Jimmy Carter is the 39th president of the United States. He was born in 1924 in the small farming town of Plains, Georgia, the son of a peanut farmer. He received a bachelor of science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. In the Navy he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant. Chosen for the nuclear submarine program, Carter also took graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics.
In 1946, he married Rosalynn Smith. When his father died in 1953, he resigned his naval commission and returned with his family to Georgia, where he took over the Carter farms and became active in the community, serving on county boards supervising education, the hospital authority, and the library. In 1962 he won election to the Georgia Senate. He lost his first gubernatorial campaign in 1966, but won the next election, becoming Georgia's 76th governor in 1971.
Carter served as president from 1977 to 1981. During his presidency he negotiated a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, signed the Camp David Accords and the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union, and established diplomatic relations with China. On the domestic side, the administration's achievements included a comprehensive energy program conducted by a new Department of Energy; deregulation in energy, transportation, communications, and finance; major educational programs under a new Department of Education; and major environmental protection legislation. He lost his reelection in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, in part because of the Iran hostage crisis, in which 52 U.S. citizens were held hostage by Iranian revolutionaries who overthrew the government.
In 1982, he founded The Carter Center. Actively guided by President Carter, the nonpartisan and nonprofit Center addresses national and international issues of public policy. In 2002, Carter received the Nobel Peace 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."
Question: What could President Obama learn from your presidency?
Jimmy Carter: Well I would say quickly, that in a midterm election I had great success. We wound up after the election in 1978 with a majority of 19 in the Senate and a majority of 100 in the House. So we had a very good success with that. But I think that what is likely to happen in the next two years, I hope, is for President Obama to be much more firm in letting his specific views be known and then adhering to his commitments through thick or thin. I think in his last two years, he’s been faced with a totally irresponsible Republican Party that have given him on major issues sometimes zero votes in the House and in the U.S. Senate. And I think he’s tried maybe too much to maybe get a few of those Republican votes, which have now proved to be impossible.
In the days when I was President, I had superb support from the Republican Party in the House and Senate and that gave me a chance to have a very good success in my batting average with the Congress.
So, just stick to his guns, be firm and let the American people know what he wants quite without equivocation and without doubt and don’t back down. I’m sure those are the things he’s going to do in the next two years.
Recorded November 30, 2010
Interviewed by Andrea Useem