On January 6th, Jimmy Carter, our 39th president, wrote a powerful opinion piece in the New York Times about the one-year anniversary of the Capitol insurrection. While his words about the state of our democracy were eye-opening, my mind wandered in a different direction: what do I really know about Jimmy Carter?
The first thing that came to mind was his age. Carter holds a lot of presidential records in terms of longevity. He currently is the oldest living president at 94 years old, has lived the longest out of any president ever, and has the longest marriage, clocking in at 75 years!
In terms of Carter’s presidential career, it was not the most memorable compared to some of our other commanders-in-chief. Carter beat out Gerald Ford to be elected in 1976 following Nixon’s resignation. He ran on the promise that he would “never tell a lie,” which was important to voters after the Watergate scandal.
Throughout his single term as president, Carter faced several economic issues, such as mass unemployment and inflation. According to whitehouse.gov, “[Carter] could claim an increase of nearly eight million jobs and a decrease in the budget deficit” by the end of his term, yet his efforts to combat these issues produced a recession.
Despite all that, perhaps what Carter’s presidency is most well-known for is the Iranian hostage crisis. The crisis occurred after the US embassy in Iran was overrun by Iranian students, who proceeded to take 52 Americans hostage. The hostages were held captive for 444 days, which decimated the Carter Administration’s reputation. Things took a turn for the worse when, in 1980, a mission called Operation Eagle Claw publicly failed to rescue the hostages. In the end, Carter’s failure to resolve this issue played a huge part in his loss to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election (If you were wondering what happened to the hostages, they were released moments after Reagan was elected).
After the less than stellar end to his presidency, Carter began one of the best post-presidential careers ever. He became heavily involved in many charitable organizations, like Habitat for Humanity International, which is an organization that builds housing for disadvantaged people around the world. Carter also opened the Carter Presidential Center at Emory University in Atlanta to help resolve human rights issues. In addition to his charitable work, Carter also stayed active on scenes of international conflict and helped resolve various international affairs.
Carter’s post-presidency success culminated in 2002 when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. According to nobelprize.org, Carter received the prize 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.”
After learning all this about Jimmy Carter, his words about the state of our democracy have a bit more meaning to me. When someone as well versed in the world of politics as Jimmy Carter speaks up, it is important to listen. If you have not read Carter’s opinion piece, I suggest you do, so that you as well can reflect on the state of our nation as well.