Jimmy Carter's Biggest Failure as President
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 was your biggest failure as a President, and what did you learn from it?
Jimmy Carter: I guess my biggest failure was not getting re-elected. And I learned two things; one is that you ought not to ever let American hostages be held for 444 days in a foreign country without extracting them. I did the best I could, but I failed.
And I think another lesson I learned is, I should have paid more attention to the organization of the Democratic Party. I was not only the leader of our nation, but I was also the leader of the Democratic Party. And I think I failed in that respect to keep the party united. It was divided in my reelection campaign between me and the people who were loyal to Ted Kennedy and then that cost me a lot of votes. So those were the two things that I believe could have been done better.
Recorded November 30, 2010
Interviewed by Andrea Useem
The 39th President laments his failure to be reelected—and his failure to keep the Democratic Party unified.
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