Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter

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As the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter struggled to respond to formidable challenges, including a major energy crisis as well as high inflation and unemployment. In the foreign affairs arena, he reopened U.S. relations with China and made efforts to broker peace in the historic Arab-Israeli conflict, but was damaged late in his term by a hostage crisis in Iran. Carter’s diagnosis of the nation’s “crisis of confidence” did little to boost his sagging popularity, and in 1980 he was defeated in the general election by Ronald Reagan. Over the next decades, Carter built a distinguished career as a diplomat, humanitarian and author, pursuing conflict resolution in countries around the globe. He was awarded the Noble 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."

Jimmy Carter’s Early Life and Start in Politics

Born in Plains, Georgia, on October 1, 1924, James Earle Carter Jr. attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, graduating in 1946. Shortly thereafter he married Rosalynn Smith, a fellow native of Plains; the couple would have four children: Amy Carter, Donnel Carter, Jack Carter and James Carter. Carter’s seven-year career in the Navy included five years on submarine duty. In 1953, he was preparing to serve as an engineering officer on the submarine Seawolf when his father died. Carter returned home and was able to rebuild his family’s struggling peanut warehouse business after a crippling drought.

Active in community affairs and a deacon at the Plains Baptist Church, Carter launched his political career with a seat on his local board of education. In 1962, he won election to the Georgia State Senate as a Democrat. He was reelected in 1964. Two years later, he ran for the governor’s office, finishing a disappointing third. The loss sent Carter into a period of depression, which he overcame by finding renewed faith as a born-again Christian. He ran again for the governorship in 1970 and won. A year later, Carter was featured on the cover of Time magazine as one of a new breed of young political leaders in the South, known for their moderate racial views and progressive economic and social policies.

READ MORE: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter's Love Story: From Small Town Sweethearts to the White House

Carter and the Presidential Election of 1976

Carter announced his candidacy for president in 1974, just before his gubernatorial term was up. For the next two years, he traveled around the country making speeches and meeting as many people as possible. His core message was one of values: He called for a return to honesty and an elimination of secrecy in government, and repeatedly told voters, “I’ll never tell a lie.”

At a time when Americans were disillusioned with the executive branch of government in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Carter managed to build a constituency by marketing himself as an outsider to Washington politics. He won the Democratic nomination in July 1976 and chose Senator Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota as his running mate. In the general election, Carter faced Republican incumbent Gerald R. Ford, who had succeeded to the presidency after Richard Nixon’s resignation. In November, Carter won a narrow victory, capturing 51 percent of the popular vote and 297 electoral votes (compared with Ford’s 240).

“Outsider” in Washington

As president, Carter sought to portray himself as a man of the people, dressing informally and adopting a folksy speaking style. He introduced a number of ambitious programs for social and economic reform, and included a relatively large number of women and minorities in his cabinet. Despite Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Congress blocked Carter’s proposal for welfare reform, as well as his proposal for a long-range energy program, a central focus of his administration. This difficult relationship with Congress meant that Carter was unable to convert his plans into legislation, despite his initial popularity.

Carter’s relationship with the public suffered in 1977, when Bert Lance–a close friend of the president whom he had named as director of the Office of Management and Budget–was accused of financial misdealings in his pre-Washington career as a Georgia banker. Carter initially defended Lance, but was later driven to ask for his resignation. Though Lance was later cleared of all charges, the scandal marred the president’s much-vaunted reputation for honesty.

Jimmy Carter’s Leadership Abroad and at Home

In 1977, Carter brokered two U.S. treaties with Panama; the following year, he presided over a tough round of meetings between Egypt’s President Anwar el-Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David. The resulting Camp David Accords ended the state of war between the two nations that had existed since Israel was founded in 1948. Carter also reopened diplomatic relations between the United States and China while breaking ties with Taiwan, and signed a bilateral strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT II) with the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

Throughout his presidency, Carter struggled to combat the nation’s economic woes, including high unemployment, rising inflation and the effects of an energy crisis that began in the early 1970s. Though he claimed an increase of 8 million jobs and a reduction in the budget deficit by the end of his term, many business leaders as well as the public blamed Carter for the nation’s continuing struggles, saying he didn’t have a coherent or effective policy to address them. In July 1979, Carter called a special summit with national leaders at Camp David. His televised speech after the meeting diagnosed a “crisis of confidence” occurring in the country, a mood that he later referred to as a “national malaise.”

READ MORE: How Jimmy Carter Brokered a Hard-Won Peace Deal Between Israel and Egypt

Hostage Crisis and Carter’s Defeat

In November 1979, a mob of Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took its diplomatic staff hostage as a protest against the arrival in the United States of the deposed Iranian shah, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, in order to receive medical treatment. The students had the support of Iran’s revolutionary government, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Carter stood firm in the tense standoff that followed, but his failure to free the hostages during the Iran hostage crisis led his government to be perceived as inept and inefficient; this perception increased after the failure of a secret U.S. military mission in April 1980.

Despite sagging approval ratings, Carter was able to defeat a challenge by Senator Edward Kennedy to win the Democratic nomination in 1980. He was defeated by a large margin in the general election that year by Ronald Reagan, a former actor and governor of California who argued during his campaign that the problem facing the country was not a lack of public confidence, but a need for new leadership.

READ MORE: How the Iran Hostage Crisis Became a 14-Month Nightmare for President Carter

Jimmy Carter’s Post-Presidency Career

With his wife Rosalynn, Carter established the nonprofit, nonpartisan Carter Center in Atlanta in 1982. In the decades that followed, he continued his diplomatic activities in many conflict-ridden countries around the globe. In 1994 alone, Carter negotiated with North Korea to end their nuclear weapons program, worked in Haiti to ensure a peaceful transfer of government and brokered a (temporary) ceasefire between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims.

Carter has also built homes for the poor with the organization Habitat for Humanity and worked as a professor at Emory University. He is the author of numerous books, the topics of which range from his views on the Middle East to memories of his childhood; they also include a historical novel and a collection of poetry. In 2002, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize committee cited his role in helping forge the Camp David accord between Israel and Egypt during his presidency, as well as his ongoing work with the Carter Center.

In 2015, Carter announced he had been diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized. He is the oldest living U.S. president.


President Jimmy Carter's Record on Civil Rights and Race Relations

When Georgian Jimmy Carter won the 1976 presidential race, no politician from the Deep South had been elected since 1844. Despite Carter’s Dixie roots, the incoming president boasted a large Black fan base, having supported Black causes as a lawmaker in his home state. Four out of every five Black voters reportedly backed Carter and, decades later, when the country welcomed its first Black president, Carter continued to speak out about race relations in America. His record on civil rights before and after entering the White House reveal why Carter long garnered support from communities of color.

Jimmy Carter: The Last of the Fiscally Responsible Presidents

Joe Renouard teaches at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Nanjing, China. His most recent book is Human Rights in American Foreign Policy: From the 1960s to the Soviet Collapse. He has also contributed essays toThe Los Angeles Times, The National Interest, American Diplomacy, The Diplomat, The Journal of American Culture, andThe Prague Post.

Popular impressions of Jimmy Carter tend to fall into two broad categories. Many see him as a failed president who mismanaged the economy, presided over a national &ldquomalaise,&rdquo allowed a small band of Iranian militants to humiliate the United States, and ultimately failed to win reelection. His final Gallup presidential approval rating stood at 34%&mdashequal to that of George W. Bush. Among postwar presidents, only Richard Nixon (24%) and Harry Truman (32%) left office with lower approval ratings. As the political scientist John Orman suggested some years ago, Carter&rsquos name is &ldquosynonymous with a weak, passive, indecisive presidential performance.&rdquo For those who hold this view, Carter represents everything that made the late &lsquo70s a real bummer.

His supporters, meanwhile, portray him as a unique visionary who governed by moral principles rather than power politics. They point out that he initiated a groundbreaking human rights policy, forged a lasting Middle East peace agreement, normalized relations with China, pursued energy alternatives, and dived headlong into the most ambitious post-presidency in American history.

Both perspectives have their merits. Yet although even Carter&rsquos admirers would rather ignore his economic record than defend it, popular memory of his economy is off the mark. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, by many indices the U.S. economy did relatively well during Carter&rsquos presidency, and he took his role as steward of the public trust seriously. He kept the national debt in check, created no new entitlements, and steered the nation clear of expensive foreign wars. Whatever else one may think about the man, it is no exaggeration to say that Jimmy Carter was among the last of the fiscally responsible presidents.

Although there is no single measure for evaluating a president&rsquos economic performance, if we combine such standard measures as unemployment, productivity, interest rates, inflation, capital investment, and growth in output and employment, Carter&rsquos numbers were higher than those of his near-contemporaries Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush. &ldquoWhat may be surprising,&rdquo notes the economist Ann Mari May, &ldquois not only that the performance index for the Carter years is close behind the Eisenhower index of the booming 1950s, but that the Carter years outperformed the Nixon and Reagan years.&rdquo Average real GDP growth under Carter was 3.4%, a figure surpassed by only three postwar presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton. Even though unemployment generally increased after the 1960s, the average number of jobs created per year was higher under Carter than under any postwar president.

Particularly noteworthy was Carter&rsquos fiscal discipline. Although Keynesian policies were central to Democratic Party orthodoxy, Carter was a fiscal conservative who touted balanced budgets and anti-inflationary measures. By and large, he stuck to his campaign self-assessment: &ldquoI would consider myself quite conservative . . . on balancing the budget, on very careful planning and businesslike management of government.&rdquo

Under Carter, the annual federal deficit was consistently low, the national debt stayed below $1 trillion, and gross federal debt as a percentage of GDP peaked below forty percent, the lowest of any presidency since the 1920s. During his final year in office, the debt-to-GDPratio was 32% and the deficit-to-GDP ratio was 1.7%. In the ensuing twelve years of Reagan and Bush (1981-1993), the debt quadrupled to over $4 trillion and the debt-to-GDP ratio doubled. The neoliberal policies popularly known as Reaganomics had plenty of fans, but in the process of lowering taxes, reducing federal regulations, and increasing defense spending, conservatives all but abandoned balanced budgets.

The debt increased by a more modest 32% during Bill Clinton&rsquos presidency (Clinton could even boast budget surpluses in his second term) before it ballooned by 101% to nearly $11.7 trillion under George W. Bush. Not only did Bush entangle the U.S. in two expensive wars, but he also convinced Congress to cut taxes and to add an unfunded drug entitlement to the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act. During the Obama presidency, the debt nearly doubled again to $20 trillion. (Obama and Bush&rsquos respective totals depend in part on how one assigns responsibility for the FY2009 stimulus bill.) Under President Trump, the national debt has reached a historic high of over $22 trillion, and policymakers are on track to add trillions more in the next decade.

There are a few major blots on Carter&rsquos economic record. Inflation was a killer. Indeed, much of Carter&rsquos reputation for economic mismanagement stems from the election year of 1980, when the &ldquomisery index&rdquo (inflation plus unemployment) peaked at a postwar high of 21.98. The average annual inflation rate during Carter&rsquos presidency was a relatively high 8% &ndash lower than Ford&rsquos (8.1%), but higher than Nixon&rsquos (6.2%) and Reagan&rsquos (4.5%). The annualized prime lending rate of 11% was lower than Reagan&rsquos (11.6%) but higher than Nixon&rsquos (7.6%) and Ford&rsquos (7.4%). Economist Ann Mari May concurs that while fiscal policy was relatively stable in the Carter years, monetary policy was &ldquohighly erratic&rdquo and represented a destabilizing influence at the end of the 70s.

Carter&rsquos defenders note that he inherited a lackluster economy with fundamental weaknesses that were largely beyond his control, including a substantial trade deficit, declining productivity, the &ldquogreat inflation&rdquo that had begun in the late 1960s, Vietnam War debts, the Federal Reserve&rsquos expansionary monetary policy, growing international competition from the likes of Japan and West Germany, and a second oil shock. &ldquoIt was Jimmy Carter&rsquos misfortune,&rdquo writes the economist W. Carl Biven, &ldquoto become president at a time when the country was faced with its most intractable economic policy problem since the Great Depression: unacceptable rates of both unemployment and inflation&rdquo&mdasha one-two punch that came to be called &ldquostagflation.&rdquo

In response, Carter chose austerity. Throughout the 1970s, Federal Reserve chairmen Arthur F. Burns and G. William Miller had been reluctant to raise interest rates for fear of touching off a recession, and Carter was left holding the bag. After Carter named Paul Volcker as Fed chairman in August 1979, the Fed restricted the money supply and interest rates rose accordingly&mdashthe prime rate reaching an all-time high of 21.5% at the end of 1980. All the while, Carter kept a tight grip on spending. &ldquoOur priority now is to balance the budget,&rdquo he declared in March 1980. &ldquoThrough fiscal discipline today, we can free up resources tomorrow.&rdquo

Unfortunately for Carter, austerity paid few political dividends. As the economist Anthony S. Campagna has shown, Carter could not balance his low tolerance for Keynesian spending with other Democratic Party interests. His administration took up fiscal responsibility, but his constituents wanted expanded social programs. Meanwhile, his ambitious domestic agenda of industrial deregulation, energy conservation, and tax and welfare reform was hindered by his poor relationship with Congress.

The Carter administration might have shown more imagination in tackling these problems, but as many have noted, this was an &ldquoage of limits.&rdquo Carter&rsquos successors seem to have taken one major lesson from his failings: The American public may blame the president for a sluggish economy, but when it comes to debt, the sky&rsquos the limit.

What Were Jimmy Carter's Failures?

Carter failed to capitalize on his early successes, form alliances with Congress and connect with the American people. He also failed to understand how government operated and the importance of compromise. Few presidents have started their term under such favorable political conditions as Carter. With Democrat majorities in both houses, he fulfilled most of his campaign promises within a few months of taking office.

Despite early successes, Carter failed to form alliances with Congressional leaders and secure passage of key legislation. He overlooked high-ranking party members and filled his cabinet with political outsiders who failed to develop working relationships with legislators. He further alienated Congressional leaders by refusing to compromise his ideals or negotiate differences. He refused to engage in “back-door” deals and vetoed bills that he considered wasteful spending. Congress reacted by gutting his tax plans, overriding vetoes and blocking energy initiatives and welfare reform plans.

Carter also failed to translate his early successes into support from the American people, often appearing smug and condescending when he spoke, even to supporters. When he delivered his “malaise” speech during the energy crisis of 1979, he seemed to be scolding the public and blaming them for the crisis rather than proposing solutions or espousing policy. Asking Americans to drive slower, set thermostats lower and do without Christmas lights did little to inspire confidence. After foreign policy failures such as the prolonged Iranian hostage crisis and botched rescue attempt, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games, many Americans saw their government as weak, ineffectual and no longer commanding respect.

Judy Woodruff:

Jimmy Carter is the rare U.S. president who is most lauded for his work after the Oval Office.

But Jonathan Alter argues in his latest book, "His Very Best," that former President Carter's influence inside the White House, might be the most misunderstood in our history.

Jonathan Alter, thank you very much for joining us to talk about your book.

You call Jimmy Carter perhaps the most misunderstood president in American history. I have known, have covered him for a long time. I even covered him before he came to Washington to be president.

What made you so interested in him?

Jonathan Alter:

Well, what happened, Judy, is, I learned some of the details of his achievements at Camp David.

And this was a virtuoso performance. It's the most enduring and significant peace treaty in the world since World War II. And I started to think, if he could pull that off, maybe there's more to Jimmy Carter to &mdash than this kind of easy shorthand, inept president, great former president. And it just got me curious to get beyond that cliche.

And when I started to do the research five years ago, I found that he had actually achieved much more as president than I or I think a lot of other people understood, and that he was a political failure, but a substantive and farsighted success.

Judy Woodruff:

Well, talk about that for a minute. What was it that made him the consequential president that he was? You write about how he was ahead of his time in many regards.

Jonathan Alter:

He signed 14 major pieces of environmental legislation. And he was also the first leader anywhere in the world to think about climate change, which at that time was just in the scientific community.

But it really goes across the board, Judy. There were accomplishments all the way throughout, Jimmy Carter, who introduced and got passed the Ethics in Government Act that first protected whistle-blowers, Inspector Generals Act setting up those offices, FISA courts, FEMA. He established FEMA, did some of the first emergency planning.

I think people know that he created the Departments of Education and Energy, but the list goes on and on.

And in the foreign policy area, despite the failures in terms of getting the hostages out of Iran before the election, which hurt him badly, not only Camp David, but establishing full diplomatic relations with China, which created the bilateral relationship that our world economy is now based on, that was Jimmy Carter.

The Panama Canal treaties prevented a major war in Central America. The human rights policy was historic, helped kick off the democratic revolution around the world, helped end the Cold War, win the Cold War, as a lot of conservatives admitted later on.

But much of this was hard to understand at the time. So his political mistakes kind of overwhelm these achievements.

Judy Woodruff:

But, despite all this, Jon Alter, there were a lot of mistakes. There were embarrassments, mistakes of his own doing, and then a lot of bad luck along with all that.

Jonathan Alter:

So, Jimmy Carter has led this almost novelistic life. It's a real American epic. You know, he was born on a farm where they had no running water, no electricity, essentially in the 19th century.

So, Carter is coming this great distance. And he runs this campaign from zero percent in the polls, gets to the presidency, has a lot of good luck, as well as good timing, because he was running after Watergate as an ethical, moral candidate. But he has good luck.

Then, when he gets to the presidency, especially in the second half of his term, 1979 and '80, he's essentially swamped by events, including economic problems that were very serious and contributed in a major way to his not getting reelected.

He did, though, appoint Paul Volcker, who raised interest rates way above 15 percent, which hurt Carter when he was running for reelection, but, eventually, that harsh medicine ended inflation. So, Reagan got the credit and arguably got reelected in '84 for that, but it was Carter's appointee who accomplished it, Paul Volcker.

And &mdash but just to go to the political problems, he could not unify the Democratic Party. And that challenge by Ted Kennedy from the left in the 1980 primaries, that was very hurtful to Jimmy Carter.

Judy Woodruff:

It was almost everywhere you look, between the Iran hostage crisis, as you mentioned, internationally, the spike in oil prices, the long gas lines, and then, as you mentioned, political problems.

Did you ever figure out, Jon Alter, what drives him? And we should say the man is still alive well into his 90s.

Jonathan Alter:

So, his faith definitely drives him. I devote a fair amount of attention to that. I think even that is very misunderstood. He was a strong believer in the separation of church and state and would not allow any religious-tinged events at the White house. But I also think a sense of atonement drives him.

But his father dies. He comes back to Georgia and &mdash to take over his father's business, farm supply business, get going in politics. And he's ducking the civil rights movement right through that 1970 campaign, even using some code words in that 1970 campaign.

And then, Judy, you were there for one of the most important events of his political career&hellip

Judy Woodruff:

Jonathan Alter:

&hellip when he took the oath and gave his inaugural address as governor of Georgia. And he said, the time for racial discrimination is over.

And you could tell &mdash you said later that you could feel the electricity going through the crowd. It doesn't sound like anything, but it was a huge decision. Then he went on to integrate Georgia.

But then I think he spent the second half of his life, from that moment on, essentially making up for what he did not do in the first half of his life on civil rights. And that can be an inspiration for us, so this faith and this sense of wanting to do as much as he can for as many people as he can in whatever time he has left.

Judy Woodruff:

It certainly seems to be driving him.

So, does he finally, Jon Alter, become like Harry Truman, a president who is appreciated, but decades after he's president, or not? What do you think?

Jonathan Alter:

So, Harry Truman was his favorite president. He put the sign "The buck stops here" right on the desk.

And I'm hoping that I and other authors can contribute to a real reassessment of his presidency. He's not going to be in our first rank of presidents. He made plenty of mistakes, but I do think that historians are now starting to recognize that he got slimed in some ways after he left office, and that there was much more that he achieved than people recognize.

And, of course, we haven't even spoken about his achievements as a former president. He revolutionized the role of former president. Rosalynn Carter is this enormously formidable partner. And I have the love letters, kind of steamy love letters that he wrote her from the Navy.

So, he completely changed the role of first lady. She did much more, for instance, than Eleanor Roosevelt as first lady. And then, after he left office, he revolutionized the role of former president.

But I'm just trying to kind of correct but I'm just trying to kind of correct the balance here and end this notion that he was a lousy president, which is just not true.

Judy Woodruff:

The book is "His Very Best," of course, a play on Jimmy Carter saying when he was running for president, why not the best? It's "His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life," a big contribution to our study of this presidency.

Jonathan Alter:

Judy Woodruff:

And I came to Washington to cover his presidency. And the book is very much worth reading.

Stephen Hess

Senior Fellow Emeritus - Governance Studies

A concern for process is not a bad thing. Some past presidents made a fetish of chaos in policy development, often resulting in proposals that had not been fully explored.

But process is only a tool for getting from here to there—it is not a substitute for substance. And good processes can produce conflicting, competing and confusing programs.

When a president lacks an overriding design for what he wants government to do, his department chiefs are forced to prepare presidential options in a vacuum. Usually this is done by BOGSAT—the acronym for a “bunch of guys sitting around a table.” In other cases, where political executives have not been given some framework in which to function, they will try to impose their own hidden agendas on the president.

Each departmental proposal—whether for welfare reform or tax reform—may or may not be “right,” but there is no reason to expect that automatically it will fall in place with what other departments will be proposing. Ironically, Carter’s procedures assure, by definition, that he cannot deal with the nation’s ills comprehensively.

Political executives and high level civil servants prefer to be loyal to a president. If direction is forthcoming, they will try—successfully or not—to honor a president’s wishes. When direction is not present, they will go into business for themselves.

The Carter presidency cannot be described—as was sometimes true of past administrations—in terms of White House loyalists versus cabinet department disloyalists. Today neither White House staff nor cabinet officials have been given the predictive capacity that they must have to do their jobs properly. A subordinate—even on the cabinet level—has to be able to plan on the basis of some past pattern.

Take government reorganization policy. Some of Carter’s actions support the concept of centralization (energy) some support the concept of decentralization (education). On what basis is an administration planner to design the next reorganization?

Uncertainty radiating from the top, furthermore, lowers morale throughout the permanent government, hence it adversely affects the implementation of programs. While the bureaucracy may be the butt of jokes, it is also the motor force that provides services on a day-to-day basis—and it too looks for consistent signs from a president.

American presidents have not been ideologues. And it is certainly not my notion that Carter should become one. But all modern presidents, whether “liberal” or “conservative”—no matter what their other faults—have had some programmatic view of government in which the specific parts usually could be fitted. This is not the case with Carter’s domestic program, although he does seem to have a firmer view of defense policy (perhaps because of his naval background).

So the basic problem of this administration will not be corrected by rearranging boxes on organization charts or by doing a better selling job to Congress and the public.

What has produced an undistinguished presidency? Jimmy Carter’s failure to set consistent policy goals—or more grandly, a philosophy for government.

Jimmy Carter: American homebrew hero?

The next time you raise a glass of craft beer, make sure you toast former President Jimmy Carter. No, really. You should be offering your suds up to the man who was reported by the media during the 1976 election to be a non-drinker. As crazy as it may seem now, homebrewing used to be illegal and Jimmy Carter actually played a part in changing that, contributing to the craft beer revolution. But that’s just one unexpected facet in the story of how our current beer industry came to be.

The thirteen years of Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933, had been a hard slog of bootleg liquor, moonshine, and yes – homebrewed beer. Before and during Prohibition, many breweries essentially encouraged homebrewing by marketing malt extract. This product could be used as a baking ingredient, but was more often used to homebrew beer. In fact, breweries often included instructions of what not to do with the extract to avoid accidentally producing beer. (Wink, wink.)

As Prohibition approached, the brewing industry created ingredients such as this “beer extract” (aka malt extract) to encourage Americans to brew at home. Advertisement, around 1900. Courtesy of Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Archives Center.

When Prohibition ended in 1933, many homebrewers returned to buying professionally made beer and most homebrewing activities declined. Homebrewing remained illegal at the federal level. Federal regulators were concerned about people using the brewing grain not for beer, but for moonshine, a homemade and highly potent hard liquor. Unlike homebrewed beer, moonshine was often toxic due to impure ingredients and clumsy—if not negligent distilling conditions—when prepared by amateurs, making it proved dangerous. By the 1960s, even with homebrewing’s continued illegality, homebrewing clubs sprang up around the country as hobbyists tried to make beer that was different from the American light lager that was so common at the time.

One of these hobbyists was Charlie Papazian. While studying at the University of Virginia in 1970, a friend’s neighbor who made “Prohibition-style homebrew” introduced Papazian to homebrewing. Papazian found that homebrewed beer tasted more flavorful than the beer he was used to. “I never knew beer could taste like this,” he recalled.

Charlie Papazian’s first recipe for homebrewed beer, “Log Boom Brew" from 1971. (Division of Work and Industry)

After graduating from college in 1972, Papazian moved to Boulder, Colorado, to try to figure out his life plans. Some people there discovered that he knew how to brew beer and asked him to teach a class on homebrewing at the local community free school. The classes were incredibly popular and attracted many curious local residents.

As word spread through newspaper articles, administrators grew concerned that the classes might be attracting the wrong type of attention. “After about the third year…those classes became notorious,” Papazian recounted. “One time at registration for the class, the administration contacted me, and said, ‘You know… there’s a guy, who’s registering for this class. He may be from the ATF.’” The ATF is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms—the law enforcement agency in charge of regulating activities such as homebrewing. As Papazian started the class, a man walked in wearing a dark pair of slacks, a white shirt, and a skinny black tie. Papazian suspected he was the ATF agent right away. Curious as to the agent’s intent, he started the class by making sure to point out the illicit nature of their activity, with a plea for mercy. “I mentioned that it was illegal. But the ATF has better things to do than… to arrest homebrewers that are making homebrew for …home consumption.” As it turned out, the ATF agent wasn’t there to arrest anybody, he just wanted to take the class. “He seemed to enjoy it, but I think his gig was up after three [classes]. So, he had to leave after that.” Luckily, encounters such as this would prove rare as Papazian did not have to wait long for his hobby to become legal.

A spoon used by homebrew pioneer Charlie Papazian from 1974. (Division of Work and Industry)

This is where Jimmy Carter’s role in the story came into play. In 1976, a group of homebrewers in California, where homebrewing had become popular, lobbied Senator Alan Cranston for federal legalization. After two years of failed attempts, Cranston was finally able to incorporate the legislation into a transportation bill to avoid scrutiny. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed HR 1337, legalizing homebrewing at the federal level and giving Carter the unlikely distinction of homebrewing hero. The law took effect on February 1st, 1979, just as Papazian was launching his homebrewing magazine Zymurgy (Zymurgy is a scientific term that is defined as fermentation by yeast) and the American Homebrewers Association. Today, homebrewing is how over 95 percent of craft brewers learn their trade.

Coaster showing the logo of the American Homebrewers Association, founded by Charlie Papazian in 1978. This coaster dates to 1983-1986. (Division of Work and Industry)

Charlie Papazian’s quotes from this article were provided by an oral history recorded in 2017 for the American Brewing History Initiative, a research and collecting initiative to document the history of beer and brewing in the United States. Several artifacts relating to Papazian’s story will go on display for the first time this fall with the reopening of the museum’s refreshed exhibit FOOD: Transforming the American Table in late October 2019.

John Harry was an intern at the National Museum of American History.

The American Brewing History Initiative is made possible through generous support from the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers.

#6 He took several measures to counter the adverse effects on environment

Jimmy Carter signed several bills which aimed to improve the environment. On August 3, 1977, he signed into law the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA). The SMCRA regulated the environmental effects of coal mining in the U.S. through the creation of two programs: one for regulating active coal mines and a second for reclaiming abandoned mine lands. On December 2, 1980, President Carter signed into law the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The Act doubled the amount of public land set aside for national parks and wildlife refuges. Jimmy Carter also established the Superfund through the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. The Superfund is a United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants.

Carter and Human Rights, 1977–1981

Jimmy Carter campaigned for the presidency in 1976 promising substantial changes in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. He intended to infuse a new morality in American diplomacy, one grounded in the pursuit of human rights.Carter made this cause explicit in his January 20, 1977, inaugural address: “Because we are free, we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere. Our moral sense dictates a clear-cut preference for those societies which share with us an abiding respect for individual human rights.” The Carter administration thus articulated, devised, and implemented a human rights strategy that would serve as the cornerstone of Carter’s foreign policy.

Criticism of human rights abuses in other nations served as an early indication that Carter’s inaugural address marked an ideological shift in U.S. foreign policy. During the early weeks of the administration, officials spoke out against harassment and human rights violations in Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Uganda.When asked at a January 31, 1977, press conference if the administration would continue to address specific human rights issues or exert quiet diplomatic pressure, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance explained that the United States “will speak frankly about injustice, both at home and abroad,” while avoiding strident and polemical language. Vance cautioned, though, that the administration would not “comment on each and every issue” but would comment “when we see a threat to human rights” and when it was “constructive to do so.” The administration also linked human rights concerns directly to the conduct of foreign policy, including support for a bill halting importation of Rhodesian chrome and the reduction of foreign aid to other nations that did not display sufficient respect for human rights.

Carter further defined these efforts in a series of public addresses delivered in early 1977. These speeches also afforded Carter the opportunity to explain why and how his administration promoted human rights. Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly on March 17, 1977, the President asserted that the United States had a “historical birthright” to be associated with human rights. While the United States had not always lived up to this ideal, Carter identified several steps to rectify U.S. shortcomings “quickly and openly,” including the liberalization of travel policies and the signing and ratification of international human rights covenants. In his May 22, 1977, commencement address, delivered at Notre Dame University, Carter drew a distinction between his policy and the policies of his predecessors, noting that they had pursued the “flawed and erroneous principles and tactics of our adversaries.” As a result, the United States had moved away from its core values. The interdependent world of the 1970s required a “new American foreign policy” grounded in cardinal principles, including the “commitment to human rights as a fundamental tenet of our foreign policy.” The Notre Dame address served as a comprehensive statement and justification of Carter’s human rights policy.

Vance refined the policy in an April 30, 1977, address at the University of Georgia Law School. He promoted adherence to three human rights categories—the right to be free from government violation of the integrity of the person the right to fulfill vital needs such as food, shelter, and education and civil and political rights. Vance explained flexibility characterized implementation of policy, depending on the details of particular cases. The United States had to accept limits in pursuing human rights a rigid approach to imposing U.S. values on other nations would not allow the United States to achieve its objectives in this area.

These public declarations coincided with and guided the administration’s effort to translate Carter’s commitment into a broader strategy. In May 1977, the administration issued Presidential Review Memorandum/NSC 28, which directed a review of U.S. human rights policy in order to define policy objectives, evaluate actions designed to improve rights, review national security considerations, and propose implementing actions. The completed PRM/NSC 28 study’s recommendations formed the basis for Presidential Directive 30, issued in February 1978. Noting that a major objective of U.S. foreign policy should be the observance of global human rights, Presidential Directive 30 outlined specific guidelines for U.S. human rights policy and indicated the types of rights the United States would protect. The United States would use “the full range of diplomatic tools,” including public statements, consultations with allies, and cooperation with non-governmental actors and international organizations. The directive linked economic and military assistance to the human rights records of the recipients countries with good or improving records would receive favorable consideration, while those nations with poor or deteriorating records would not. Presidential Directive 30 thus formally defined U.S. policy on human rights.

Implementing the administration’s human rights strategy required the Department of State to modify existing institutional structures. Legislation enacted during the Gerald R. Ford administration created the position of Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, located within the Deputy Secretary of State’s office. The Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs also included a Deputy Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and coordinators for Refugee and Migration Affairs and POW/MIA Affairs.Carter selected Patricia Murphy Derian, a civil rights activist, to serve as Coordinator, upon the retirement of Coordinator James Wilson. By the end of 1977, the Department of State established the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and elevated Derian to Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Foreign Service officers with regional and topical expertise staffed the Bureau, which, over time, added additional offices for country reports, asylum, and refugee and migration affairs. Managing the human rights country reports process existed as one of the main responsibilities of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. These reports on the status of human rights practices were initially limited to countries receiving security and economic assistance but later extended to apply to all countries. The Department of State released the annual reports to the public, and Derian testified before Congress concerning the administration’s views of the human rights record of particular countries.

Managing human rights policy also required the administration to establish new coordinating and evaluation mechanisms. To ensure that all bureaus engaged on human rights issues, Vance tasked Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher with creating a Human Rights Coordinating Group (HRCG), consisting of Department of State officials at the deputy assistant secretary level, to serve as an “internal mechanism” for decision-making. Recognizing that the United States could not examine economic and security assistance decisions in a vacuum, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Zbigniew Brzezinski directed Vance and Secretary of the Treasury W. Michael Blumenthal to establish a group—the Interagency Working Group on Human Rights and Foreign Assistance—to evaluate, on a case-by-case basis, bilateral and multilateral aid decisions as they related to human rights and to provide guidance to ensure a unified government position on aid decisions. Brzezinski had also established within the National Security Council (NSC) a Global Issues Cluster responsible for overseeing issues such as human rights and arms control.

Jimmy Carter - HISTORY

Jimmy Carter, born James Earl Carter Jr., was the 39th president of the United States, whose four-year term spanned from 1977-1981. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy in human rights, and to promote social and economic development.”

In office, President Carter created new Cabinet departments: the Departments of Energy and Education. With his national energy policy, conservation, price control and new energy technologies were adapted, contributing to the progress and development that America still enjoys today. He was also active in foreign affairs, playing a major role in the Camp David Accords, which resolved the disputes between Israeli and Arabic countries. His other accomplishments in foreign conflict resolutions included involvement in the Panama Canal treaties and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks with the Soviet Union.

Early Life and Career

President Carter was born on October 1, 1924 in a small city called Plains, in Georgia. His parents were James Earl Carter, Sr., a well-established local businessman, and Bessie Lillian Gordy, who worked as a nurse. He is the eldest of four children and was considered a clever student who was greatly fond of reading.

Carter was also an achiever during his high school years, excelling in academics and the field of sports alike. He was one of Plains High Schools star athletes in basketball and was a member of the National Future Farmers of America, where he served as the secretary of the organization’s chapter in Plains.

Carter attended college at Georgia Southwestern College, Georgia Institute of Technology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. He then pursued a career of service in the Navy, starting as a member of the submarine crew which served the Navy’s ships in the Atlantic and the Pacific. He then rose to the rank of lieutenant and was chosen by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the development of the U.S. nuclear submarine program. After taking up graduate studies in reactor technology and nuclear physics, Carter was appointed as a senior officer in charge of the pre-commissioning works of the Seawolf U.S. nuclear submarine.

Carter continued to serve under the U.S. Navy, being assigned on both submarines and ships of the Atlantic and Pacific fleets. With his experience and drive to excel in the career further, he acquired qualifications to command submarine operations. He aspired to be assigned the U.S. nuclear submarine program, assuming that this would be a great career move due to the fact that nuclear power options were increasingly applied in modern submarine technology. His ultimate career goal was to be the Chief of Naval Operations and felt that an extensive experience in nuclear marine technology was the fastest and most credible route to attain the promotion. He continued working on a prototype for a nuclear submarine propulsion system while stationed in Schenectady, New York.

Carter was also involved in resolving a nuclear-related accident that happened on December 12, 1952. The NRX reactor at the Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories experienced a meltdown, causing dangerous volumes of radioactive liquid to spill because of the explosion. The NRX reactor was deemed unusable, and Carter was assigned to lead the U.S. team in helping both American and Canadian teams in the risky business of shutting down the NRX reactor. The Chalk River experience was a great influence on Carter’s views on nuclear capabilities and limitations, and led to his decision of not pursuing the U.S. neutron bomb program during his presidency.

President Carter was forced to end his pursuit of a naval career due to his father’s death in July, 1953. The family needed someone to run his father’s business of selling farm and fertilizer supplies. With hard, manual labor and with the assistance of his wife, Rosalynn Smith, who assisted in the business’ bookkeeping, he turned his father’s meager business into a profitable general farm supply operation.

The success of the business made Carter one of the most successful businessmen in Plains. Running the business also enabled him to be involved more directly in the community’s affairs. He was chosen as chairman of the country school board and was elected the first president of the Georgia Planning Association. These new experiences in community leadership were what began Carter’s journey towards a political career.

Carter and Politics

Carter began his political career by being elected in the Georgia Senate in 1962. He had his first brush with the political arena in 1966, with his first gubernatorial campaign in 1966. As a senator of the 14th District of Georgia, he served as the chairman of the Senate’s Educational Committee.

Carter wanted to run for the United States House of Representatives, but opted to campaign for the gubernatorial seat of Georgia. Despite losing his first gubernatorial bid, Carter was viewed to be a strong candidate and his third-place finish in the election could be considered a great success for his young political career. Carter was elected as Georgia’s 76th governor in 1971. Besides undertaking the duties of the governor of the state, he also served other leadership positions such as chairing the Southern Regional Education Board, the Appalachian Regional Commission, The Coastal Plains Regional Action Planning Commission and the Southern Growth Policies Board. He strongly opposed racial discrimination and supported reforms in running government affairs. These reforms encourage efficiency in government operations by reorganizing state agencies, providing equal educational aid among all schools in Georgia, establishing community centers for differently-abled children and implementing educational programs for those in prison. He also introduced a program for appointing state government and judiciary officials that proclaimed all appointments be based on credentials and merit, instead of biased political favors.

The Presidential Campaign

After three years of serving in the U.S. Senate, Carter announced his intent to run for the country’s presidential seat on December 12, 1974. He was perceived as an underdog of the presidential race since he was less-known than the other nationally-recognized candidates and politicians. He even had a name recognition rate of only two percent. However, his under-popularity, becoming an outsider and being distant from Washington D.C. proved to be an asset in winning the presidential election. The people wanted a new face and a new brand of leadership for the White House rather than the traditional politicians it had had before. Carter’s political platform was mainly centered on government reorganization and a more progressive and responsive government for the public.

Carter’s chance of winning the U.S. presidency was evident even during the early stages of the election. He led the election early by winning the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. He pushed his campaign faster than any other candidate, beating them to campaigning in all major regions even before his opponents could begin to do the same. He travelled at least a total of 50,000 miles, covered 37 states and delivered at least 2,000 speeches, turning the tables on his previously low popularity. Through his extensive efforts in the presidential campaign, he was noticed by the media, boosting his popularity many times over. The positive media coverage Carter had took him to the top of opinion polls. In just a matter of nine months, Carter rose to an unknown political figure to the candidate to beat in the elections. He was also perceived to be as the only Democrat who had a true national strategy, and so he won the prestigious seat in the Oval Office on January 20, 1977 by defeating Gerald Ford. His winning the Presidential elections made him the first U.S. President from the Deep South in over a hundred years, since the 1848 election.

Carter’s Presidential Office

President Carter won the election over Gerald Ford in 1976. However, it was a time of various crises, such as the continuing rise of inflation, economic recession and energy problems. To address these issues, Carter signed laws to bail out ailing corporations important to the American economy such as Chrysler. He also led government austerity measures by canceling military pay raises and encouraged energy conservation. He also led the plan to deregulate the airline industry, allowing businesses to enter and promote lower flight rates for passengers through competition. He even implemented the use of solar panels in the White House to lead in addressing the country’s energy crisis.

One of President Carter’s key accomplishments on the national level was handling a national emergency of the Love Canal located in the city of Niagara Falls in New York. There were at least 800 families saved from toxin and radiation exposure, as they were unknowingly living atop a toxic waste landfill. By virtue of the Superfund Law, government funds were used to demolish at least 500 houses, schools and structures sitting on the toxic area. This prompted the search for more similar cases across the country in order to rescue citizens from disease and ailments that may be caused by these harmful radiations.

Carter’s presidential term is also highlighted by his accomplishments in foreign conflict resolutions. One key involvement of President Carter was in calming the differences between Israeli and Arabic countries which was done through the Camp David Accords. He also passed the jurisdiction of the Panama Canal to the government of Panama, and signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, or SALT, with the Soviet Union to control the nuclear arms possessed by both the U.S. and the USSR, which were considered the world’s nuclear superpowers.

His final year as President, which was on 1980, was marred by the Iran Hostage Crisis, wherein 50 U.S. nationals were held hostage for 444 days by a group of Islamic militants. Because of failed negotiations, the U.S. opted to use military force to rescue the hostages. Unfortunately, the mission was a failure, resulting in the deaths of eight U.S. soldiers and one Iranian civilian, and the destruction of two U.S. aircrafts. This and other factors contributed to his unsuccessful campaign for reelection. Coupled with opposition against stronger candidates and the dwindling support for the groups who played a major role in his first victory, Carter lost his bid for reelection to Ronald Reagan.

Life outside the White House

Jimmy Carter went back to the domestic life by going back to Georgia to manage his peanut farm. However, his problems were not over because his trustees had mismanaged the business, leaving Carter with over a million dollars in debt. He then lived an active life, writing books, teaching at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and establishing the Carter Center with the end view of protecting human rights, promoting democracy and supporting fair elections. The Carter Center also worked to help those in need of medical aid, and to promote developments in global health such as eradication of disease. Research and development from the Carter Center led to the elimination of the guinea worm disease which had previously affected 3.5 million victims. Retaining the Carter legacy on resolving conflicts, the Center continued to help mediate in international conflicts in Haiti, Bosnia, North Korea, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The Nobel Peace Prize

Jimmy Carter’s efforts in running the Carter Center to “find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy in human rights, and to promote economic and social development” awarded him the highly-coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. He is the only U.S. president to win the Prize after his presidential term and only one of the two native Georgians, aside from Martin Luther King, Jr. to receive the prestigious award.

Civilian Life

Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn continues to work for helping those in need. Besides the Carter Center, they also do volunteer work for the Habitat for Humanity, a Georgia-based organization that helps low-income people to buy and build decent homes. Carter teaches Sunday school and is actively involved as a deacon in the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains.

Jimmy Carter enjoys woodworking, painting, fishing, tennis and skiing in his spare time. He and Rosalynn have three sons and one daughter, who gave them eight grandsons, three granddaughters and two great-grandsons. Seemingly following their dad’s footsteps, their two sons also pursued political careers, the eldest, Jack, being the Democratic nominee for the U.S. senate in Nevada in 2006, and Jason, being elected to the Georgia State Senate in 2010.

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Watch the video: President Jimmy Carter Is Still Praying For Donald Trump (August 2022).