was marked by contradictions. He crusaded against deficits, yet he piled up the biggest deficit in the nation's history. He was fiercely anti-communist, yet he sat down with the enemy and cut weapons. He spoke often of his own humble origins and delivered an economic boom, yet he never really connected with the nation's poor and disenfranchised.

Still, Reagan left office a popular president. Many people agreed with his premise that government was too big and Americans were taxed too much. At home and abroad, Reagan projected an unwavering aura of strength and optimism. For him, America really was that shining city on the hill.

Following are recollections of the defining events of his presidency by his closest White House advisers:

Video: Watch clips from some of these key events

Next: The Great Communicator >>

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