|39th President of the United States|
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
|Vice President||Walter Mondale|
|Preceded by||Gerald Ford|
|Succeeded by||Ronald Reagan|
|76th Governor of Georgia|
January 12, 1971 – January 14, 1975
|Preceded by||Lester Maddox|
|Succeeded by||George Busbee|
|Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 14th district
January 14, 1963 – January 10, 1967
|Preceded by||Constituency established|
|Succeeded by||Hugh Carter|
|Born||James Earl Carter, Jr.
October 1, 1924
Plains, Georgia, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic Party|
|Spouse(s)||Eleanor Rosalynn Smith
|Parents||James Earl Carter, Sr.
Bessie Lillian Gordy
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1943–1953|
|Awards||Nobel Peace Prize
Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown
James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr. (born October 1, 1924) is an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981 and was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. Carter, raised in rural Georgia, was a peanut farmer, served two terms as a Georgia State Senator and one as the Governor of Georgia, from 1971 to 1975. He was elected President in 1976, running as an outsider who promised truth in government in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
During Carter’s term as President, he created two new cabinet-level departments: the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. He established a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology. In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II), and returned the Panama Canal Zone to Panama. On the economic front he confronted persistent “stagflation”, a combination of high inflation, high unemployment and slow growth. The end of his presidential tenure was marked by the 1979–1981 Iran hostage crisis, the 1979 energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In response to the Soviet move he ended détente, escalated the Cold War, and led the international boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
By 1980, Carter’s popularity had eroded. He survived a primary challenge from Ted Kennedy for the Democratic Party nomination in the 1980 election. He lost the general election in a Republican landslide led by Ronald Reagan.
Carter was highly active after leaving the White House. He set up the Carter Center in 1982, as his base for advancing human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, observe elections, and advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. Carter is a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project, and also remains particularly critical of Israel’s role in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
- 2 Early political career
- 3 Governor of Georgia
- 4 1976 presidential campaign
- 5 Presidency
- 6 1980 presidential campaign
James Earl Carter, Jr., was born October 1, 1924 at the Wise Sanatorium in Plains, Georgia.[note 1] He is a descendant of English settler Thomas Carter, who emigrated to Virginia in 1635. Several generations of Carters lived as cotton farmers in Georgia. Established in Sumter County, Plains was a small boomtown of 600 people when Carter was born. James Earl Carter, Sr., was a successful local businessman who ran a general store and had begun to invest in farmland. He had been a reserve second lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps during World War I. Carter’s mother Bessie Lillian Gordy was a nurse at the Wise hospital. Carter was the first of Earl and Lillian’s children; they moved several times in his infancy.
The Carters settled on a dirt road in nearby Archery, which was almost entirely populated by impoverished African American families. They eventually had three more children: Gloria, Ruth, and Billy. Carter got along well with his parents, although his mother worked long hours and was often absent in his childhood. While Earl was staunchly pro-segregation, he allowed his son to befriend the black farmhands’ children. An enterprising teenager, Carter was given his own acre of Earl’s farmland where he grew, packaged and sold peanuts. He also rented out a section of tenant housing he had purchased.
Carter attended the Plains High School from 1930, first grade, to 1941. The Great Depression was by then taking a toll on Archery and Plains, but the family benefited from New Deal farming subsidies and Earl took a position as a community leader. Carter was a diligent student with a fondness for reading.[note 2] His teacher Julia Coleman was a particular influence on him. As an adolescent he played on the Plains High basketball team; he joined the Future Farmers of America and developed his long-held interest in woodworking.
Though he had long dreamed of attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Carter had to wait for a sponsorship to match the cost. Meanwhile he enrolled at Georgia Southwestern College in nearby Americus. After taking additional mathematics courses at Georgia Tech, he was finally admitted to the Naval Academy in 1943. With his short, slim stature, Carter barely met the minimum physical requirements for entry. He was a good student but was seen as reserved and quiet, in contrast with the academy’s aggressive hazing culture. While at the academy he fell for Ruth’s friend Rosalynn Smith, whom he would marry shortly after graduation in 1946. Carter graduated 59th out of 820 midshipmen, by his own recollection. From 1946 to 1953, Carter and Rosalynn lived temporarily in Virginia, Hawaii, Connecticut, and California, as he served deployments in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. Promoted to a full lieutenant, he completed qualification for command of a diesel-electric submarine. He applied for the US Navy’s fledgling nuclear submarine program run by then Captain Hyman G. Rickover, which he began in late 1952. Rickover’s demands on his men and machines were legendary, and Carter later said that, next to his parents, Rickover had the greatest influence on him.
On December 12, 1952, an accident with the experimental NRX reactor at Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories caused a partial meltdown. The resulting explosion caused millions of liters of radioactive water to flood the reactor building’s basement, and the reactor’s core was no longer usable. Carter was ordered to Chalk River, joining other American and Canadian service personnel. He was the officer in charge of the U.S. team assisting in the shutdown of the Chalk River Nuclear Reactor. The painstaking process required each team member, including Carter, to don protective gear, and be lowered individually into the reactor to disassembly it for minutes at a time. During and after his presidency, Carter indicated that his experience at Chalk River shaped his views on nuclear power and nuclear weapons, including his decision not to pursue completion of the neutron bomb.
Carter took some classes at Union College in Schenectady, New York, in early 1953. Upon the death of his father in July of that year, Carter was urgently needed to run the family business, but he was torn over the decision. Staying in Schenectady he had the promise of a distinguished naval career, with eventual promotion to admiral a possibility. Furthermore, Rosalynn had grown comfortable with her family life and her husband’s relative prestige; returning to the small-town life of Plains felt like a “monumental step backward” for her. On the other hand, Carter felt restricted by the military culture and yearned to take a path more like his father’s. Resigning his commission, he was honorably discharged from the Navy on October 9, 1953.
Earl Carter died a relatively wealthy man, recently elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. However, between his forgiveness of debts and the division of his wealth among heirs, his son inherited comparatively little. For a year, due to a limited real estate market, Jimmy, Rosalynn, and their three sons lived in public housing in Plains; Carter is the only U.S. president to have lived in housing subsidized for the poor. Knowledgeable in scientific and technological subjects, Carter took over the family peanut farm. The transition was difficult, as the harvest his first year failed due to drought and Carter was forced to open several lines of credit to keep the farm afloat. Carter took classes and read up on agriculture while Rosalynn learned accounting to manage the business’ financials. Though they barely broke even the first year, Carter managed over the following years to expand and become quite successful.
In 1981, Carter returned to Georgia to his peanut farm, which he had placed into a blind trust during his presidency to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. He found that the trustees had mismanaged the trust, leaving him more than one million dollars in debt. In the years that followed, he has led an active life, establishing the Carter Center, building his presidential library, teaching at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and writing numerous books. He has also contributed to the expansion of Habitat for Humanity, to build affordable housing. As of September 8, 2012, Carter has lived longer after leaving the White House than any other U.S. President.
Carter Center and Nobel Prize
Carter has been involved in a variety of national and international public policy, conflict resolution, human rights and charitable causes. In 1982, he established The Carter Center in Atlanta to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. The non-profit, nongovernmental Center promotes democracy, mediates and prevents conflicts, and monitors the electoral process in support of free and fair elections. It also works to improve global health through the control and eradication of diseases such as Guinea worm disease, river blindness, malaria, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis. It also works to diminish the stigma of mental illnesses and improve nutrition through increased crop production in Africa.
A major accomplishment of The Carter Center has been the elimination of more than 99 percent of cases of Guinea worm disease, from an estimated 3.5 million cases in 1986 to 148 reported cases in 2013. The Carter Center has monitored 96 elections in 38 countries since 1989. It has worked to resolve conflicts in Haiti, Bosnia, Ethiopia, North Korea, Sudan and other countries. Carter and the Center support human rights defenders around the world and have intervened with heads of state on their behalf.
In 2002, President Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work “to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development” through The Carter Center. Three sitting presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama, have received the prize; Carter is unique in receiving the award for his actions after leaving the presidency. He is, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., one of only two native Georgians to receive the Nobel.
In 1994, North Korea had expelled investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency and was threatening to begin processing spent nuclear fuel. In response, then-President Clinton pressured for US sanctions and ordered large amounts of troops and vehicles into the area to brace for war.
Bill Clinton secretly recruited Carter to undertake a peace mission to North Korea, under the guise that it was a private mission of Carter’s. Clinton saw Carter as a way to let North Korean President Kim Il-sung back down without losing face.
Carter negotiated an understanding with Kim Il-sung, but went further and outlined a treaty, which he announced on CNN without the permission of the Clinton White House as a way to force the US into action. The Clinton Administration signed a later version of the Agreed Framework, under which North Korea agreed to freeze and ultimately dismantle its current nuclear program and comply with its nonproliferation obligations in exchange for oil deliveries, the construction of two light water reactors to replace its graphite reactors, and discussions for eventual diplomatic relations.
The agreement was widely hailed at the time as a significant diplomatic achievement. In December 2002, the Agreed Framework collapsed as a result of a dispute between the George W. Bush Administration and the North Korean government of Kim Jong-il. In 2001, Bush had taken a confrontational position toward North Korea and, in January 2002, named it as part of an “Axis of Evil“. Meanwhile, North Korea began developing the capability to enrich uranium. Bush Administration opponents of the Agreed Framework believed that the North Korean government never intended to give up a nuclear weapons program, but supporters believed that the agreement could have been successful and was undermined.
In August 2010, Carter traveled to North Korea in an attempt to secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes. Gomes, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced to eight years of hard labor after being found guilty of illegally entering North Korea. Carter successfully secured the release.
In 2006, at the UK Hay Festival, Carter stated that Israel has at least 150 nuclear weapons. He expressed his support for Israel as a country, but criticized its domestic and foreign policy; “One of the greatest human rights crimes on earth is the starvation and imprisonment of 1.6m Palestinians,” said Carter.
In April 2008, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Carter met with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on his visit to Syria. The Carter Center initially did not confirm nor deny the story. The US State Department considers Hamas a terrorist organization. Within this Mid-East trip, Carter also laid a wreath on the grave of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on April 14, 2008. Carter said on April 23 that neither Condoleezza Rice nor anyone else in the State Department had warned him against meeting with Hamas leaders during his trip. Carter spoke to Mashaal on several matters, including “formulas for prisoner exchange to obtain the release of Corporal Shalit.”
In May 2007, while arguing that the United States should directly talk to Iran, Carter again stated that Israel has 150 nuclear weapons in its arsenal.
In December 2008, Carter visited Damascus again, where he met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the Hamas leadership. During his visit he gave an exclusive interview to Forward Magazine, the first ever interview for any American president, current or former, with a Syrian media outlet.
Carter visited with three officials from Hamas who have been living at the International Red Cross office in Jerusalem since July 2010. Israel believes that these three Hamas legislators had a role in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and has a deportation order set for them.
In August 2014, Carter was joined by Mary Robinson during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict with the pair pressing for the inclusion of Hamas as an actor in peace talks with Israel, recognition of the group as a legitimate political entity, and the lifting of the siege of Gaza. The two Elders, in an op-ed article in Foreign Policy, noted the recent unity deal between Hamas and Fatah when Hamas agreed with the Palestinian Authority to denounce violence, recognize Israel and adhere to past agreements, saying it presented an opportunity. Carter and Robinson called on the UN Security Council to act on what they described as the inhumane conditions in Gaza, and mandate an end to the siege.
On June 18, 2007, Carter, accompanied by his wife, arrived in Dublin, Ireland, for talks with President Mary McAleese and Bertie Ahern concerning human rights. On June 19, Carter attended and spoke at the annual Human Rights Forum at Croke Park. An agreement between Irish Aid and The Carter Center was also signed on this day.
Carter led a mission to Haiti in 1994 with Senator Sam Nunn and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell to avert a US-led multinational invasion and restore to power Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Carter visited Cuba in May 2002 and had full discussions with Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. He was allowed to address the Cuban public uncensored on national television and radio with a speech that he wrote and presented in Spanish. In the speech, he called on the US to end “an ineffective 43-year-old economic embargo” and on Castro to hold free elections, improve human rights, and allow greater civil liberties. He met with political dissidents; visited the AIDS sanitarium, a medical school, a biotech facility, an agricultural production cooperative, and a school for disabled children; and threw a pitch for an all-star baseball game in Havana. The visit made Carter the first President of the United States, in or out of office, to visit the island since the Cuban revolution of 1959.
Carter observed the Venezuela recall elections on August 15, 2004. European Union observers had declined to participate, saying too many restrictions were put on them by the Hugo Chávez administration. A record number of voters turned out to defeat the recall attempt with a 59 percent “no” vote. The Carter Center stated that the process “suffered from numerous irregularities,” but said it did not observe or receive “evidence of fraud that would have changed the outcome of the vote”. On the afternoon of August 16, 2004, the day after the vote, Carter and Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General César Gaviria gave a joint press conference in which they endorsed the preliminary results announced by the National Electoral Council. The monitors’ findings “coincided with the partial returns announced today by the National Elections Council,” said Carter, while Gaviria added that the OAS electoral observation mission’s members had “found no element of fraud in the process.” Directing his remarks at opposition figures who made claims of “widespread fraud” in the voting, Carter called on all Venezuelans to “accept the results and work together for the future”. A Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB) exit poll had predicted that Chávez would lose by 20 percent; when the election results showed him to have won by 20 percent, Douglas Schoen commented, “I think it was a massive fraud”. US News & World Report offered an analysis of the polls, indicating “very good reason to believe that the [Penn, Schoen & Berland] exit poll had the result right, and that Chávez’s election officials – and Carter and the American media – got it wrong.” The exit poll and the Venezuela government’s control of election machines became the basis of claims of election fraud. However an Associated Press report states that Penn, Schoen & Berland used volunteers from pro-recall organization Súmate for fieldwork, and its results contradicted five other opposition exit polls.
Following Ecuador‘s severing of ties with Colombia in March 2008, Carter brokered a deal for agreement between the countries’ respective presidents on the restoration of low-level diplomatic relations announced June 8, 2008.
On November 18, 2009, Carter visited Vietnam to build houses for the poor. The one-week program, known as Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project 2009, built 32 houses in Dong Xa village, in the northern province of Hải Dương. The project launch was scheduled for November 14, according to the news source which quoted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga. Administered by the non-governmental and non-profit Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), the annual program of 2009 would build and repair 166 homes in Vietnam and some other Asian countries with the support of nearly 3,000 volunteers around the world, the organization said on its website. HFHI has worked in Vietnam since 2001 to provide low-cost housing, water, and sanitation solutions for the poor. It has worked in provinces like Tiền Giang and Đồng Nai as well as Ho Chi Minh City.
On July 18, 2007, Carter joined Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa, to announce his participation in The Elders, a group of independent global leaders who work together on peace and human rights issues. The Elders work globally, on thematic as well as geographically specific subjects. The organization’s priority issue areas include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Korean Peninsula, Sudan and South Sudan, sustainable development, and equality for girls and women.
Carter has been actively involved in the work of The Elders, participating in visits to Cyprus, the Korean Peninsula, and the Middle East, among others In October 2007, Carter toured Darfur with several of the Elders, including Desmond Tutu. Sudanese security prevented him from visiting a Darfuri tribal leader, leading to a heated exchange. He returned to Sudan with fellow Elder Lakhdar Brahimi in May 2012 as part of The Elders’ efforts to encourage the presidents of Sudan and South Sudan to return to negotiations, and highlight the impact of the conflict on civilians.
In November 2008, President Carter, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Graça Machel, wife of Nelson Mandela, were stopped from entering Zimbabwe, to inspect the human rights situation, by President Robert Mugabe‘s government. The Elders instead made their assessment from South Africa, meeting with Zimbabwe- and South Africa-based leaders from politics, business, international organisations and civil society in Johannesburg.
Criticism of U.S. policy
In 2001, Carter criticized President Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich, calling it “disgraceful” and suggesting that Rich’s financial contributions to the Democratic Party were a factor in Clinton’s action.
In September 2009, Carter put weight behind allegations by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, pertaining to United States involvement in the 2002 Venezuelan coup d’état attempt by a civilian-military junta, saying that Washington knew about the coup and may have taken part.
On June 16, 2011, the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon‘s official declaration of America’s War on Drugs, Carter wrote an op-ed in The New York Times urging the United States and the rest of the world to “Call Off the Global War on Drugs”, explicitly endorsing the initiative released by the Global Commission on Drug Policy earlier that month and quoting a message he gave to Congress in 1977 saying that “[p]enalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”
Criticisms of George W. Bush
Carter has also criticized the presidency of George W. Bush and the Iraq War. In a 2003 op-ed in The New York Times, Carter warned against the consequences of a war in Iraq and urged restraint in use of military force. In March 2004, Carter condemned George W. Bush and Tony Blair for waging an unnecessary war “based upon lies and misinterpretations” to oust Saddam Hussein. In August 2006, Carter criticized Blair for being “subservient” to the Bush administration and accused Blair of giving unquestioning support to Bush’s Iraq policies. In a May 2007 interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he said, “I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history,” when it comes to foreign affairs. Two days after the quote was published, Carter told NBC’s Today that the “worst in history” comment was “careless or misinterpreted,” and that he “wasn’t comparing this administration with other administrations back through history, but just with President Nixon’s.” The day after the “worst in history” comment was published, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that Carter had become “increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments.”
On May 19, 2007, Mr. Blair made his final visit to Iraq before stepping down as British Prime Minister, and Carter criticized him afterward. Carter told the BBC that Blair was “apparently subservient” to Bush and criticized him for his “blind support” for the Iraq war. Carter described Blair’s actions as “abominable” and stated that the British Prime Minister’s “almost undeviating support for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world.” Carter said he believes that had Blair distanced himself from the Bush administration during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it might have made a crucial difference to American political and public opinion, and consequently the invasion might not have gone ahead. Carter states that “one of the defenses of the Bush administration … has been, okay, we must be more correct in our actions than the world thinks because Great Britain is backing us. So I think the combination of Bush and Blair giving their support to this tragedy in Iraq has strengthened the effort and has made the opposition less effective, and prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted.” Carter expressed his hope that Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, would be “less enthusiastic” about Bush’s Iraq policy.
Due to his status as former President, Carter was a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Carter announced his endorsement of Senator (now president) Barack Obama. Speaking to the Syrian English monthly Forward Magazine of Syria, Carter was asked to give one word that came to mind when mentioning President George W. Bush. His answer was: the end of a very disappointing administration. His reaction to mentioning Barack Obama was: honesty, intelligence, and politically adept.[dead link]
Criticisms of Barack Obama
Carter has criticized the Obama administration for its use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists. Carter also said that he disagrees with President Obama’s decision to keep the Guantánamo Bay detention camp open, saying that the inmates “have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers.” He claimed that the U.S. government had no moral leadership, and was committing human rights violations, and is no longer “the global champion of human rights”.
Carter has been a prolific author in his post-presidency, writing 21 of his 23 books. Among these is one he co-wrote with his wife, Rosalynn, and a children’s book illustrated by his daughter, Amy. They cover a variety of topics, including humanitarian work, aging, religion, human rights, and poetry.
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
In a 2007 speech to Brandeis University, Carter stated: “I have spent a great deal of my adult life trying to bring peace to Israel and its neighbors, based on justice and righteousness for the Palestinians. These are the underlying purposes of my new book.”
In his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, published in November 2006, Carter states:
Israel’s continued control and colonization of Palestinian land have been the primary obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement in the Holy Land.
He declares that Israel’s current policies in the Palestinian territories constitute “a system of apartheid, with two peoples occupying the same land, but completely separated from each other, with Israelis totally dominant and suppressing violence by depriving Palestinians of their basic human rights.” In an Op-Ed titled “Speaking Frankly about Israel and Palestine,” published in the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers, Carter states:
The ultimate purpose of my book is to present facts about the Middle East that are largely unknown in America, to precipitate discussion and to help restart peace talks (now absent for six years) that can lead to permanent peace for Israel and its neighbors. Another hope is that Jews and other Americans who share this same goal might be motivated to express their views, even publicly, and perhaps in concert. I would be glad to help with that effort.
While some – such as a former Special Rapporteur for both the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the International Law Commission, as well as a member of the Israeli Knesset – have praised Carter for speaking frankly about Palestinians in Israeli occupied lands, others – including the envoy to the Middle East under Clinton, as well as the first director of the Carter Center – have accused him of anti-Israeli bias. Specifically, these critics have alleged significant factual errors, omissions and misstatements in the book.
In December 2009, Carter apologized for any words or deeds that may have upset the Jewish community in an open letter meant to improve an often tense relationship. He said he was offering an Al Het, a prayer said on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
Involvement with Bank of Credit and Commerce International
After Carter left the presidency, his interest in the developing countries led him to having a close relationship with Agha Hasan Abedi, the founder of Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Abedi was a Pakistani, whose bank had offices and business in a large number of developing countries. He was introduced to Carter in 1982 by Bert Lance, one of Carter’s closest friends. (Unknown to Carter, BCCI had secretly purchased an interest in 1978 in National Bank of Georgia, which had previously been run by Lance and had made loans to Carter’s peanut business.) Abedi made generous donations to the Carter Center and the Global 2000 Project. Abedi also traveled with Carter to at least seven countries in connection with Carter’s charitable activities. The main purpose of Abedi’s association with Carter was not charitable activities, but to enhance BCCI’s influence, in order to open more offices and develop more business. In 1991, BCCI was seized by regulators, amid allegations of criminal activities, including illegally having control of several U.S. banks. Just prior to the seizure, Carter began to disassociate himself from Abedi and the bank.
2012 Presidential race
Despite being a Democrat, Carter endorsed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the Republican party 2012 Presidential primary in mid-September 2011, not because he supported Romney, but because he felt Obama’s re-election bid would be strengthened in a race against Romney. Carter added that he thought Mitt Romney would lose in a match up against Obama and that he supported the president’s re-election.
Carter has participated in many ceremonial events such as the opening of his own presidential library and those of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. He has also participated in many forums, lectures, panels, funerals and other events. Carter delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Coretta Scott King and, most recently, at the funeral of his former political rival, but later his close, personal friend and diplomatic collaborator, Gerald Ford.
President Jimmy Carter serves as an Honorary Chair for the World Justice Project. The World Justice Project works to lead a global, multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the Rule of Law for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.
Carter serves as Honorary Chair for the Continuity of Government Commission (he was co-chair with Gerald Ford until the latter’s death). The Commission recommends improvements to continuity of government measures for the federal government.
Although “personally opposed” to abortion, after the landmark US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 (1973), Carter supported legalized abortion. As president, he did not support increased federal funding for abortion services. He was criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for not doing enough to find alternatives.
In March 2012, during an interview on The Laura Ingraham Show, Carter expressed his view that the Democratic Party should be more pro-life. He said that it had been difficult for him, given his strong beliefs, to uphold Roe v. Wade while he was president. In a March 29, 2012 interview with Laura Ingraham, Carter expressed his current view of abortion and his wish to see the Democratic Party becoming more pro-life: “I never have believed that Jesus Christ would approve of abortions and that was one of the problems I had when I was president having to uphold Roe v. Wade and I did everything I could to minimize the need for abortions. I made it easy to adopt children for instance who were unwanted and also initiated the program called Women and Infant Children or WIC program that’s still in existence now. But except for the times when a mother’s life is in danger or when a pregnancy is caused by rape or incest I would certainly not or never have approved of any abortions. I’ve signed a public letter calling for the Democratic Party at the next convention to espouse my position on abortion which is to minimize the need, requirement for abortion and limit it only to women whose life [sic?] are in danger or who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest. I think if the Democratic Party would adopt that policy that would be acceptable to a lot of people who are now estranged from our party because of the abortion issue.”
During his presidential campaigns, he expressed his opposition to the death penalty, as had George McGovern. Two successive nominees, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, also opposed the death penalty. Carter is known for his strong opposition to the death penalty; in his Nobel Prize lecture, he urged “prohibition of the death penalty”. Carter continued to speak out against the death penalty in the US and abroad.
In a letter to the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, Carter urged the governor to sign a bill to eliminate the death penalty and institute life in prison without parole instead. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009. Carter wrote: “As you know, the United States is one of the few countries, along with nations such as Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba, which still carry out the death penalty despite the ongoing tragedy of wrongful conviction and gross racial and class-based disparities that make impossible the fair implementation of this ultimate punishment.” In 2012, Carter wrote an op-ed in the LA Times supporting passage of a state referendum which would have ended the death penalty. He opened the article: “The process for administering the death penalty in the United States is broken beyond repair, and it is time to choose a more effective and moral alternative. California voters will have the opportunity to do this on election day.”
Carter has also called for commutations of death sentences for many death-row inmates, including Brian K. Baldwin (executed in 1999 in Alabama), Kenneth Foster (sentence in Texas commuted in 2007) and Troy Anthony Davis (executed in Georgia in 2011).
Equality for women
In October 2000, Carter, a third-generation Southern Baptist, announced that he was severing ties to the Southern Baptist Convention over its opposition to women as pastors. What led Carter to take this action was a doctrinal statement by the Convention, adopted in June 2000, advocating a literal interpretation of the Bible. This statement followed a position of the Convention two years previously advocating the submission of wives to their husbands. Carter described the reason for his decision as due to: “an increasing inclination on the part of Southern Baptist Convention leaders to be more rigid on what is a Southern Baptist and exclusionary of accommodating those who differ from them.” The New York Times called Carter’s action “the highest-profile defection yet from the Southern Baptist Convention.”
In subsequent years, Carter has joined with other world leaders who have spoken out about the subjugation of women by religious and other institutions. On July 15, 2009, Carter wrote an opinion piece about equality for women in which he stated that he chooses equality for women over the dictates of the leadership of what has been a lifetime religious commitment. He said that the view that women are inferior is not confined to one faith, “nor, tragically does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple.” Carter stated:
The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
Carter has publicly expressed support for assault weapons bans and background checks. In May 1994, Carter, along with former presidents Gerald R. Ford and Ronald Reagan, wrote to the U.S. House of Representatives in support of banning “semi-automatic assault guns.” In a February 2013 appearance on Piers Morgan Tonight, Carter agreed that if the assault weapons ban did not pass it would be mainly due to the National Rifle Association and its pressure on “weak-kneed” politicians.
Race in politics
Carter ignited debate in September 2009 when he stated, “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he is African-American.” Obama disagreed with Carter’s assessment. On CNN Obama stated, “Are there people out there who don’t like me because of race? I’m sure there are … that’s not the overriding issue here.”
In a 2008 interview with Amnesty International, Carter criticized the alleged use of torture at Guantanamo Bay, saying that it “contravenes the basic principles on which this nation was founded.” He stated that the next President should publicly apologize upon his inauguration, and state that the United States will “never again torture prisoners.”
Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are well known for their work as volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, a Georgia-based philanthropy that helps low-income working people around the world to build and buy their own homes and access clean water.
From a young age, Carter showed a deep commitment to Christianity. He teaches Sunday school and is a deacon at the Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains. As president, Carter prayed several times a day, and professed that Jesus Christ was the driving force in his life. Carter had been greatly influenced by a sermon he had heard as a young man. It asked, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” The New York Times noted that Carter had been instrumental in moving evangelical Christianity closer to the American mainstream during and after his presidency.
In 2000, Carter severed his membership with the Southern Baptist Convention, saying the group’s doctrines did not align with his Christian beliefs. In April 2006, Carter, former President Bill Clinton, and Mercer University President Bill Underwood initiated the New Baptist Covenant. The broadly inclusive movement seeks to unite Baptists of all races, cultures and convention affiliations. Eighteen Baptist leaders representing more than 20 million Baptists across North America backed the group as an alternative to the Southern Baptist Convention. The group held its first meeting in Atlanta, January 30 through February 1, 2008.
Carter had three younger siblings: sisters Gloria (1926–1990) and Ruth (1929–1983), and brother “Billy” (1937–1988). During Carter’s presidency, Billy was often in the news, usually in an unflattering light.
He married Rosalynn Smith in 1946; they have three sons, one daughter, eight grandsons, three granddaughters, and two great-grandsons. They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in July 2011, making them the second-longest wed Presidential couple after George and Barbara Bush, a position they have held since passing John and Abigail Adams on July 10, 2000. Their eldest son Jack was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Nevada in 2006, losing to incumbent John Ensign. Jack’s son Jason was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 2010.
Funeral and burial plans
Carter intends to be buried in front of his home in Plains, Georgia. Both President Carter and his wife Rosalynn were born in Plains. Carter also noted that a funeral in Washington, D.C. with visitation at the Carter Center is being planned as well.
Public image and legacy
The Independent writes, “Carter is widely considered a better man than he was a president.” While he began his term with a 66 percent approval rating, this had dropped to 34 percent approval by the time he left office, with 55 percent disapproving.
In the wake of Nixon’s Watergate Scandal, exit polls from the 1976 Presidential election suggested that many still held Gerald Ford‘s pardon of Nixon against him. By comparison Carter seemed a sincere, honest, and well-meaning Southerner.
His administration suffered from his inexperience in politics. Carter paid too much attention to detail. He frequently backed down from confrontation and was quick to retreat when attacked by political rivals. He appeared to be indecisive and ineffective, and did not define his priorities clearly. He seemed to be distrustful and uninterested in working with other groups, or even with Congress when controlled by his own party, as well as fellow Democratic senators which he denounced for being controlled by special interest groups. Though he made efforts to address many of these issues in 1978, the approval he won from his reforms did not last long.
In the 1980 campaign, Ronald Reagan projected an easy self-confidence, in contrast to Carter’s serious and introspective temperament. Carter’s personal attention to detail, his pessimistic attitude, his seeming indecisiveness and weakness with people were accentuated in contrast to Reagan’s charismatic charm and delegation of tasks to subordinates. Reagan used the economic problems, Iran hostage crisis, and lack of Washington cooperation to portray Carter as a weak and ineffectual leader. Carter was the first elected president since Hoover in 1932 to lose a reelection bid.
In the years since then, his reputation has much improved. Carter’s presidential approval rating, at 31 percent just prior to the 1980 election, was polled in early 2009 at 64 percent. His post-Presidency activities have been favorably received. Carter believes that George H. W. Bush, who actively sought him out and was far more courteous and interested in his advice than Reagan, contributed to the rise in his reputation.
- Carter’s presidency was initially viewed by most as a failure. In historical rankings of US presidents, the Carter presidency has ranged from No. 19 to #34.
- Although his presidency received mixed reviews, his peace keeping and humanitarian efforts since he left office have made Carter renowned as one of the most successful ex-presidents in US history.
- The documentary Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace (2009) credits Carter’s efforts at Camp David, which brought peace between Israel and Egypt, with bringing the only meaningful peace to the Middle East. The film opened the 2009 Monte-Carlo Television Festival in an invitation-only royal screening on June 7, 2009 at the Grimaldi Forum in the presence of Albert II, Prince of Monaco.
Honors and awards
Carter has received numerous awards and accolades since his presidency, and several institutions and locations have been named in his honor. His presidential library, Jimmy Carter Library and Museum was opened in 1986. In 1998, the US Navy named the third and last Seawolf-class submarine honoring former President Carter and his service as a submariner officer. It became one of the first US Navy vessels to be named for a person living at the time of naming. That year he also received the United Nations Human Rights Prize, given in honor of human rights achievements, and the Hoover Medal, recognizing engineers who have contributed to global causes. He won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, which was partially a response to President George W. Bush‘s threats of war against Iraq and Carter’s criticism of the Bush administration. Six of Carter’s audiobook recordings have been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album; his book Our Endangered Values won the award in 2007. The Souther Field Airport in Americus was renamed Jimmy Carter Regional Airport in 2009.
- Electoral history of Jimmy Carter
- History of the United States (1964-1980)
- History of the United States (1980-1988)
- List of peace activists
- Jack Carter (politician) (born 1947; eldest son of former US President Jimmy Carter)
- Jason Carter (politician)
- Jimmy Carter rabbit incident
- “Mush From the Wimp” incident
- Raymond Lee Harvey assassination conspirator