James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. (born October 1 , 1924) was the 39th
(1977 - 1981) President of the United States. Since leaving office, he
is active in international public policy and conflict resolution. He is
also an author and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize .
|Term of Office:
||January 20 , 1977 - January 20 , 1981
||Gerald R. Ford
|Date of Birth:
||Wednesday , October 1 , 1924
|Place of Birth:
|First Lady :
||Eleanor Rosalynn Smith
||farmer ; Naval officer
|Political Party :
|Vice President :
Carter was born in the town of Plains , Georgia , the first president born
in a hospital. He grew up in nearby Archery . He attended Georgia Southwestern
College and the Georgia Institute of Technology , and received a B.S. degree
from the United States Naval Academy in 1946 , the same year he married
Rosalynn Smith. He served on submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets,
and was later selected by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the U.S. Navy's nuclear
submarine program. Upon the death of his father in 1953 , he resigned from
the Navy and became a peanut farmer in Plains.
Early political career
In the 1960s he served two terms in the Georgia State Senate.
In his 1970 campaign Carter was elected governor on a pro- George Wallace
platform. Carter's campaign aides handed out thousands of photographs of
his opponent, the liberal former Gov. Carl Sanders , showing his opponent
associating with black basketball players. On the stump, Carter pledged
to reappoint an avowed segregationist to the state Board of Regents. He
promised as his first act to invite former Alabama Gov. George Wallace
into the state to speak. Old-line segregationists across the state endorsed
Carter for governor.
But following his election, Carter said in speeches that the time of
racial segregation was over, and that racial discrimination had no place
in the future of the state. He was the first white southern politician
to say this in public (such sentiments would have signaled the end of the
political career of white politicians in the region less than 15 years
earlier), so his victory attracted some attention as a sign of changing
times. Carter served as governor of the state of Georgia from 1971 to 1975
but failed in his re-election bid, having alienated both the voters and
the state legislature through what has been described as an imperial style
When Carter entered the Democratic Party Presidential primaries in 1976
he at first was considered to have little chance against nationally better-known
politicians. However the Watergate scandal was still fresh in the voters'
minds, so his position as an outsider distant from Washington, DC became
an asset. He ran an effective campaign, did well in debates, and won his
party's nomination and then the election. Government reorganization was
the centerpiece of his campaign platform. He was the first candidate from
the Deep South to be elected president since the American Civil War .
As part of his government reorganization efforts, Carter separated the
Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) into the Department of
Education and the Department of Health and Human Services . He also elevated
the Energy agency into a new cabinet -level department, the United States
Department of Energy .
The Carter Administration's foreign policy is best remembered for the
peace treaty he brokered between the states of Israel and Egypt with the
Camp David Accord , the SALT II treaty brokered with the Soviet Union ,
the Panama Canal treaty which turned the canal over to Panama , and an
energy crisis. He was much less successful on the domestic front, having
alienated both his own party and his opponents through what was perceived
as a lack of willingness to work with Congress much as he had in his
term as Governor.
In 1979 , Carter gave a nationally televised address in which he identified
what he believed to be a crisis of confidence among the American people.
This has come to be known as his "malaise" speech, even though he never
actually used the word "malaise" anywhere in the text. Rather than inspiring
Americans to action as he had hoped, the speech was perceived by many to
express a pessimistic outlook which may have further damaged his re-election
hopes. At the time the country was in the worst recession since World War
II, with both inflation and unemployment at record levels.
Among Presidents who served at least one full term, Carter is the only
one who never made an appointment to the Supreme Court .
Carter promoted his foreign policy as being one that would place human
rights at the forefront. This was intended to be a break from the policies
of the Nixon administration, in which human rights abuses were often overlooked
if they were committed by a nation that was allied to the United States.
The Carter administration ended support to the historically U.S.-backed
Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua , and gave millions of dollars in aide
to the nation's new regime.
The main conflict between human rights and U.S. interests came in Carter's
dealings with the Shah of Iran . The Shah had been a strong ally of America
since World War 2, and was one of the few U.S.-friendly regimes in the
Middle East . However, his regime was also quite brutal and oppressive.
Though Carter praised the Shah as a wise and valuable leader, when a popular
uprising against the monarchy broke out in Iran, the Carter administration
did not intervene.
The Shah was deposed and exiled. Many have since connected the Shah's
dwindling U.S. support as a leading cause of his quick overthrow. Carter
was initially prepared to recognize the revolutionary government of the
monarch's successor, but his efforts proved futile.
In 1979 , Carter reluctantly allowed the former Iranian Shah Mohammad
Reza Pahlavi into the United States for political asylum and medical treatment.
In response to the Shah's entry into the U.S., Iranian militants seized
the American embassy in Tehran taking 52 Americans hostage and demanded
the Shah's return to Iran for trial and execution. Though later that year
the Shah would leave the US and die in Egypt , the Iran hostage crisis
continued, and dominated the last year of Carter's presidency. The subsequent
responses to the crisis, from a " Rose Garden strategy" of staying inside
the White House , to the botched attempt to rescue the hostages, were largely
seen as contributing to defeat in the 1980 election.
Although the Carter team had pursued the release of the hostages, an
agreement for their release was not signed until January 19 , 1981 , after
the election of Ronald Reagan . In what many observers have seen as a slight
against Carter, the Iranians waited to release the captives until minutes
after Reagan was sworn-in as president. The hostages had been held captive
for 444 days.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 was a response to
the U.S. military presence there, according to Carter's National Security
advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski . After the invasion, Carter announced the
Carter Doctrine , according to which the U.S. would not allow any outside
power to gain control of the Persian Gulf . Also in response to the events
in Afghanistan, Carter prohibited Americans from participating in the 1980
Summer Olympics , which were held in Moscow , and he reinstated registration
for the draft for young males.
In order to oppose the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Carter and
Zbigniew Brzezinski started a $40 billion program of training Islamic fundamentalists
in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In retrospect, this contributed to the collapse
of the Soviet Union , but, ironically, is also often tied to the resulting
instability of post-Soviet Afghani governments, which led to the rise of
Islamic theocracy in the region. Some even tie the program to the 1996
coup that established the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and to the creation
of violent Islamic terrorist groups. At the time, and perhaps continuing
into the Reagan and G.H.W. Bush presidencies, Islamic fundamentalism as
a political force was not well understood.
Members of the Reagan-Bush campaign and administration (most notably Barbara
Honegger , in her book October Surprise ), and the president of Iran in
1980 ( Abu Al-Hasan Bani-Sadr , My Turn to Speak: Iran, the Revolution
and Secret Deals With the U.S. ) have alleged that a secret agreement between
the Reagan campaign (orchestrated by George H. W. Bush ) was responsible
for destroying a deal between the Carter administration and the Iranian
government that would have had the hostages released in October 1980 .
Such a scenario was termed "The October Surprise" by the Reagan team. Unnamed
sources also are alleged to have claimed that it was blackmail over the
deal that led to the U.S. involvement in the later Iran-Contra scandal
, as Iran demanded to be sold weapons to use in its war against Iraq if
the Reagan administration wanted it to keep quiet.
During Carter's administration, diplomatic recognition was switched
from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China , a policy
continued into the 21st century . In response, Congress passed the Taiwan
Relations Act .
Carter has been accused of ordering a cover-up of the events at Three
Mile Island following the near meltdown of that nuclear plant . He has
also been criticized for not doing enough to promote his stated human rights
foreign policy stance in his administration, such as continuing to support
Indonesia even while they were committing genocide in their occupation
of East Timor .
Since losing his bid for re-election, Carter has been involved in a variety
of public policy , human rights , and charitable causes. His work in international
public policy and conflict resolution is largely through the Carter Center
. The center also focuses on world-wide health care including the campaign
to eliminate guinea worm disease .
He and members of the center are sometimes involved in the monitoring
of the electoral process in support of free and fair elections. This includes
acting as election observers , particularly in Latin America and Africa
Because he had served as a submariner (the only President to have done
so), a submarine was named for him. The USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) was named
on April 27 , 1998 , making it one of the very few US Navy vessels to be
named for a person still alive at the time of the naming.
Carter visited Cuba in May 2002 meeting with Fidel Castro and becoming
the first President of the United States, in or out of office, to visit
the island since Castro's 1959 revolution.
Not all Carter's efforts have gained him favor in Washington; President
Clinton and both Presidents Bush were said to have been less than pleased
with Carter's "free-lance" diplomacy in Iraq and elsewhere.
Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his decades of
untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts,
to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social
development. He was the third president, after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow
Wilson , to receive the award.
In March 2004 Carter roundly condemned George W. Bush and Tony Blair
for waging an unnecessary war "based upon lies and misinterpretations"
in order to oust Saddam Hussein . He claimed that Blair had allowed his
better judgement to be swayed by Bush's desire to finish a war that his
father had started.
He and his wife are also well-known for their work with Habitat for
Jimmy Carter has been a relatively prolific author. As of 2003 he has written
Why Not the Best? (1975 and 1996)
A Government as Good as Its People (1977 and 1996)
Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President (1982 and 1995)
Negotiation: The Alternative to Hostility (1984)
The Blood of Abraham (1985 and 1993)
Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life (1987 and
1995), with Rosalynn Carter
An Outdoor Journal (1988 and 1994)
Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age (1992)
Talking Peace: A Vision for the Next Generation (1993 and 1995)
Always a Reckoning (1995), a collection of poetry , illustrated by his
The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer (1995), a children's book, illustrated
by his daughter
Living Faith (1996)
Sources of Strength: Meditations on Scripture for a Living Faith (1997)
The Virtues of Aging (1998)
An Hour before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood (2001)
Christmas in Plains: Memories (2001)
The Nobel Peace Prize Lecture (2002)
The Hornet's Nest (2003), a historical novel and the first work of fiction
written by a U.S. President