Jimmy Carter – Human Rights President

The Victor crew wanted to find out more about Jimmy Carter our 39th United States President. This is what we found:

James Earl Carter, Jr. (Jimmy) was born on October 1, 1924, in the small farming town of Plains, Georgia. He was the first American President to be born in a hospital. The farm where he grew up was in the nearby community of Archery and had no electricity or indoor plumbing. His father, James Earl Carter, Sr., was a peanut farmer and a businessman who owned and ran Carter’s Warehouse, a seed and farm supply store in Plains. Jimmy’s mother, Lillian Gordon Carter (Miz Lillian) was a registered nurse and set a moral example for Jimmy early on by crossing the strict lines of segregation in the 1920’s to counsel poor African American women in Georgia on health care matters. Peanut farming, talk of politics, and devotion to the Baptist faith were the mainstays of his upbringing.

Jimmy was educated in the public schools of Plains, graduating Plains High School as valedictorian of his class. He attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Jimmy was captivated by his uncle’s tales of travels to exotic lands while in the US Navy which prompted him to enroll in the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He graduated from the academy in the top tenth of his class in 1946. Upon graduation he married Rosalynn Smith. They have three sons and a daughter. Also upon graduation Jimmy signed on with the US Navy as an officer under Captain Hyman Rickover in the Navy’s first experimental nuclear submarine. He served in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. During this time Captain Rickover advanced to Admiral building America’s nuclear submarine force. He then assigned Jimmy to Schenectady, N.Y., where he took his graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics. Jimmy served as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine in the new force.

Jimmy’s father died of cancer in 1953. Jimmy and his new wife, Rosalynn, faced a difficult decision. His father’s peanut farm, and with it his mother’s livelihood, were in danger. Jimmy resigned from the Navy and he and Rosalynn returned to Georgia to save the family farm and the supply company. After a few challenging years the farm began to prosper. Jimmy became a deacon and Sunday school teacher in the Plains Baptist Church and began serving on local civic boards supervising education, the hospital authority, and the library. In 1963 he won election to the Georgia State Senate and served two terms. In the state legislature he earned a reputation as a tough, independent operator who attacked wasteful government practices. He helped repeal laws designed to discourage African Americans from voting. He stood up for civil rights and inclusion. In 1966 he ran for Governor of Georgia but was defeated by a nationally known segregationist named Lester Maddox. Jimmy ran again for Governor in 1970. This time he minimized his appearances before African American groups and even sought the endorsements of segregationist whites. Some thought he was being hypocritical with this campaign strategy. But as soon as he became Governor of Georgia in 1971 he surprised many Georgians by declaring that the era of segregation was over.

On December 12, 1974, Jimmy Carter announced his candidacy for the President of the United States. He won his party’s nomination on the first ballot at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Jimmy knew he had to market himself as a different kind of Democrat after watching George McGovern’s defeat in 1972. Jimmy was a complete unknown on the national stage but this newcomer status turned out to be an advantage in the aftermath of Nixon’s Watergate scandal. The country was ready for change and he won a narrow victory.

President Carter’s one-term presidency is remembered for the extraordinary events that occurred during his term. Inflation, the energy crisis, war in Afghanistan and the hostage crisis in Iran overwhelmed his administration. President Carter’s style of leadership was and is more religious than political. He spoke the language of religion and morality more effectively than the language of politics. He once said, “We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.” He spoke openly and convincingly about his Christian faith and managed to do it in a way that was inclusive and tolerant.

President Carter’s ideology was a moral ideology. He knew the difference between right and wrong and always stood for right. He was elected at a time of moral crisis but the domestic problems facing the country during his Presidency were not moral, they were managerial and technical. There were no right or wrong ways to solve these problems. The country’s foreign problems were much more responsive to President Carter’s moral ideology. President Carter believed in peace, in preventing war, and in human rights. Stating, “Human rights is the soul of our foreign policy, because human rights is the very soul of our sense of nationhood.” His biggest achievement while President was the historic 1978 Camp David Accords, where he mediated a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. This summit revitalized a long-dormant practice of presidential peacemaking. President Carter once said, “We cannot be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of the weapons of war.” Every succeeding President since President Carter has tried to emulate his diplomacy for peace and aspire to his belief that “the best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation.”

In the opening sentence of his Presidential farewell address Carter said, “In a few days I will lay down my official duties in this office, to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President, the title of citizen.” In the 27 years since he took up that title he has brought honor to it. He hasn’t just talked about housing the homeless he has built houses for them with his own hands. He hasn’t just talked about comforting the afflicted he has started a program through his Carter Center that is well on its way to eradicating Guinea worm disease. He hasn’t just talked about promoting democracy he has put his reputation and his life on the line in many countries to promote free and fair elections. He hasn’t just talked about world peace he has used his moral prestige, his willingness to take risks, and his persistent patience to bring hostile parties together that has often made the difference between war and not-war. On December 10, 2002, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to Mr. Carter “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.”