Jimmy Carter and his Legacy of Human Possibility


SEATTLE — “Waging peace, fighting disease, and building hope.” The Carter Center’s motto adeptly illustrates Jimmy Carter’s legacy. As 39th president of the U.S., Carter adopted a national security strategy centered on addressing human rights issues and global poverty while in office. He carried those core principles to his life outside of the White House.

As the Cold War neared the iron curtain call, both political and physical landscapes changed as the Soviet Union commenced a path toward dissolution. The Pulitzer Prize finalist Arthur Herman writes that with the Cold War cooling, “the emerging division was between rich and poor, between the developed and the developing worlds.”

Much of the Carter administration’s foreign policy objectives bore the influence of his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Carter’s Polish-born cabinet member formed his core beliefs as a result of “World War II and the realization of how far humanity can go in doing wrong things to itself.” Brzezinski helped shape a foreign policy divergent from previous administrations—those focused on military capability and aggressiveness.

Less than year into Carter’s only presidential term, he addressed the United Nations on signing the International Covenants on Human Rights. He spoke to the shared beginnings of the U.S and U.N. as “a vision of the greatness of the human possibility.”

Following the demise of U.S. combat operations in Vietnam, Carter’s patronage of the Covenants marked the beginning of U.S. foreign policy dedicated to softening the international opinion of the U.S. Many critics argue, however, that Carter’s policies left the U.S. in a significant position of weakness heading into the 1980s.

The Covenants consisted of two parts: the Civil and Political Rights and the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Although the U.S. Senate did not ratify the Civil and Political Rights until 1992, the Carter administration’s diplomatic achievements and human rights victories embodied the Covenants’ principles. Mediating the Camp David Accords and peace negations between Israel and Egypt were among Carter’s most notable achievements.

Although Carter promised to “seek ratification of these covenants by the Congress of the United States at the earliest possible date,” the U.S. Senate has yet to ratify the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Still, this fact did not restrain Carter from pursuing the same objectives of his foreign policy once he left office.

Jimmy Carter’s legacy emphasizes the “the rights of human beings and the duties of government.” As a former president, he and his wife established the Carter Center in Atlanta, GA. The Carter Center is “guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering.”

The Carter Center’s goals are to “prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.” A tribute to Jimmy Carter’s legacy, the Carter Center activities catalyzed some impressive human rights achievements: reducing 3.5 million cases of Guinea worm disease to 22 (not 22 million), overseeing 103 elections in 39 countries, establishing thousands of health care delivery systems in Africa and improving conflict resolution strategies in warring and developing countries.Guinea worm disease to 22 (not 22 million), overseeing 103 elections in 39 countries, establishing thousands of health care delivery systems in Africa and improving conflict resolution strategies in warring and developing countries.

Carter believes in taking that chance to assertively address human rights abuses and extreme poverty. He stated that seeking solutions to humanity’s dilemmas are “worth the investment in people who have been neglected by others.” While in office Carter spoke to the duty of governments to their peoples. The establishment of the Carter Center and its subsequent accomplishments firmly root Jimmy Carter’s legacy as patron of the goodness within human possibility.

Tim Devine

Photo: Flickr


About Author

Tim Devine

Tim writes for The Borgen Project from Fort Knox, KY. With nearly 10 years of professional experience, he has worked in a variety of positions from helicopter pilot, human resources account manager, to organization leader. He is a veteran and plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration.

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