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If you like Jimmy Carter's story, you might also like:
Norman Borlaug,
George H.W. Bush,
Johnnetta Cole,
Millard Fuller,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Mikhail Gorbachev,
Frank M. Johnson,
Shimon Peres,
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,
Robert S. Strauss
and Andrew Young

Jimmy Carter's recommended reading: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Jimmy Carter also appears in the video:
President George Bush: Lessons of Leadership

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Jimmy Carter in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Advocacy & Citizenship
Tolerance
What is a Leader
Global Conflicts

Related Links:
Jimmy Carter Library
The White House
PBS

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Jimmy Carter
 
Jimmy Carter
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Jimmy Carter Interview

Nobel Prize for Peace

October 25, 1991
Atlanta, Georgia

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  Jimmy Carter

When you were growing up, what did you think you would do with your life?


Jimmy Carter: From the time I was five years old, if you had asked me, "What are you going to do when you grow up?" I would have said, "I want to go to the Naval Academy, get a college education, and serve in the U.S. Navy." My family had all been farmers for 350 years in this country. Working people, and no member of my father's family had ever finished high school, so this was an ambition that seemed like a dream then. It was during the Depression years, in the late '30s and '40s, and a college education was looked upon as financially impossible. The only two choices we had were to go to West Point or Annapolis, where the government paid for the education. I had a favorite uncle who was in the Navy, so I chose Annapolis. But that was my standard answer, from which I never deviated until I was 18 years old and went to college to prepare and then I went on to Annapolis.


Jimmy Carter Interview Photo
Did you ever want to be anything else, like a policeman or a fire fighter?

Jimmy Carter: Not really. I always had a pretty singular commitment then, not knowing that I would serve a while in the Navy and then get involved in other things. But the college challenge, or dream, was very vivid to me. If I hadn't gotten into the Naval Academy, then I would probably have become a college professor and gone on to graduate work. But as a child, I had a single-minded commitment to go to Annapolis.

At some point you got out of the Navy and became interested in politics. What attracted you to that?

Jimmy Carter: I was in the Navy 11 years, counting the three years at the Naval Academy. And then when I did resign, I came home.



I was influenced by my father, who, in the tiny village of Plains and the surrounding farming community, played a very vital role -- in the church, he was on the local school board, he was on the local hospital authority. He had run for the legislature, served in the House of Representatives. When my daddy was dying, I got off from my work as one of the young officers working with Admiral Hyman Rickover in the nuclear program then. I saw that my daddy's life was very extensive and very valuable to people. So when I went home, I pretty well emulated what he had been doing. I got involved in a lot of things that I need not describe right now, one of which was to be chairman of the local school board -- the county school board -- during the integration years, very difficult times. And some of the major politicians in Georgia, even those that were looked upon as being moderate, were promising that if one black child went into the public school system, they would close it down. The main candidate for governor, his slogan was "No, not one," and he would hold up one finger to indicate this. So, I decided that I could, if I went to the Georgia Senate, which was reapportioned that year, that I might help protect the school system. So when I was finally elected and got to Atlanta, my only request in the Senate was to be put on the Education Committee, and I very quickly became the chairman of the University Committee. But it was because of that interest in education that I decided to go into politics.


Farming is hard work, and so is being in the Navy, but they must have looked pretty good when you saw how hard campaigning for political office was.


Jimmy Carter: People ask me, "How did you stand the long campaigning? How did you stand being charged with the responsibilities of a great nation, one of the most powerful and difficult jobs in the world?" It wasn't any more difficult than picking cotton all day or shaking peanuts. There is an equality there. If you have a task to perform and are vitally interested in it, excited and challenged by it, then you will exert maximum energy. But in the excitement, the pain of fatigue dissipates, and the exuberance of what you hope to achieve overcomes the reluctance.

[ Key to Success ] Passion


Was there one experience or event that inspired you as a young man?


Jimmy Carter: My father, although admirable in many ways, measured by modern day standards, would have been looked upon as very conservative on the race issue, which was a way of life in Georgia then. Mother never paid any attention to that. We lived in a remote area outside of Plains, a little community called Archery. It was during the Depression years, as I've said already. Mother, being a registered nurse, acted almost as a medical doctor for the poor families around Archery. They would come to my mother, and she also did nursing duties in the hospital nearby. But she would help them with childbirth or with illnesses without any charge. I could see that my mother broke down the barriers of race discrimination at that time. I think that made more of an impression on me. My daddy was a very dominant person in the family, but in the relationship between mother and our black neighbors, which was quite startling for the Plains community of those days, my father could not dominate my mother, and I think that was an inspirational aspect of life that was very memorable.


Who influenced you the most?

Jimmy Carter: My mother in that way I've described. My daddy taught me how much a man could do in dealing directly with a multiplicity of responsibilities.


Outside my family, the main person, outside of my father, the main man who has had an influence on my life is Admiral Hyman Rickover. I was one of the two young officers in the program to build atomic submarines. There were two built: the Nautilus and the Sea Wolf. I was in charge of the crew that was helping to build the Sea Wolf and building the nuclear power plant that later became a prototype. Rickover was a man who demanded absolute excellence and total dedication from all those who worked under him. He demanded as much from himself. And so he set a standard of commitment and perfection in life that I had never experienced before. He really had a great impact on my life.


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This page last revised on Mar 26, 2011 10:41 EDT