“You can do what you have to do, and sometimes you can do it even better than you think you can.” He is a speed reader, reading 2,000 words per a minute with a 95 percent accuracy rate. He studied nuclear physics and is the only president to have commanded a submarine. Because of his daughter’s school project, all trees at the White House are labeled with their common and Latin names, as well as with information about who planted them or gave them as gifts. He is James “Jimmy” Earl Carter, Jr., 39th President of the United States, serving from January 20, 1977, until January 20, 1981. Jimmy was born on October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia. He was not only the first (and only) president born in Georgia, he was also the first president to be born in a hospital. Jimmy’s father owned a peanut farm, along with a warehouse and store, where Jimmy worked when he was young.
Jimmy’s parents were devout Baptists, requiring that Jimmy also regularly attend church. Jimmy would identify as Baptist throughout most of his life. Growing up, Jimmy was very aware of segregation, yet also had friends in the African American community. His mother, a registered nurse, would frequently counsel African American women on health care issues. When the Great Depression struck, Jimmy’s father managed to prosper and supply work to over 200 individuals. In 1941, Jimmy became the first member of his family to graduate high school.
Jimmy, with a love for learning, went on to attend Georgia Southwestern Junior College, before enrolling in the Naval ROTC (Reserved Officers’ Training Corps) with Georgia Institute of Technology. In 1943, Jimmy began attending the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, a dream since he was 12 years old. He excelled and graduated in the top ten percent of his class in 1946. In June of that year, Jimmy married Rosalyn Smith, whom he had known since childhood. Jimmy and Rosalyn had three sons over the next several years, and, eventually, a daughter. Shortly after his father’s death in 1953, Jimmy moved his family back to the peanut farm, where he became successful. He also began his career in politics.
Jimmy’s career in politics began controversially. In 1955, he was elected to the Sumter County Board of Education, where he eventually became chairman. Jimmy became the only white man in Plains, Georgia, to refuse to join the White Citizens’ Council, a group that protested the desegregation of schools (among others) in the South. Jimmy’s actions and opinions were not popular, however, with the redrawing of voting districts in 1962, required by the Supreme Court of the United States to decrease voting disadvantages for African Americans, did Jimmy finally see a place for him in Southern American politics.
In 1962, Jimmy ran for a seat in the Georgia State Senate. Initial results showed his opponent as the victor, however, obvious voting fraud had occurred. Jimmy appealed and was eventually declared the victor. During his time in the state Senate, Jimmy became known as a tough, independent politician who cut wasteful spending and supported civil rights. After losing the 1966, gubernatorial election, Jimmy refocused and won the 1970 election, by distancing himself from civil rights issues and even speaking out against desegregation. Following his election, Jimmy once again returned to showing his support for civil rights, including desegregation, which angered several of his supporters.
Jimmy sought, and won, the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination. During his campaign, Jimmy famously said, “I’ll never tell a lie,” and “I’ll never avoid a controversial issue,” helping reassure the American public that he could be trusted, an important factor following the Watergate Scandal years earlier. Jimmy was expected to easily win the election, however he made several mistakes, most prominently regarding comments about sex, marriage, and adultery, but he did ultimately managed to win the election.
Jimmy’s first executive order was to declare unconditional amnesty for draft evaders during the Vietnam War. He also canceled military pay raises during times of high inflation and government deficits. Jimmy’s domestic priority as president was to decrease dependence on foreign oil, as the 1973 oil embargo had caused oil prices to rise. While Jimmy was initially successful, it was overshadowed by the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which once again drove up oil prices and led to long lines at gas stations.
During his time as president, Jimmy had a poor relationship with the press, Congress, and other politicians, including his own party. Due to these poor relationships, Jimmy was unable to enact legislation and effectively communicate his policies.
Jimmy’s most notable achievement as president was his mediation of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. A historic peace treaty was signed at this meeting in which Israel withdrew from the Sinai and the two nations officially recognized the other’s government.
Supporters of the Iranian Revolution, on November 4, 1979, took over the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, holding 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days. Jimmy remained secluded in the White House for a portion of the crisis. On April 24, 1980, a mission was ordered to attempt to rescue the hostages. The mission failed during its first phase when several of the aircraft became unfit for duty. While attempting to return, two aircraft crashed into each other, killing eight servicemen. Many, including Jimmy, believe that his unsuccessful handling of this crisis cost him his re-election. The hostages were eventually released on January 20, 1981, shortly after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president.
Following his landslide defeat for re-election, Jimmy, after venturing overseas to welcome the hostages from Iran, returned with his wife to their peanut farm. Jimmy remained active following his presidency, by writing books and becoming active in Habitat for Humanity. Jimmy is the longest-living former president.
Jimmy has also remain internationally active, working to resolve conflicts in Haiti, Bosnia, Ethiopia, North Korea, and Sudan, among other countries. He has also championed human right defenders and, in 2002, received a Nobel Peace Prize for working “to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” Jimmy has also continued working for peace in the Middle East.
Happy Birthday Mr. President!