“America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way around. Human rights invented America.” — Jimmy Carter
James Earl Carter, Jr. was born on this day in Plains, Georgia, USA in 1924. He is 89 years old.
He was the oldest of four children born to James Earl Carter, Sr and Bessie Lillian Gordyn Carter. He was the first future president to be born in a hospital.
Jimmy was a good student and avid reader. After graduating Plains High School Carter attended Georgia Southwestern College and Georgia Tech before entering the United States Naval Academy. He graduated 59th out of 820 in 1946.
He served for seven years in the Navy’s Atlantic and Pacific submarine fleet. After his father’s death he resigned his commission and returned to Georgia.
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 racial barriers. [Whitehouse.gov]
In 1974 he ran for President of the United States against Gerald Ford. “Carter won by 297 electoral votes to 241 for Ford.” [Ibid] He was the 39th President.
He entered the White House the country was in an economic crisis. One of his first acts at President was to sign the “Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979” which bailed out the car maker.
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. [Ibid]
Domestically the Carter administration struggled with the 1970’s Energy Crisis. “He dealt with the energy shortage by establishing a national energy policy and by decontrolling domestic petroleum prices to stimulate production.” [Ibid]
Other Domestic issues during the Carter presidency included:
- Deregulation of the trucking and airline industries
- Expansion of the National Park System
- Promotion of the hiring of minorities and women in government jobs
- He also worked to improve the environment.
- Held the Camp David Talks (which brought about the Camp David Agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1978.
- ratified the Panama Canal Treaties
- Continued to establish ties with China
- Completed SALT II nuclear negotiations with the USSR
However, his time in the White House will always be remembered under the black cloud of…
- Long lines at the gas pumps during the Energy Crisis
- The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
- and especially, the Hostage Crisis in Iran
His bid for a second term was unsuccessful. Ronald Regan swept the election taking 489 electoral votes to Carters 49. Carter carried only six states. The day Regan took office Iran released the hostages.
Carter returned to Georgia to find that his finances — which had been held in a blind trust while he was President — had been mismanaged by the trustees. He was over a million dollars in dept. Despite that set back Carter established the Carter Center at Emory University, wrote books (he’s written 27 book so far), and worked to help Habitat for Humanity.
Actively guided by President Carter, the nonpartisan and nonprofit Center addresses national and international issues of public policy. Carter Center staff and associates join with President Carter in efforts to resolve conflict, promote democracy, protect human rights, and prevent disease and other afflictions. Through the Global 2000 programs, the Center has advanced health and agriculture in the developing world. It has spearheaded the international effort to eradicate Guinea worm disease, which is poised to be the second human disease in history to be eradicated. [CarterCenter.org]
Carter and the Center have “engaged in conflict meditation” [Ibid] though out the world. He 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.” [Ibid] He is the only former President to receive the Prize (Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama have won it during their time in office.)
He still lives in Plains, Georgia with his wife Rosalyn. Every year they volunteer for a week with Habitat for Humanity to build or restore homes for the needy.