TJimmy Carter, the only president to ever set foot in North Korea, has been back in the news. A New York Times article (Oct. 21, 2017) states, “The 93-year-old would like to pull another rabbit out of a hat — just not a killer rabbit — and enter into a productive partnership with Donald Trump over North Korea.” Carter, who has indicated his willingness to be included in a U.S. delegation, said, “I had a representative from the White House who came down and gave me the latest developments with North Korea.” according to a CNN article (March 23, 2018). It would seem surprising for Carter to participate in diplomatic talks with Kim Jong-un, but surprising things can happen and nobody knows that better than Jimmy Carter. He beat the odds two years ago by beating his brain cancer diagnosis … as well as 40 years ago when he jumped from his peanut farm to the White House. It was the Watergate Scandal that propelled Jimmy Carter to the presidency. He announced his candidacy in 1974, and spent the next two years travelling around the country speaking and meeting as many people as possible and campaigned as an outsider. His core message was one of values and, at a time when Americans were disgusted with Washington politics, he repeatedly told voters, “I’ll never tell a lie.” Ultimately, in the 1976 general election, Carter faced Republican incumbent Gerald R. Ford, who had assumed the presidency following Nixon’s resignation. Carter won both the popular and electoral vote. Born in Plains, Georgia in 1924, James Earle “Jimmy” Carter Jr. attended and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Shortly after graduating in 1946 he married Rosalynn Smith, also of Plains and the couple had four children. Following a seven-year career in the Navy, Carter returned home to rebuild his family’s struggling peanut warehouse business. As president, in 1977 Carter brokered two U.S. treaties with Panama. The next year, at Camp David, Carter presided over meetings between Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt’s President Anwar el-Sadat. The result was the Camp David Accords and an end to a 30-year war between the two nations. Carter also reopened diplomatic relations between the United States and China, and signed a bilateral strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT II) with Soviet leader Brezhnev. Throughout Carter’s presidency, he struggled to combat the country’s economic woes, which included high unemployment, rising inflation and the lingering effects of an energy crisis that originated in the early 1970s. 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 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 defeated Senator Edward Kennedy to win the Democratic nomination. But in the 1980 general election Ronald Reagan bested Carter by a large majority. Iran finally released the hostages on January 21, 1981, the day after Ronald Reagan′s inauguration. Reagan invited former President Carter to greet the freed hostages in Germany. With his wife Rosalynn, Carter established the nonprofit, nonpartisan Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta in 1982. In the decades that followed, he continued his diplomatic activities in many conflict-ridden countries all around the world. As an example of the center’s efforts, 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 spends one week each year building homes with the organization Habitat for Humanity and serves as Distinguished Professor at Emory University. He is the author of numerous books, 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.
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