You turn to us for voices you won't hear anywhere else.

Sign up for Democracy Now!'s Daily Digest to get our latest headlines and stories delivered to your inbox every day.

Fmr. Pres. Jimmy Carter on Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Selling Weapons to Indonesia During the Occupation of East Timor & More

Media Options

In his first interview with Democracy Now!, former President Jimmy Carter talks about what led him to write “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”, his controversial book that argues Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Territories are the main barrier to peace. Carter also discusses his regrets over sending arms to Indonesia during the occupation of East Timor and recounts his dealings with the Shah of Iran. The 39th president also assesses the Iraq War and reflects on the 25th anniversary of the Carter Center, which has focused on election monitoring and health initiatives around the world. [includes rush transcript]

Related Story

StoryMar 08, 2010Iranian Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi Presses Iran on Human Rights and Warns Against International Sanctions
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, a conversation with Jimmy Carter, the 39h president of the United States. He served from 1977 to 1981. During his time in the White House, he helped negotiate the Camp David Accords, which secured a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt.

After leaving office, Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn founded the Carter Center, which, among other things, monitors elections around the world. In 2002, Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

He is also the author of over 20 books — his most recent, his most controversial: Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

I sat down with former President Carter on Friday at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview.

JIMMY CARTER: It’s a pleasure. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: And very interesting to be here at the Carter Center. You are celebrating 25 years of the Carter Center. You are unlike other presidents in what you have chosen to do in your post-presidential life. Can you talk about what you are proudest of, what the Center is and what you’ve been doing for this quarter of a century?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, the Carter Center’s work is really an extension of what I found to be of interest when I was president: to work on peace and human rights, environmental quality, alleviation of suffering, things of that kind. But it’s been oriented much more heavily, of course, away from the Soviet Union, away from nuclear weapons, away from the Mideast peace talks, to dealing with the plight of the poorest and most destitute and suffering people on earth.

We now have programs in over 70 nations, and, not surprisingly, about half of them are in Africa. So we’re constantly in Africa. And we have had a basic policy of not duplicating what other people are doing satisfactorily. If the World Bank or World Health Organization or the U.S. government or Harvard University is doing something, we don’t get involved in it. We just fill vacuums in the world. So this has taken us into the jungles and in the desert areas of small villages around the world, particularly in Africa and Latin America.

So we deal with a large group of so-called “neglected diseases,” ones that are designated that way by the World Health Organization. They are not known by — in the industrialized world, but they still afflict tens of millions of people in Africa and other places: onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, dracunculiasis, trachoma, schistosomiasis, things of that kind. And we have here at the Carter Center the only International Task Force on Disease Eradication, where we analyze every human illness in the world and decide which ones might possibly be completely eradicated or eliminated from certain areas of the world. And we concentrate on those, working with a lot of other people, of course.

And we also have another program that relates to health, and that is nutrition. We have taught about eight million farm families in 15 countries in Africa how to increase greatly their production of food grains. We don’t deal with cash crops like cotton, but just corn, wheat, rice, sorghum millet.

And while we are in the countries dealing with disease and agriculture, if that nation has a problem, say, attempting the first election to eliminate a dictatorship or a troubled democracy, then if they want us, let us come in, we go in and help hold an honest and fair election or sometimes negotiate a peace agreement. So that keeps us involved in many different aspects of life in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you have any idea you were going to do this when you were president?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I really expected to have a second term, as you may have surmised. But, no, I didn’t have any idea about this. I wish I had when I was president. I would have been much more productive had I known as much as I know now, just a tenth as much, about what actually goes on among those families and in those little towns and villages that are so sadly neglected and so much in need.

AMY GOODMAN: If you had known, what you would have done differently?

JIMMY CARTER: I would have increased greatly my — using my voice as president to publicize the plight of these people, and I would have been much for effective, I think, in inducing the Congress to appropriate foreign assistance money. And I would have used my leadership capability as president of the United States among other nations to increase a direct assistance to eradicate these diseases and to deal with their plight.

AMY GOODMAN: So how did you get into this afterwards?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I kind of grew into it gradually, because at first my concept for the Carter Center was to create something like a miniature Camp David, where I would let people come here who had an ongoing war or threat of conflict, and I would negotiate back and forth and prevent a war, end a war. And I would also have gone to their countries had they wanted me to. We still do that on occasion, but that was what was my first dream of the Carter Center.

And it was only as years went by and we got to know these people and we saw that there was just a plethora of health afflictions that no one was addressing that the Carter Center decided to adopt this among these people. One example, for instance, was Guinea worm, which is an ancient disease, known in the Bible as probably the “fiery serpent” in the Bible. And we found that in 23,600 villages, all of which we visited now, by the way, there were three-and-a-half million cases of Guinea worm. And we have been in those villages and talked to the people, taught them how to do it, giving them some supplies, and now we’ve reduced that by 99.7 percent, and we’re down to the last few cases now. That’s the kind of thing that we do.

AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, I wanted to switch gears to talk about the raging controversy over your book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

JIMMY CARTER: I didn’t know it was still raging, but that’s interesting.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it raged for a while, and now the book is coming out on paperback with a new afterword. And you dealt with that, you talked about it being perhaps the most controversial thing that you’ve done, maybe, to your surprise. So, start with the title. Talk about the message you’re trying to put out with this book.

JIMMY CARTER: Well, the message is very clear. It deals with Palestine, not inside Israel itself, just the Palestinian Occupied Territories. And the second word is “peace.” I describe in this book the efforts for peace so far and my formula, which I think is very reasonable, for bringing peace to Israel and to Israel’s neighbors. And I repeat that over and over with a strong condemnation of any kind of terrorism that afflicts innocent people by the actions of either the Palestinians or the Israelis.

And the word “apartheid” is exactly accurate. You know, this is an area that’s occupied by two powers. They are now completely separated. Palestinians can’t even ride on the same roads that the Israelis have created or built in Palestinian territory. The Israelis never see a Palestinian, except the Israeli soldiers. The Palestinians never see an Israeli, except at a distance, except the Israeli soldiers. So within Palestinian territory, they are absolutely and totally separated, much worse than they were in South Africa, by the way. And the other thing is, the other definition of “apartheid” is, one side dominates the other. And the Israelis completely dominate the life of the Palestinian people.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t Americans know what you have seen?

JIMMY CARTER: Americans don’t want to know and many Israelis don’t want to know what is going on inside Palestine. It’s a terrible human rights persecution that far transcends what any outsider would imagine. And there are powerful political forces in America that prevent any objective analysis of the problem in the holy land. I think it’s accurate to say that not a single member of Congress with whom I’m familiar would possibly speak out and call for Israel to withdraw to their legal boundaries or to publicize the plight of the Palestinians or even to call publicly and repeatedly for good faith peace talks. There hasn’t been a day of peace talks now in more than seven years. So this is a taboo subject. And I would say that if any member of Congress did speak out, as I’ve just described, they would probably not be back in the Congress the next term.

AMY GOODMAN: Who are these forces that you’re talking about?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, there’s an inherent commitment in America, which I share as a Christian, of a deep commitment to make sure that Israel is safe and that Israel is free and that they can seek for peace. So there’s a strong inclination for all of us to support Israel’s continued existence in peace. And that is added onto by the very effective work of the American Israeli group called AIPAC, which is performing its completely legitimate task of convincing Americans to support the policies of the Israeli government. And AIPAC is not dedicated to peace. They’re dedicated to inducing the maximum support in America, in the White House, in the Congress and in the public media, for whatever policies the Israeli government has at a particular time. And they’re extremely effective.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you agree with Walt and Mearsheimer, their new book, The Israel Lobby, about the power of AIPAC determining U.S. foreign policy?

JIMMY CARTER: I have to say I haven’t read the book. I have read stories about it. I don’t really know about the details of it, but I do know that AIPAC is very powerful, and completely legitimate. I’m not complaining, because that’s their purpose in life. And AIPAC, I think, was organized in the distant past, I think, when Eisenhower was president. And they’ve grown in influence, and, in some ways, they have to be admired.

AMY GOODMAN: Did they influence you as president?

JIMMY CARTER: Not really, because I was immune from those pressures. When I was elected president, you know, I came out of nowhere. Nobody thought I was going to win until the last minute. And so, I wasn’t obligated to them. And I worked assiduously almost every day of my term as president to bring peace to Israel and also peace to Israel’s neighbors. And we negotiated a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, not a word of which has ever been violated. So I don’t think there was any doubt that my commitment then and now was to see Israel have peace, living in harmony with its neighbors, and justice, as well, and peace for Israel’s neighbors.

AMY GOODMAN: President Jimmy Carter, our conversation in Atlanta, Georgia. We’ll come back to the second part of it in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We return to my conversation with the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. We spoke at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, when did you come to understand, through your presidency and beyond, the situation of the Palestinians?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, the situation with the Palestinians when I was president was not all that bad. The first time I went to Israel, I was governor, and I went to the West Bank. There were only 1,500 settlers in all of the West Bank. And Israel’s presumption, even by Israeli leaders, with whom I met, was that Israel would withdraw from the Palestinian territories. It was a temporary thing. And when I negotiated an agreement with the prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, he agreed that the political forces and the military forces of Israelis would be withdrawn from Palestinian territory. That’s all in a written agreement.

But in the last 10 years, I would say the situation has deteriorated rapidly. Not many people are permitted to go and visit, as we have done. For instance, members of B’Tselem, the outstanding human rights organization within Israel, those members are not permitted to go into areas of the West Bank. They have to observe from a distance what goes on, say, in Gaza now.

But on three occasions, the Carter Center, led by me personally, have been invited by the Palestinians to monitor their election: in 1996, when Arafat was elected president and the first Parliament, so-called, was elected; again after Arafat died, when Mahmoud Abbas was elected president; and then, in 2006 in January, when Hamas ran for parliamentary seats and they were successful. So, in performing the duty of monitoring an election, we are obligated to go to every village and every town in the entire West Bank and also throughout Gaza to see what’s going on.

So we could see the terrible plight of the Palestinians, the fact that Israel has over 200 settlements on Palestinian territory, all fortified, that Israel has over 500 checkpoints in Palestine, where the Palestinians can’t move from one place to another, and where there’s a wall being built, completely surrounding Gaza, completely surrounding Bethlehem and other substantial-sized cities, deeply intruding into Palestinian territory and encompassing more and more land for the Israelis to take away from Palestine. And the fact is that the West Bank is a tiny little place that was carved out for the Palestinians, just 22 percent of the total land. But the problem is that Israel wants to take that 22 percent and control it. And major highways are built from one Israeli settlement to another and into Jerusalem, from which many — on many of those highways, the Palestinians can’t even ride or sometimes can’t even cross the highways. So this is what’s happening inside Palestine, perpetrated by the Israelis. And this is a major obstacle to having what I want and what most Israelis want, by an overwhelming majority, and that is peace.

AMY GOODMAN: At this conference, you describe the wall as worse than the Berlin Wall.

JIMMY CARTER: Oh, it’s much worse. The Berlin Wall was built by the communists on the communist side of the border between East and West Germany, as you know. This wall is built on Palestinian land, and it’s designed not for security — that’s an ancillary benefit — but it goes deep within the West Bank just to carve out more and more land for the Israelis to occupy in Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the point of the wall?

JIMMY CARTER: The wall was built — was planned originally by Yitzhak Rabin when he was prime minister — he’s the one that negotiated the Oslo Agreement, a peace agreement — to be built along the border, the 1967 border between Israel and Palestine. And the International World Court and I and others approved completely. There’s nothing wrong with that. That would have been like the Berlin Wall. But then Rabin was assassinated, and his successors — Netanyahu, Sharon and others — decided: Let’s move the wall from the Israeli border to intrude deeply within Palestine to carve out some of that precious land for the Israeli settlers to occupy.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the Supreme Court, the Israeli Supreme Court, ruling that the wall has to be rerouted when it comes to the city of Bil’in?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, that’s a tiny little place. I’m familiar with the geography. The Israeli court system is a very strange one. I describe it to some degree in my book. Almost all the decisions in the West Bank are made by military courts. It’s not the civilian court.

On occasion — rare occasions — the Palestinian people have been able to get an allegation before the Israeli Supreme Court that the wall is intruding excessively on their land. And it may be that 300 yards of the wall would have to be modified, if it divided, say, a Palestinian family from their cemetery or from their gardens, and so forth. And that does apply, and the wall is rerouted to accommodate that particular court case.

But Israeli courts also have a policy different from our courts that nothing that the Supreme Court rules sets a precedent. If the Supreme Court rules that this wall is overly intrusive, it just applies to that little 300 yards, not the wall and not to the entire concept of the wall. So it’s almost impossible for Palestinian community to hire an Israeli lawyer or a group of lawyers to take that case to the Supreme Court and have the ruling made. So that’s a very rare occasion, but a very valuable occasion for that particular community.

AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, you and President Clinton differ strongly on these issues. Clinton has blamed the Palestinian leadership for rejecting what he called a “generous” peace offer from Israel and the U.S. beginning at Camp David in July 2000.


AMY GOODMAN: Your view?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I spell it out in the book. I mean, it’s completely accurate. There was a very heroic effort by President Clinton, and I have expressed my admiration for him and my appreciation for his effort, but the proposal that he made was very ephemeral. There were never any maps drawn. There were never any particular delineation of a future border between Israel and the Palestinians. And the proposal that was made also permitted the Palestinians — the Israelis to have still large portions of Palestine. And it did ostensibly restore about 90 percent of the little tiny West Bank to the Palestinians, but that does not include the access to the villages, and that does not include the barrier of about 300 yards all the way around a village, and it didn’t include the highways that went back and forth. So, for all practical purposes, there was no way that any Palestinian leader could have adopted the proposal that was made.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting. We interviewed the former foreign minister of Israel, Shlomo Ben-Ami —


AMY GOODMAN: — who said, if he were Palestinian, he would not have accepted it.

JIMMY CARTER: No, he wouldn’t. I mean, that’s true. And it’s — if you look at the precise maps — there are no precise maps, by the way, that were proposed by President Clinton. A few maps were written after President Clinton went out of office, but none were presented to the Israelis or to the Palestinians. And I might say that the prime minister of Israel and his Cabinet debated the Clinton proposals for a long time, and they finally said, “We accept them in principle,” but they had over 12 pages of objections or caveats. And Arafat also said, “We accept the Clinton proposals in principle,” but there were a lot of caveats, as well. So there never was any precise delineation of land or exact description of what would happen with refugees or, in definitive terms, with Jerusalem.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you expect the firestorm in response to your book?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, in a way, yes. My mail was overwhelmingly supportive of the book. And it’s fairly — it was fairly easy, in the roughly 6,000 letters I got, to see which ones were from American Jewish citizens. Some identified themselves as being Jewish, and a number of them, dozens, were rabbis. Four said they identified themselves as Holocaust survivors, all of them in favor of the book. Over 70 percent were in favor of the book. But that’s a quiet voice. And when I have met with some of them personally, here and in other states, including New York state and California, they have told me that it’s almost impossible for them to speak out publicly in support of the book, although they express their support quietly, because it’s interpreted as being critical of Israel itself, and it’s just not an appropriate thing for them to do.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you want to see happen now in Israel and Palestine?

JIMMY CARTER: I would like to see good-faith negotiations begun, after seven years of no talks. There’s some basic principles that have been written, that I describe in detail in the book, that would delineate a proper border between Israel and the Palestinians, with some modifications of the 1967 borders that would permit half the Israeli settlers to stay in Palestine and swap an equivalent amount of land to the Palestinians just east of Gaza. That proposal also describes what should be done about refugees and what should be done about Jerusalem. It’s called the Geneva Plan, and it was revealed in Geneva in November of 2003, I think. And it was distributed in detail to every mailbox, for instance, in Israel and Palestine, and overwhelmingly both Palestinians and Israelis supported it, by a wide margin. But it never has gotten off the ground, because the Israeli leaders have not been willing to negotiate on that basis and have not been willing to negotiate on any basis.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you plan on continuing to speak out on this issue?

JIMMY CARTER: Yes, I do. I hope to go back to the holy land, when I take to the Mideast maybe within the next few months on another trip. And I’d like to talk to some of the Arab leaders, say, in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Egypt. I’d like to talk to the Palestinians and talk to the Israeli leaders to — and then to add my voice, which is a very small voice now — I don’t have any authority — to the effort to bring about at least good faith talks on substance, which, as I said, have been missing now for more than seven years.

AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, Iraq.


AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I’m not an expert on Iraq. I’ve never been there. I despised Saddam Hussein, because he attacked Iran when my hostages were being held. It was President Reagan who established diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein after I left office. But I think the best approach that I have seen — and I’ve studied it very carefully — is the Baker-Hamilton Report. And I think that, as far as I’m concerned, without any substantive modification, that’s the best approach to the Iraq question: to begin an orderly withdrawal; to marshal all the surrounding countries, including Iran and Syria, to help with the orderly regression of American forces; and to let the Iraqi people know in advance that Americans will not be continuing as an occupying force, but that the Iraqis could control their own economics, including oil, they could control their own military, and they could control their own political affairs.

AMY GOODMAN: The drumbeat for war with Iran seems to be building in Washington, D.C. Your response?

JIMMY CARTER: I think that would be a horrible mistake to start a war with Iran. And my own belief is that we should be negotiating with Iran on an equal basis and openly, instead of isolating Iran and having a war of words, both from Tehran and also from Washington, that just exacerbates the tensions that now exist.

AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of President Bush?

JIMMY CARTER: I know President Bush. I admire him in many ways. And I’ve never criticized an incumbent president. I’ve criticized sometimes the policies of presidents, first President Bush and President Reagan and President Clinton and President Bush. But I have never criticized a president. I don’t have any doubt that he’s a deeply religious man, he’s very sincere. He has his own ideas. He’s very staunch and persuasive in presenting his ideas. And my hope is that he will continue in the next months left in his term to open up avenues, say, to resolve the North Korean problem, which seems to be making progress now, as he’s become more flexible, and that he’ll have the same flexibility toward other areas, including Syria and Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he’s made the world a more dangerous place?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, I can’t blame the danger on him, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that the world is a much more dangerous place than it was when he took office, obviously. There’s been an upsurge in terrorism and terrorist threats around the world that are very real.

AMY GOODMAN: President Carter, any regrets, as you look back?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, you know, I wish I had been able to get the hostages out of Iran earlier, and —

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there was a plan made by the — by President Reagan before he was president, since the hostages were released on his inauguration day?

JIMMY CARTER: I don’t know. I’ve seen books written about it, and I’ve talked to people that claim that that’s true. But I’ve never alleged that that was true. And I doubt that if any of that did occur, my own personal belief is that President Reagan was not personally involved.

AMY GOODMAN: You have human rights defenders here at the Carter Center. One is a woman from Indonesia.


AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering, in your time as president, the period that Indonesia occupied Timor, if you regret the allowing of Indonesia to buy U.S. weapons at a time when it was one of the worst times for the people of Timor?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, as you may know, I had a policy when I was president of not selling weapons if it would exacerbate a potential conflict in a region of the world, and some of our allies were very irate about this policy. And I have to say that I was not, you know, as thoroughly briefed about what was going on in East Timor as I should have been. I was more concerned about other parts of the world then.

Since I’ve been here head of the Carter Center, though, we’ve taken a great interest in Indonesia. We were the only monitors in the first election, when Indonesia started moving toward democracy, and we’ve been for both elections there. And after the first election, the Carter Center sent a delegation to negotiate with people in East Timor, and we joined with the United Nations in conducting the first elections in East Timor, and this year, just a few months ago, again, in East Timor, trying to help them assuage the potential violence in that country and have them have a stable government. So we’ve played a great role not only in Indonesia, bringing democracy and relative peace, but also in the independence of East Timor in that referendum, and now to perpetuate democracy there.

AMY GOODMAN: Along those lines, as a president, what do you think are the reasons why you can be so isolated, a president, for example, in the case of Timor, saying now you wish you had known more at the time what was going on?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, a president, almost by definition, is immersed literally in hundreds of issues every week. You’re not only dealing with domestic issues, like energy or environment or education, health and welfare, also you’ve got the Congress, in budget affairs, preparing the budget for the military, as well as other things, developing new weapons, trying to make sure that we address the crises that confront us in an effective way. This was a time of a Cold War, when I was constantly aware of the fact that the Soviets could launch a missile, and 26 minutes later it would strike the United States with devastating effect. I had to be prepared for that.

I became deeply immersed in some long-festering issues. For instance, the Panama Canal treaties had been almost a matter of conflict between America and Latin American nations, including Panama, since the time of Lyndon Johnson. I just got back from helping to start the expansion of the Panama Canal. And the Mideast peace process had never been consummated in any substantial way since Israel was founded as a nation. I’ve worked on that. So there are so many different things that the president has to do that are pressing and crisis that you can’t really expect any president, including me or my predecessors or successors, to know the details of things like East Timor. I wish I had, but I didn’t.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you put Iran in the same category, at the time of the Shah coming to Washington, you visiting him there, the Iranians protesting, the tear gas, you watching it?


AMY GOODMAN: Did that surprise you at the time?

JIMMY CARTER: It concerned me at the time. You know, when the Shah came here to visit in November of 1977, my first year in office, I knew that he had been an intimate friend of six presidents before me and a staunch ally that provided stability in that region of the world. But I knew also that SAVAK, his secret military service, had attacked some student demonstrators. And I took him in my private office and chastised him about it and said that he was facing an uprising in Iran if he didn’t assuage his physical attacks against demonstrators.

He ridiculed me and said I was too innocent, and all the Western leaders were also, that these were just a few communists, less than 1 percent, who were creating a disturbance, and it was best to put them down then. So that was, in retrospect, something that the Shah and I both should have known. I don’t think any intelligence service in the world predicted that the Shah would actually fall and that the revolution would be successful. But I’ve written about this in my previous books, and it was a very interesting and tragic occasion.

By the way, after the Shah was deposed, we provided him a haven here, as you know, but we also reestablished very quickly diplomatic relations with the revolutionary government. I had obviously permitted the Iranians to have representatives in Washington, and, as is well known, I had about 60 diplomats in Tehran carrying on diplomatic affairs. They were the ones who were taken. So we were trying to have diplomatic relations with the new government of Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mr. President, what you’re proudest of?

JIMMY CARTER: I think the espousing and implementation, in many cases, of basic human rights around the world and raising high that banner so that many others could follow our leadership. And I’m proud that we were able to broaden the definition of human rights beyond just the right of assembly and freedom of speech and freedom of religion and trial by jury and electing our own leaders as political rights, but also to the other rights, the right of a human being to have healthcare and education and self-respect and dignity, a hope for the future. To the extent that we have been successful in some of those cases, not enough of them, I’m very proud that that’s what the Carter Center has been able to do.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush told his biographer, when he asked what he would be doing when he left office, that his dad can make something like $50,000 to $75,000 a pop for speeches, so he might go out on the speaking trail. Do you have any recommendations for him?

JIMMY CARTER: No. You have to remember that former presidents, just like four or five different people you meet on the street, are all different, and we have different motivations, different ideas. And, you know, I’ve chosen my career since I left the White House. I never have been on the lecture circuit, which is very lucrative. I’ve never been on corporate boards, which is also very lucrative and very gratifying. I’ve just decided to devote my life to the Carter Center. But President Reagan and way back to President Truman and Johnson and the others have done all different things. So I don’t have any, really, advice. We have made the Carter Center available as a potential model for presidents who have left office since I was there, and they have all sent delegations here to see what we do at the Carter Center, and in some cases they have emulated some portions of our chosen career.

AMY GOODMAN: Your plans for the future?

JIMMY CARTER: As long as I’m physically and mentally able, I’ll continue to try to do what the Carter Center decides, you know, the best projects for us to undertake.

AMY GOODMAN: And recommendations to people who, like yourself, entering — well, now you’re about to be 84, is that right?

JIMMY CARTER: Eighty-three.

AMY GOODMAN: Eighty-three. And then you’ll be 84 —

JIMMY CARTER: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: — and beyond.

JIMMY CARTER: That’s right, I hope.

AMY GOODMAN: To people who are in their eighties and nineties, your thoughts?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, you know, it depends on any individual’s mental and physical capability — I’ve been fortunate so far — and also what they think is best. I wrote a book about this a number of years ago that pointed out that after retirement there are unprecedented opportunities for the expansion of one’s life, to learn how to speak Spanish or to learn how to paint a picture or to learn how to be an expert on bird watching or to make furniture or to do different things, or to get involved in benevolent affairs.

I work every year for at least a week with Habitat for Humanity. We’ve done this for 24 years, my wife and I. And on many occasions, among the four to five, six, seven, sometimes 10,000 people who join us as volunteers for a week, there are people even older than I am. So I think there’s a good opportunity for serving your fellow human beings in benevolent ways. And sometimes even an older person can just go to a place like Grady Hospital and volunteer maybe two afternoons a week just to rock premature babies or something like that.

AMY GOODMAN: And your partnership with Rosalynn?

JIMMY CARTER: Well, we have survived pleasantly 61 years so far. We’re going on our 62nd year, and we still get along quite well. That’s the best thing that happened to me in my life.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much for taking this time.

JIMMY CARTER: I’ve enjoyed it.

AMY GOODMAN: President Jimmy Carter. If you would like a copy of today’s show you can go to our website at for the complete interview.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Next story from this daily show

Professor Norman Finkelstein and DePaul End Tenure Dispute, But Effect on Academic Freedom Remains

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation