Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
  The Arts
   + [ Public Service ]
  Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


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
What is a Leader
Global Conflicts

Related Links:
Jimmy Carter Library
The White House

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
Profile of Jimmy Carter Biography of Jimmy Carter Interview with Jimmy Carter Jimmy Carter Photo Gallery

Jimmy Carter Interview (page: 5 / 5)

Nobel Prize for Peace

Print Jimmy Carter Interview Print Interview

  Jimmy Carter

What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the nation in the next decade, in the next twenty years?

Jimmy Carter: I think it's a choice of what kind of leadership the United States wants to provide in the world. It's defining, in our country, the definition of greatness. What is a great nation? It's obvious that we are now the only superpower. There is no more Soviet Union as we've known it. We will have an unchallenged, open, panoramic opportunity on a global scale to demonstrate the finest aspects of what we know in this country: peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, benevolent sharing, love, the easing of human suffering. Is that going to be our list of priorities or not? I don't see any indication yet, after the Soviet Union has disintegrated, that our country is adopting these kinds of concepts as the thrust of our nation's influence. I hope that will come. And that's a challenge to our country that I see as greatest. What are the decisions going to be? We can drift along as though there were still a Cold War, wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on weapons that will never be used, ignoring the problems of people in this country and around the world, being one of the worst environmental violators on earth, standing against any sort of viable programs to protect the world's forests, or to cut down on acid rain or the global warming or ozone depletion. We can ignore human rights violations in other countries. Or we can take on these things as a true leader ought to and say, "This is the inspiring challenge of America for the future."

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

I don't hear any politician on the scene yet who's trying to explore these concepts.

What advice would you give young people who want to achieve something in their lives, want to make a mark, who may have a specific dream?

Jimmy Carter: The main thing that I tell young people -- I'm in my tenth year as a professor -- is that they're the ones that can change this country, can change the world. It's not an idle thing to say to students, but at the college age they have to realize that they have tremendous potential that they won't have five years later. For instance, they are in an environment, if they are in college, where there is a stirring of ideas and a balancing of different conflicting concepts. They have fellow students that might share a commitment to do something about, say, human rights, or environmental quality, or homelessness or whatever. They can seek advice from instructors, from professors, who are experts in those fields, or read. And another thing is that they have liberty that they won't have in the future. After they finish college, they're going to get married perhaps, or start making house payments, automobile payments, they'll have responsibilities maybe of a growing family. They will be employed by IBM or Coca-Cola Company or General Motors or maybe in a law firm or teaching school. They are going to be very reluctant to express ideas that would depart from the status quo, because they want to make sure that the principal of their school where they teach -- or their bosses at IBM or at the law firm -- don't think that they are radicals. So they are going to give up a lot of that freedom to say "This is wrong."

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

Jimmy Carter Interview Photo
My three boys came up during the late '60s in college, when the young people changed this whole country in three major areas. One was the Vietnam War, the second was civil rights, and the third was the environment. Earth Day began when my three boys were in college. I saw there is no limit on what young people can do to impress on this country their idealistic or compassionate concern about issues that affect all of us.

We had a second generation of children. Amy came along as our only daughter, 20 years after my oldest son, in a fairly dormant college environment. Amy has been arrested four times because she feels very deeply about subjects. Three times she was arrested demonstrating against apartheid in South Africa. And she was just one of a group of students. Because she was a former president's daughter, her role was highly publicized. I don't advocate that young people get arrested, but there is still a time for -- a need for -- involvement.

In these areas of life where the suffering exists, the affluent children of our day should become involved with their fellow young people who are on the other side of the line between a good life and one that's not so good. We work in a program called Habitat For Humanity, where we build homes side by side with the poorest people on earth. And 195 college campuses now have Habitat organizations, where students themselves, 20 or 30 students, get together. They actually get acquainted with a homeless family, and they get to know all the people in the homeless family. They raise money to buy building materials, they design the house, they get an empty lot. They go around and beg for some concrete block or for some two by fours. And late in the afternoon and on weekends, they work side by side with those homeless people and actually build them a house. And then they see the family move into the home, it's a wonderful experience for them. It doesn't interfere with their college work, whether they are going to be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever. It's an additional dimension of life, which I think is as good a learning experience as what they might get in the classroom.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

Jimmy Carter Interview Photo
In short, you are saying, take a stand and get involved.

Jimmy Carter: Exactly. It's not restrictive when you adhere to these principles. It's a liberating experience. It's an expansive experience where both your mind and your heart might be stretched a little.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Mr. President.

You're welcome.

Jimmy Carter Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   5   

This page last revised on Mar 26, 2011 10:41 EDT
How To Cite This Page