Being elected president of the United States just once would satisfy most people, but Jimmy Carter has pushed the envelope ever since he was a farm boy dreaming of the Navy. Our AJC colleague Jim Denery drew up this incomplete list of some of Carter’s biggest accomplishments, arranged as well as possible in chronological order:
1. As a lieutenant in the Navy in 1952, Carter served under the legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover, helping to develop a nuclear-powered Navy. Bringing things full circle, Carter in 2004 christened the USS Jimmy Carter, a $3.3 billion nuclear submarine.
2. Carter left the Navy in 1953, following the death of his father, Earl, who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 58. The elder Carter was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, and his son eventually followed him into politics. In 1962, after first winning a court fight over voter fraud, Jimmy Carter was elected to the Georgia Senate. In 1971, on his second try, Carter became Georgia’s governor, and in 1976, he won election to become the 39th president of the United States.
3. As president in 1978, Carter mediated negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to produce the Camp David Accords. Under the agreement, Israel agreed to return Egyptian territory conquered during the 1973 war, and Egypt in return extended full diplomatic recognition to Israel. Begin and Sadat won the Nobel Peace Prize for that effort.
4. Drawing inspiration from his work on the Camp David Accords, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter founded the Carter Center in 1982 in partnership with Emory University. Its mission is 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, human rights and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production.
5. Through the Carter Center, the former president launched a fight against Guinea worm disease, a devastating tropical infection that incapacitates its victims. The center has announced that the disease, which was estimated in 1986 to affect 3.5 million people, was reduced to 126 cases in 2014. It will likely become the first human disease eradicated since smallpox.
6. The Carter Center has also observed 100 elections in 38 countries – Carter himself has observed 39 — to ensure fairness and to help establish and strengthen democracies. The first was in May 7, 1989, when Carter and former President Gerald Ford traveled to Panama. After that visit, Carter condemned dictator Manuel Noriega for refusing to allow free and open elections, and he called for “a worldwide outcry against a dictator who stole this election from his own people.”
7. Carter has long been associated with Habitat for Humanity, first working with it in March 1984 when he joined a work crew in building a home for a needy family in Americus. Habitat for Humanity has honored the former president’s efforts for the charity by holding an annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The next one, the 32nd, will take place Nov. 1-6 in Nepal to help that country recover from a massive earthquake.
8. Carter in 1998 was one of five activists from around the world to receive the United Nations’ Human Rights Prize. The prize is only awarded every five years.
9. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in 1999 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. government. President Bill Clinton, in presenting the medal, said, “Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have done more good things for more people in more places than any other couple on the face of the Earth.”
10. Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 “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.”