Jimmy Carter, already the oldest living U.S. president in history, turns 98 Saturday with family and friends in the small town of Plains, Georgia, where he and his wife Rosalynn, 95, were born in the world The First War and the Great Depression.
His latest milestone is the Carter Center, established by the 39th president and former first lady after one of their White House terms, marking 40 years of promoting democracy and conflict resolution, monitoring elections and promoting public health in the developing world.
The former president’s grandson Jason Carter, who now leads the Carter Center board, described his grandfather as an outspoken Christian who was happy with his life and legacy.
“He’s celebrating his 98th birthday and believes in God’s plan for him,” said the 47-year-old young Carter. “It’s a wonderful blessing for all of us, and personally, he feels calm and happy.” Been there, where are you going. “
Carter Center leader said the former president, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and survived a severe fall at home in 2019, enjoyed reading well-wishers around the world even before his actual birthday via social media and the center Congratulatory message sent by the website. But Jason Carter said his grandfather was looking forward to a simple day that included watching his favorite Major League Baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, on TV.
“Even though everyday life is more difficult now, he still accepts it 100 percent,” Jason Carter said. “But I promise one thing. He’s going to watch all the Warriors games this weekend.”
James Earl Carter Jr. won the 1976 presidential election after starting his campaign as a little-known one-term governor of Georgia. His stunning performance in the Iowa caucus put the small Midwestern state at the center of presidential politics. Carter went on to defeat President Gerald Ford in the general election, largely by sweeping the South before his hometown turned heavily against the Republican Party.
A Naval Academy alum, naval officer and peanut grower, Carter largely won by promising never to lie to voters tired of the Vietnam War and Watergate, which led to Richard Nixon’s death in 1974 resign from the presidency. Four years later, unable to control inflation and assuage voter anger over the taking of American hostages in Iran, Carter lost 44 states to Ronald Reagan. In 1981, at the age of 56, he returned to Georgia.
The former first couple began planning the Carter Center almost immediately. It opened in Atlanta in 1982, the former president’s first. Mission Statement: To advance peace, human rights and public health around the world. Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. He traveled abroad in his 80s and 90s before officially retiring from the board in 2020.
Chief Executive Paige Alexander said the center has monitored elections in 113 countries since it opened, and Carter has acted as a solo facilitator in many countries. The Carter Center’s efforts have nearly eradicated dracunculiasis, a parasite that spreads through unclean drinking water and causes suffering in humans. Rosalynn Carter has a plan to reduce stigma around mental health conditions.
“He’s enjoying his retirement,” said Alexander, who took on her role in 2020 when Jason Carter succeeded his grandfather. But “he spent a lot of time thinking about the projects he started and the ones we’re continuing.”
Alexander cited the eradication of guinea worm as a highlight. Carter set the target in 1986, when there were about 3.5 million cases per year in 21 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. So far this year, there have been six known cases in the two countries, Alexander said.
In 2019, Carter used his last annual message at the center to lament that he has remained largely silent on climate change since he became president. Jason Carter said the center’s leadership is still exploring ways to tackle the climate crisis. But he did not provide a timetable. “We’re not going to repeat other effective efforts,” Carter said, explaining that one of the center’s strategic principles is to prioritize why and where other advocacy groups are not involved.
Here are five things to know about the 39th president of the United States.
Perhaps the most unpredictable development in terms of elections and democracy is that Jimmy Carter lived to see the center turn its efforts inward. The center now has programs to combat mistrust in the American democratic process. Carter Center staff monitored Georgia’s 2020 recount of the state’s U.S. presidential vote after then-President Donald Trump argued the results were rigged. Multiple recounts in Georgia and other states confirmed the legitimacy of a Joe Biden victory.
“Certainly, we never thought that we would end up back home with democracy and conflict resolution around our elections,” Jason Carter said. “(But) we can’t be this incredible organization for democracy and human rights overseas without making sure we increase our voice and our expertise in the United States.”
Ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, the center has asked candidates — regardless of party affiliation — to sign off on a set of fair election principles, including a commitment to a peaceful transfer of power. Among those who signed the pledge: the governor of Georgia. Republican Brian Kemp and his Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams.
Carter himself has largely stayed out of politics. Democrats shunned him for years after his 1980 defeat. He has bounced back in the recent election cycle, attracting visits from several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and, in 2021, President Joe Biden, who was the first to endorse Carter’s presidential bid in 1976. U.S. Senator. With inflation now at its highest level since the late 1970s and early 1980s, some Republicans are again using Carter as a line of attack against Biden and Democrats.
Jason Carter said the former president reads and watches the news every day and sometimes takes calls or visits from politicians. However, he added that the former president is not expected to make a public appearance in support of any candidate until November.
“He feels like the people he’s closest to right now are the people in Plains, at his church and elsewhere,” Jason Carter said. “But, you know, his partner doesn’t. 1, 2, 3 is my grandma, right? His friends, many of his advisors, and people with whom he’s accomplished so much in the past outlived him, but they’ve gone from Not alone because they always had each other.”
Associated Press reporter Alex Sands contributed to this report.