President, Peanut Farmer and Sunday School Teacher
James Earl Carter, Jr., the 39th President of the United States, was born on October 1, 1924 in the tiny town of Plains, Georgia. His father, James, Sr., was a farmer and businessman, and his mother, Lillian Gordy Carter, was a registered nurse.
Jimmy was educated in the public school of Plains, attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. On July 7th of that year, he married his childhood sweetheart, Rosalynn Smith of Plains.
In the Navy, he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant. Chosen by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the nuclear submarine program, he was assigned to Schenectady, New York, where he did graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics while serving as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the Seawolf.
When his father died in 1953, he resigned his naval commission and returned with his family to Georgia. He took over the Carter farms, and he and Rosalynn operated Carter’s Warehouse, a general-purpose seed and farm supply company located in Plains.
He soon became a leader of the community, serving on county boards supervising education, the hospital authority, and the library. In 1962 he entered politics, winning election to the Georgia Senate, before becoming Georgia’s 76th governor on January 12, 1971.
Jimmy Carter was inaugurated President of the United States on January 20, 1977. Significant foreign policy accomplishments of his administration included the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union, and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of 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, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. While in office, he also championed human rights throughout the world.
In 1982, he became University Distinguished Professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and founded The Carter Center to engage in conflict mediation all over the world. In addition, the Center has monitored 83 elections in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
The permanent facilities of The Carter Presidential Center include the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, administered by the National Archives. The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, administered by the National Park Service, is open to visitors, too.
Jimmy and Rosalynn volunteer for Habitat for Humanity annually, helping needy people renovate and build homes. And on the Sabbath, they teach Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church of Plains.
For relaxation, President Carter enjoys fly-fishing, woodworking and swimming. The Carters have three sons, one daughter, nine grandsons, three granddaughters, two great-grandsons, and four great-granddaughters.
In 2002, President Carter was awarded 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.” The author of 25 books, here, he talks about his latest, NIV Lessons from Life Bible.
President Carter: It’s a pleasure for me, too, Kam. Thank you!
KW: Editor/legist Patricia Turnier asks: What message do you think people will take away from the Lessons from Life Bible?
JC: I think that what people will get out of these comments in the Bible, and also out of my previous book [Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President] is how pertinent, how important and how applicable the ancient texts are to our modern-day life. That’s what I try to emphasize in all my Sunday school lessons when I teach at ** Maranatha** Baptist Church**. So, I think the main message to remember is that we must accommodate changing times while clinging to unchanging moral values. That’s why I say the aim is to apply the text to modern-day life.
KW: Patricia also asks: Are you interested in writing a memoir focusing on your more recent accomplishments?
JC: I’ve already written a book about my more recent accomplishments. It’s called Beyond the White House. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B003A02QU4/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20
KW: Leon Marquis says: You have done more good after leaving office than any other United States President, from traveling the world, to certifying free and open elections, to working with Habitat for Humanity, to traveling to North Korea. You have become the “Soul of American Diplomacy.” My question is: Why can’t the other ex-presidents get it right?**
JC: Well, I wouldn’t say they’re wrong, Leon, because each one of us is an individual, just like talk show hosts are different from one another, and newspaper columnists are different from each other. So, former presidents are different from each other, too. Some have gone into relative seclusion. Some have decided to teach. In fact, I’m finishing my 30th year as a professor at Emory University. I’ve found it very enjoyable and very beneficial to me to keep active. But I wouldn’t criticize any president who has chosen to take a different route. *
KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: Is there a personal moral tension between being a good Christian and being a good Commander of a nuclear submarine?
How can an officer-especially one of great faith-reconcile being asked to lead troops into battle with the Fifth Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Kill?**
JC: The most important Bible teaching that I remembered when I was in the Navy and when I was Commander-in-Chief, was that w**e worshipped The Prince of Peace. Jesus Christ is The Prince of Peace. So, I considered myself, as a submarine officer, as helping to preserve the peace. And I felt the same way when I was president. As a matter of fact, although we had some terrible challenges and temptations when I was in office, we never dropped a bomb… we never launched a missile… and we never fired a bullet. I think that one of the main requirements for a strong military, like a strong submarine force, is to prevent war, not to cause war.
KW: Larry Greenberg says: It seems like we are at a point now where books are moving from bound paper to digital media. How will this impact the study and reverence for the Bible?
JC: You can already download any of the religious texts onto electronic mechanisms like a Kindle. But I think many people prefer to hold a book in their hands. We recently gave my daughter Amy a new electronic device, but since she used to work in a library, she still insists on reading exclusively from books. I take my Bible with me to church every Sunday to teach the Bible lesson. I do that whenever I’m in Plains, oh, about 35 to 40 times a year. So, I think that for many people, particularly when reading Holy Scriptures, a Bible you can hold in your hands is most appropriate.
KW: I still prefer the touch of paper. I still haven’t made the jump to reading books electronically.
JC: [Chuckles] I can understand that.
KW: Troy Johnson asks: Do you see any parallels between the lead-up to the 1980 Presidential Election and the 2012 campaign?
JC: Not really. Back in those days, we didn’t have massive sums of money pouring in. We never ran any negative advertisements. I always referred to President Ford during the 1976 campaign as “my distinguished opponent.” That was all. And I behaved the same way as an incumbent, when Ronald Reagan ran against me in 1980. And the amount of money we raised against each other from special interest groups and from lobbyists for the general election was zero. Neither President Ford, nor Governor Reagan nor I ever raised a single dollar from them to run against each other in the general election. Sadly, all of that has changed. What this massive infusion of more money into the political campaign has caused is a mammoth increase in negative ads. That’s a tragedy, in my opinion, and a step backwards for the political system of our country.
KW: Troy also says that he read in the Wall Street Journal that not since Herbert Hoover has a party out of power had such an opportunity to run against everything that troubles the American family-prices, interest rates, unemployment, taxes, fear of the future, etcetera. Do you think the Republican Party will employ that strategy against an Obama administration which seems vulnerable in terms of both foreign and domestic policy?
JC: Well, I’m not a political strategist, and I’m certainly not one for the Republican Party. [Chuckles] I will say that any incumbent president has to run on his record, and President Obama has had a very limited number of accomplishments so far. But he’s been handicapped by the lack of any cooperation on the part of the Republicans who serve in the House and Senate. So, Congress has been an obstacle to President Obama. I think the American people will be able to ascertain as the election approaches who is to blame for the stalemate and who deserves credit for the best proposals for the future.
KW: Lisa Loving asks: How should we as Americans and as voters work to overcome the sometimes hateful tone of our politics today?
JC: Unfortunately, every American citizen takes the same position as you do, Lisa, that we don’t like negative advertisements. But they work! And, as you see, many a candidate has prevailed by tearing down the reputation of an opponent in a more advantageous position. I think that the best approach would be if the American people ever insist that we cut down on the massive amounts of money that moves into the campaigns from special interest groups, and if we resist publicly b**y saying “No more negative advertisements that destroy the reputations of one’s opponents.” In the meantime, just don’t pay any attention to negative ads, if you can avoid them, and try to focus on the issues.
KW: Tracy Ertl, Publisher of TitleTown Publishing, says: I love Jimmy Carter! I was barely a teen when you took office. You were truly the first President that I recognized as such with any true understanding. Mr. President, what is something that every God-believing American could do this year to bring more stability and safety to the youth of the country?
JC: I think all of us could insist on preserving the truth and preserving the peace. We could insist that political candidates tell the truth about controversial issues. And secondly, we should be sure to encourage our political leaders, after they’re elected, to preserve the peace. My latest book, of course, is about the Bible. I worship as a Christian. I worship The Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. He’s not The Prince of War. That’s why it really aggrieves me when I sometimes see fellow believers lobbying to start a war over something minimal when the peaceful approach might be the best. I was lucky enough to get through four years in office under very trying circumstances. We never dropped a bomb, we never launched a missile, and we never fired a bullet in anger. And we not only resolved our problems peacefully, but we promoted peace between adversarial nations. For instance, Egypt and Israel had been at war four times in the quarter-century before I became president, and I was able to negotiate a peace treaty between them that has held up for over 33 years. So, I think peace and telling the truth are the keys.
KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks: Based on your Biblical worldview, should the US support Israel, militarily, at any cost?
JC: I tried to eliminate the need for Israel to strike out, militarily, by removing its major threat and attacker, and that was Egypt. I’ve written a few books on the subject. There’s no doubt that the best way to resolve Israel’s problems is to negotiate peace between Israel and its immediate neighbors, particularly the Palestinians. And that’s something that’s not going to be achieved, in my opinion, without the strong involvement of the American president. I hope that President Obama, during his second term, will insist upon a peaceful resolution of the issues that divide the Israelis from their neighbors, and bring about a two-state solution with the ’67 borders as modified by a common agreement that would let the Palestinians and the Israelis and the Jordanians and the Lebanese and the Egyptians live in peace.
KW: Reverend Thompson also asks: What is your favorite bible verse and why?
JC: As a Christian, like a lot of other Christians, my favorite is John 3:16, where it explains in the Bible that God loves us all so much that He gave His only son to die and save us from our sins. Another favorite verse of mine is the one that says, “Be ye kind one to another.” As I’ve already mentioned, I also like the ones that refer to Jesus promoting peace. And I like the one that Paul described to the Galatians which says that everybody is equal in the eyes of God: servants and masters… men and women… Jews and Gentiles… That every human being is equal to each other in the eyes of God.
KW: Cynique, a retired postal employee, and frequent contributor to AALBC.com’s Discussion Forum, says she really admires you and feels Ronald Reagan was a better actor than politician. She asks: Do you agree?
JC: [Chuckles] I’m pretty, highly prejudiced about that. I think that the way I ran the American government was good, and I’m not going to comment on the other presidents.
KW: Filmmaker Kevin Williams says: Mr. President, thank you for coming to visit my hometown of Trenton, NJ as you did back in the 1970s. I was 8 years-old when you were elected, so you were the first president I had ever really known. My question: How did your faith help you adjust to life after your Presidency?
JC: My faith has helped me to adjust to life whether I was a small farm boy, a submarine officer, governor, president or an ex-president. I’ve tried to remember the teaching that we have to accommodate change we can’t control in our lives, whether it’s disappointment, sorrow, loss or failure, while simultaneously clinging to principles that never change. And that’s what I try to emphasize in my writings and in my teaching of the Bible every week. There are moral values that are most important in life which never change and which enable us to handle setbacks and challenges in a much more equitable, peaceful and happy way.
KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What words of wisdom might you have for President Obama?
JC: Tell the truth and promote the peace.
KW: Thanks again for the time, President Carter. I really appreciate it.
JC: Thank you, Kam, I really enjoyed talking to you again.
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