In honor of former President Jimmy Carter’s 95th birthday Oct. 1, I would like to take a moment to discuss the most underrated president in modern U.S. history. His presidency is often considered a failure, despite all of its successes. Carter was ahead of his time with his foresight into climate change and human rights, serving as president from 1977 to 1981. It would be difficult to find someone who cares more about this nation than Carter.
During his presidency, Carter was a proponent for the use of alternative energy and renewable resources. His background and thorough knowledge of agriculture motivated these changes. He worked harder during his term to prevent climate change than we are today. He pledged $10 billion to improve public transit systems to reduce the use of single-occupant vehicles and lower carbon dioxide output. He was also the first president to install solar panels at the White House. Carter even had 1,000 square meters of solar panels providing heat at his inauguration.
The former president said in a speech in 1980, “Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense, I tell you it is an act of patriotism.” Carter aimed to obtain 20 percent of the U.S.’ energy needs from renewables by the millennium. We should take notes from Carter’s book and begin to care more for our planet.
President Carter’s strong suit was foreign policy, despite his reputation and involvement with the Iran Hostage Crisis. Carter was responsible for the first Middle East treaty between Israel and Egypt, according to his former domestic policy advisor, Stuart Eizenstat. The Camp David Treaty was a beacon to the successes in his presidency partly because it was deemed impossible. He also worked to improve the U.S.’ foreign relationships. He established a diplomatic relationship with China and granted Panama control over the Panama Canal, finishing Nixon’s work. Outside of the White House, the 39th president continues to work on a global scale.
The Carter Center, founded in 1982 by Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, is committed “to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health,” according to its website. Even beyond the presidency, Carter combines his skills and passions to improve human lives across the planet.
The Carter Center works on developing nations by providing access to clean water and healthcare. It also aims to promote democracy by overseeing elections. As well as co-founding the Carter Center, the former president received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 due to “decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”
Carter serves locally by leading Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown, Plains, Georgia, and builds Habitat for Humanity homes. Despite breaking his hip in May, the Georgia native will be constructing houses again this year. The former president won’t let anything get in his way of serving his fellow Americans.
We should all strive to be more like Carter. Find something you’re passionate about and devote your life to it. Whether it’s climate change, human rights, healthcare, democracy or all of the above, we can make the world a better place by following role models like Carter.
Happy birthday, President Carter. Thank you for your service.
Hannah Whitaker is a UF English junior.