aspired to make Government "competent and compassionate,"
responsive to the American people and their expectations. His achievements
were notable, but in an era of rising energy costs, mounting inflation,
and continuing tensions, it was impossible for his administration to
meet these high expectations.
has rarely used his full name--James Earl Carter, Jr.--was born October
1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia. Peanut farming, talk of politics, and devotion
to the Baptist faith were mainstays of his upbringing. Upon graduation
in 1946 from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Carter married
Rosalynn Smith. The Carters have three sons, John William (Jack), James
Earl III (Chip), Donnel Jeffrey (Jeff), and a daughter, Amy Lynn.
years' service as a naval officer, Carter returned to Plains. In 1962
he entered state politics, and eight years later he was elected Governor
of Georgia. Among the new young southern governors, he attracted attention
by emphasizing ecology, efficiency in government, and the removal of
his candidacy for President in December 1974 and began a two-year campaign
that gradually gained momentum. At the Democratic Convention, he was
nominated on the first ballot. He chose Senator Walter F. Mondale of
Minnesota as his running mate. Carter campaigned hard against President
Gerald R. Ford, debating with him three times. Carter won by 297 electoral
votes to 241 for Ford.
hard to combat the continuing economic woes of inflation and unemployment.
By the end of his administration, he could claim an increase of nearly
eight million jobs and a decrease in the budget deficit, measured in
percentage of the gross national product. Unfortunately, inflation and
interest rates were at near record highs, and efforts to reduce them
caused a short recession.
point to a number of achievements in domestic affairs. He dealt with
the energy shortage by establishing a national energy policy and by
decontrolling domestic petroleum prices to stimulate production. He
prompted Government efficiency through civil service reform and proceeded
with deregulation of the trucking and airline industries. He sought
to improve the environment. His expansion of the national park system
included protection of 103 million acres of Alaskan lands. To increase
human and social services, he created the Department of Education, bolstered
the Social Security system, and appointed record numbers of women, blacks,
and Hispanics to Government jobs.
affairs, Carter set his own style. His championing of human rights was
coldly received by the Soviet Union and some other nations. In the Middle
East, through the Camp David agreement of 1978, he helped bring amity
between Egypt and Israel. He succeeded in obtaining ratification of
the Panama Canal treaties. Building upon the work of predecessors, he
established full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of
China and completed negotiation of the SALT II nuclear limitation treaty
with the Soviet Union.
serious setbacks, however. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan caused
the suspension of plans for ratification of the SALT II pact. The seizure
as hostages of the U. S. embassy staff in Iran dominated the news during
the last 14 months of the administration. The consequences of Iran's
holding Americans captive, together with continuing inflation at home,
contributed to Carter's defeat in 1980. Even then, he continued the
difficult negotiations over the hostages. Iran finally released the
52 Americans the same day Carter left office.
Carter, Jr. (born October 1, 1924) was the 39th (1977-1981) President
of the United States. Since leaving office, he has been active in international
public policy and conflict resolution. He is also an author. He won
the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.
born in the town of Plains, Georgia, to James Earl Carter and Bessie
Lillian Gordy. He was 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 established a peanut farming business in Plains. From
a young age, Carter showed a deep committment to Christianity, serving
as a Sunday School teacher throughout his political career.
Carter started his career by serving on the Plains school board. 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 Sanders
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.
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 of governing.
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
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.
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.
On July 15,
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
I want to
talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy....
I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is
at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power
and military might.
The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence.
It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of
our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about
the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for
speech, or rather sermon, was well-received. The country was in the
worst recession since the 1930s, with inflation and unemployment at
record levels. But the people who had hoped for more inspiring leadership
were disappointed. Two days after the speech, Carter asked for the resignations
of all of his Cabinet officers, and ultimately accepted five. With no
visible efforts towards a way out of the malaise, Carter's poll numbers
dropped even further.
who served at least one full term, Carter is the only one who never
made an appointment to the Supreme Court.
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, following a pro-democracy coup.
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 II, and was one of the few U.S.-friendly regimes in the Middle
East. However, his rule was strongly autocratic. 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.
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.
Carter reluctantly allowed the deposed 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. It should
be noted that none of these allegations has been proven or even officially
investigated by any governmental body.
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
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 the
Indonesian government even while it was implicated in the commission
of acts of genocide in the 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.
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.
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 George H.W and George W. Bush were said to have been less
than pleased with Carter's "freelance" diplomacy in Iraq and
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 U.S. president, after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson,
to receive the award.
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 Rosalynn are also well-known for their work with Habitat for Humanity.