#RespectYourElders: Jimmy Carter, 95, is the 39th president of the United States, former Governor of Georgia and a lifelong philanthropist.
James Earl Carter, Jr. was born in 1924 in a small farming town in Georgia. His father, James Earl Carter, Sr., was a farmer and businessman and his mother, Lillian Gordy Carter, was a registered nurse. Carter’s upbringing centered around peanut farming, politics and the Baptist faith.
Carter attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He received a degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. He married Rosalynn Smith that year before beginning a seven-year career in the U.S. Navy, serving submarine duty for five years. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and was chosen for the nuclear submarine program in Schenectady, New York where he worked at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics. Carter’s career in the Navy was cut short following his father’s passing in 1953.
He moved back to Georgia with his family and took over the Carter farms. Carter and his wife operated Carter’s Warehouse, a general-purpose seed and farm supply company. His leadership in the community included serving on county boards supervising education, assisting at the hospital authority, and helping at the library. In 1962, he won election to the Georgia Senate. Carter attracted attention by emphasizing ecology, efficiency in government, and the removal of racial barriers.
Carter announced his candidacy for president in December 1974, just before his term as governor ended, and began a two-year campaign. In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, Carter positioned himself as an outsider to Washington D.C. with strong principles that could restore American’s trust in the executive branch. Carter campaigned against president Gerald R. Ford, who had become president thanks to Richard Nixon resigning. Carter won by 297 electoral votes to 241 for Ford.
As president, he faced a major energy crisis as well as high inflation and unemployment. In foreign affairs, he reopened U.S. relations with China and made efforts to find peace in the historic Arab-Israeli conflict. Some of his notable accomplishments include the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel and the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union.
In 1980, Carter lost the presidency to Ronald Reagan. Some might say that Carter’s impact on the world was more notable after his defeat. In 1982, he founded the Carter Center with the mission to advance peace and health worldwide. The Center reports that it has helped to improve life for people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts, advancing democracy, advocating for human rights and economic opportunity, preventing diseases, improving mental health care, and teaching farmers to increase crop production.
Carter has built homes for Habitat for Humanity and worked as a professor at Emory University. He has also written books on topics ranging from his views on the Middle East to memories of his childhood. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
A Nobel Peace Prize hasn’t slowed down Carter’s commitment to helping others. Even at 95 and through several health scares, he’s still focused on service.
“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something,” Carter said. “My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have, to try to make a difference.”