Our 39th President, Jimmy Carter, billed himself as a simple peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia – and he was. Carter is definitely not one of our country’s most popular, and surely his name does not live in infamy as others have, but perhaps it was his simple life, his simple family beliefs and his simple message of peace and common sense that resonated all those many years ago.
His presidential library is quite unassuming and tracks his life from his humble beginnings as the son of peanut farmers, through his naval career and into his political career, first as Georgia State Senator, then governor and later as a dark horse presidential nominee (with 2% name recognition). As president, his downhome brand of honesty and impeccable integrity helped our country heal after one of the greatest political scandals (Watergate) in history.
His presidential accomplishments were minimal, facing and focusing the country on many of the issues with which we continue to struggle today. But, it’s been Carter’s impact since he lost in his reelection campaign in 1980 that has changed the world.
His presidential library is next door to the Carter Center. The center was founded by Carter and his wife Rosalynn in partnership with Emory University in 1982 and, according to its website, works to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. The organization has helped improve the life for people in more than 70 countries. Jimmy Carter even won the 2002 Nobel Peace prize for his work in developing peaceful solutions for international conflicts.
The organization has observed elections in 33 countries to ensure legitimacy, they hold annual conferences on human rights issues and have mediated major international conflicts on almost every continent. The Carter Center has helped to reduce the instance of Guinea Worm Disease (caused by impure water) from 3.5 million in 1986 to less than 4,000 in 2009, and raise awareness of onchocerciasis (river blindness) caused by black flies, providing over 125 million doses of treatment thus reducing the spread of the disease in 11 countries.
The Carter Center and Jimmy Carter continue to prove the unfortunate fact that sometimes a great man can make more impact outside of politics than in.