Jimmy Carter

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Democratic Values
Habitat for Humanity
As President of the United States, Carter is perhaps most well known as an advocate of human rights who attempted to improve peace in the U.S. and the world. Following his presidency, Carter continued to promote peace, human rights and opportunities for the underprivileged and has been deeply involved with Habitat for Humanity since 1984 (a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating substandard housing).

Lisa A. Bancuk

Definition/Life Highlights

Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States, serving in office from 1977-1981. Carter was involved with human rights and social justice issues and continues his efforts in these areas today.

During his time in office, Carter had a number of achievements at home. He established a national policy to deal with energy shortages, and combated economic inflation and unemployment. He was also involved in environmental issues and expanded the national park system by adding Alaskan lands. He created the Department of Education and strengthened the Social Security system. He also appointed a record number of minorities and women to government jobs.

In foreign affairs, Carter had a number of successes in the area of foreign affairs. In 1978, the Camp David agreement created genial relations between Egypt and Israel. Though relations with the Soviet Union were tense, Carter negotiated the SALT II nuclear limitation treaty. Additionally, he secured ratification of the Panama Canal treaties and established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.

Yet, Carter had serious setbacks in the area of foreign policy. "The seizure of hostages of the U.S. embassy staff in Iran dominated the news during the last 14 months of the administration. The consequences of Iran's holding Americans captive, together with continuing inflation at home, contributed to Carter's defeat in 1980" (The White House).

Historic Roots

James Earl Carter Jr. (Jimmy Carter) was born in Plains, Georgia on October 1, 1924. Carter graduated from the Navel Academy in Annapolis in 1946. He married Rosalynn Smith after graduating. They have four children, John William, James Earl III, Donnel Jeffrey, and Amy Lynn.

Carter was a naval officer for seven years. In 1962, he became involved with state politics and was elected Governor of Georgia eight years later. When he was governor he focused on the removal of racial barriers, ecology and the efficiency of government.

In 1974, he announced his bid for the Presidency. He chose Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale as his running mate. Carter defeated incumbent President Gerald R. Ford by receiving 297 of the 538 electoral votes.

Carter focused on the U.S. economy, unemployment, and foreign affair policies during his term in the White House. Carter could claim nearly eight million additional jobs and a decrease in the budget deficit, (measured as a percentage of the gross national product). However, interest rates were at near record highs and trying to reduce them triggered a short recession. These factors helped contribute to President Carter's defeat in 1980 by Ronald Reagan.


After Jimmy Carter left office, he continued to promote peace, human rights and opportunities for the underprivileged. In 1982, he founded the Carter Center in Atlanta. "The Center has initiated projects in more than 65 countries to resolve conflicts, prevent human rights abuses, build democracy, improve health, and revitalize urban areas" (The White House).

Jimmy Carter has been deeply involved with Habitat for Humanity since 1984. Habitat is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating substandard housing. The organization is responsible for building over 100,000 homes worldwide. Volunteers work with future homeowners to build or renovate homes. The houses are then sold to partner families at no profit and no interest is charged on the 15-20 year mortgage. The money goes back to the Habitat for Humanity Fund and supports future projects (Habitat for Humanity).

Through Habitat for Humanity, Carter sponsors the Jimmy Carter Work Project, an annual event in which volunteers donate a week of their time to build homes and raise awareness of the critical need for affordable housing. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter devote time yearly at various locations and work with volunteers from around the world. They work with volunteers to raise funds, publicize Habitat for Humanity and recruit volunteers.

Key Related Ideas

Human Rights
Nonprofit Organizations
Fund Raising

Important Related Nonprofit Organizations

America's Promise - The Alliance For Youth: www.americaspromise.org
Children's Defense Fund
The National Mentoring Partnership: www.mentoring.org
Points of Light Foundation: www.pointsoflight.org
Public/Private Ventures
United Way of America
Youth Link


  • Brinkley, Douglas. The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond The White House. New York: Viking Penguin, 1999.
  • Carter, Jimmy. Talking Peace: A Vision for the Next Generation. New York: Duttons Children's Book, 1993.
  • Carter, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. Everything to Gain: Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life. New York: Random House, 1987.
  • Habitat for Humanity. Jimmy Carter and Habitat http://www.habitat.org/how/carter.aspx 
  • The White House. Jimmy Carter, Thirty-Ninth President, 1977-1981 [online]. Available: www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/jc39.html. (30 March 2001).


This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at Grand Valley State University. It is offered by Learning To Give and Grand Valley State University.